In a recent Science NetLinks blog post, Maria Sosa, editor-in-chief of SB&F and contributor to Science NetLinks, listed some of her favorite science books for the Kindle. We'd love to hear your science ebook (or hard copy) suggestions too.
Check out Maria's suggestions here.
Science NetLinks, Project Director
For more science posts and discussions, visit and join the All About Science group.
I love this list even though I don't have a Kindle or e-reader yet. I've actually read a few of the books on this list:
Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
The Wild Trees
I enjoyed all of these books and found the Henrietta Lacks one very timely. And, I want to read more books by Dava Sobel, who wrote Galileo's Daughter.
Thanks for sharing!
Maria Sosa's list is very interesting! I saw two more interesting (popular) science books list that are quite complementary to this list:
- Science books from the New Scientist: http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/culturelab/2011/11/popular-science-books-to-put-on-your-christmas-list.html
- The best reviewed popular science books on biology in 2011: http://popsciencebooks.com/best-biology-books/
I also recommend The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I love the way Rebbeca Skloot combines the science with the family history.
Like Maria, I'm a fan of Mary Roach. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers is fascinating but definitely not for the squimish!
Another book I really enjoy is A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. Bryson covers a huge amount of science in a very funny and accessible way.
For kids, I recommend picture books from Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long:
An Egg is Quiet
A Seed is Sleepy
A Butterfly is Patient
Steve Jenkins and Robin Page create books with detailed paper collage illustrations including:
Bones: Skeletons and How They Work
Sister & Brothers: Sibling Relationships in the Animal World
Jason Chin is another great author and illustrator. His watercolor illustrations are so beautiful:
I think Feathers needs to move to the top of my reading list.
If you're interested, you can find the Science article reviewing all the 2012 SB&F Prize finalist here.
I won't lie. I prefer my science reading either to have a narrative, so it reads like a story, or to be embedded within a novel. (Will this information make you revoke whatever science cred I've built up over the years?)
That said, I don't think I'm alone in this. I think the popularity of the Henrietta Lacks book is due, in part, to its style. It's a good story. And I think the persistence of science fiction as a genre attests to people's excitement over the possibilities science holds out for the future, while simultaneously showcasing their fears that those possibilities may only serve to make us more isolated.
I do have some recommendations that are in keeping with my preferences:
To echo Sarah's note above, anything Bill Bryson has ever written is enjoyable and worth reading more than once, because he jams so much information (science and history) in that you'll be sure to find something new in a second perusal. Plus he's funny and, in my mind, people would enjoy science a lot more if it didn't have a reputation of being so ... clinical.
If you're looking for an entry point into the science fiction genre, I don't think you can go wrong with a good Douglas Adams novel. Its science is not too technical and there's plenty of humor to keep you turning (or flicking) the pages. Plus it will help you understand all sorts of nerdy in-jokes, from the Babelfish translation website to Towel Day.
Want something a little less futuristic? Head back in time. Frankenstein would be a good place to start, particularly if you're more comfortable with gothic romance than aliens. Jules Verne's work also will help capture your imagination. I'm currently reading A Journey to the Center of the Earth, where two scholars are about to desend into an extinct volcano. Plus, they're available as free Kindle downloads, so you really can't lose.
And from a YA/older kid angle, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly made my top ten reads list in 2009. (It's also a Newberry Honor book, if you need an endorsement other than mine.) It's the story of an 11-year-old Texas girl growing up in 1899 who, under the tutelage of her gruff grandfather, begins to explore the science of the natural world around her. It's not long before Callie Vee (who's a little lost amidst her six brothers) begins to do some growing of her own, both in her understanding of science and the world and of what it means to be female at the advent of the 20th century. I found the experience of reading The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate to be not dissimilar from a Laura Ingalls Wilder book when I was a kid, so if you know young readers who are enjoying that series, I'd point them toward this novel next.
Since you brought up Jules Verne, I wanted to point to Maria's blog post on the Prophets of Science Fiction series. The show is an "exploration of the relationship between genre and the constantly-evolving worlds of science and technology." The episode on Jules Verne premieres February 8th.
At ReadWriteThink, we've got some lesson plans other resources on using Science Fiction in the classroom:
We'd love suggestions for other titles or resources!
Thanks Lisa, those are awesome resources. As for science fiction, one of my favorite writers is Ian McDonald. I especially love Brasyl and Cyberabad Days. I just finished his latest, Planesrunner, and it is also quite good and it is the first of a series. I think that this series should be very, very appealing to young adults. One of his favorite topics is multiple universes which is also a hot topic with theoretical physicists.
Brasyl, in fact, is not just my favorite of his books, it is also possibly one of the most enjoyable books I have ever read.
Hey everybody, read this with interest. I have been to Galileo's home in Arcetri, where he was under house arrest. It is where he spent time with this daughter as he became increasingly blind, but he kept his tongue.. Today we covered Pearl Harbor and footage, and continued to discuss how many feel fact is greater than fiction. Now Bill Bryson is an extraordinary writer, in the genre of other greats, like Carl Sagan. Cosmos is still the best series I have ever seen, although now ancient. There is a really neat video called "Einstein's Great Idea", which has so much wonderful information about this history of science, especially Michael Faraday and Lavoisier (sp?). And then there is Hawking, which 5th graders love due to the discussion of Black Holes. Wonderopolis helps generate all of these conversations, and more. Today our 3rd graders loved "Is the Sky falling?"
Louc, have you heard that there is a 13-episode sequel/update to Cosmos planned for release on Fox in 2013? It's produced by Carl Sagan's widow, Ann Druyan, and animator/writer Seth MacFarlane and is supposed to be hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson (who has made regular appearances on John Stewart's and Stephen Colbert's shows, so that sounds promising).
I watched videos of Cosmos in my eighth-grade physics class and I remember it fondly. We'll be tuning in. I just wonder if it's too early to set the DVR...
In addition to the books listed above, I recently went to a conference with other biology teachers and heard of a few books to use during the natural selection/evolution unit.
"Survival of the Sickest" by Dr. Sharon Moalem discusses the evolution of disease.
"Your Inner Fish" by Neil Shuban discusses the evolution of the human body.
I would like to find a way to incorporate small sections of the books listed in this discussion into lessons. I don't feel like I have the time to assign reading the whole book but I would love to start using small sections to lead into a lesson or close a unit to generate discussion. If anyone has examples of what they have done (preferably in a 9th grade biology class) I would love to hear them!
Science NetLinks has a collection of resources based on winners of the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books. Here are three 9-12 lessons dealing with biology:
The Invisble Kingdom helps students develop an understanding of the characteristics and diversity of microbial life.
Welcome to Your Brain explores how the human brain processes sensory and cognitive information, regulates our emotional life, and forms memories.
The Wild Trees addresses the diversity of scientific research in the context of the story of how researchers learned about the giant redwoods in Northwestern California.
Although these lessons use the whole book, they include resources you could use for smaller sections or individual chapters. They may also help with ideas on how to incorporate other books into your lessons.
I'd like to add on to what Sarah wrote. Science NetLinks also has a lesson that makes use of a couple of books by a sci-fi writer names Douglas Richards. The lesson is: The Prometheus Project: The Science Behind Science Fiction. This lesson is at the 6-8 grade level and helps students critically identify and probe scientific ideas embodied in science fiction literature.
Have you seen the Royal Institution of Great Britain's Christmas lecture series? They are available on their website http://www.rigb.org/contentControl?action=displayEvent&id=548 but you have to register to view them. Also, some of them are on Youtube, Here is one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXt2-xi2yLc&feature=related
I believe that Yale University and Rutgers also do something similar but I can't find the videos on the web. Maybe they are somewhere.
Watched a video by Tim Ferris yesterday, thanks to Netflix streaming. Well done. I did check out the Christmas lecture page you sent me. What a great idea, Christmas lectures on science. I also watched the Nova presentation on What Darwin did not know (or close to that). I want to watch it again!