Science and books collide in so many ways it can be hard to know where to start. This is where we’ll be compiling some suggestions to help with your reading experiments…
Love is in the air (well, hormones) and we’d like to celebrate it in all its literary forms. Here is a selection of ten books which take love, science and books and do something special with it…
- Wander around the philosophies of romance with Alain De Botton’s beautiful Essays in Love.
- Discover more about the potential evolution of human-robot relationships with David Levy’s Love & Sex with Robots.
- Don’t forget fiction: try tuning into the romantic thread of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World.
- Learn about the loves (both academic and human) of one of history’s finest minds in Dennis Overbye’s Einstein in Love.
- A romantic day means nothing without some decent grub. Get your culinary nerd on with Jeff Potter’s Cooking for Geeks.
- Ooh, and you should make sure you get the soundtrack for your Valentine’s sorted by science with Oliver Sack’s Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain.
- Ok, so it’s more Romantic than romantic, but a bit of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein always cheers up a winter’s evening. It’s also a warning of what could happen if lonely scientists are left alone in the lab for too long, so take one on a date this Valentine’s Day and help all of humanity.
- If you like your classic sci-fi tinged with some swashbuckling romance, start with the Barsoom series (A Princess of Mars is first) by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
- Relax with some light science rom com fun in Anthony Capella’s Love and Other Dangerous Chemicals.
- Alternatively, if you’re fed up with all that human emotion, go all Blade Runner with Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Time, Technology and Invention
We’ve put together a Reading List for your weekend which celebrates inventing. From pondering the possibilities to commemorating the triumphs, the world of words has done much to pay homage to the curious and the experimental.
- Leonardo Da Vinci’s Notebooks – Spend some time with the granddaddy of invention: the dude that was Da Vinci. Even his weaponry designs are gorgeous: that man could draw a cannon. And he would have LOVED being called a dude.
- We can’t miss Jules Verne off this list, but instead of going round the world or under the sea, why not try Robur the Conqueror? It’s apparently inspired aviation pioneer Igor Sikorsky and sparked the ideas for the first successful helicopter.
- Ray Bradbury predicted a shedload of technological developments in his writing: from smart phones to weird things which play music in our ears. Grab a cup of tea and some of his short stories.
- Tom McCarthy’s C is the intricately weirdly wonderful story of Serge: raised by a father obsessed with wireless communication inventions, while running a school for the deaf.
- The world of creative invention lost a great mind with the loss of Steve Jobs. Read all about his life in Walter Isaacson’s biography.
- Emma Griffen’s biography of the Industrial Revolution, Liberty’s Dawn, came out last year and provides an interesting human angle on the widespread inventions of the Victorian Era.
- We were delighted to welcome Thomas Thwaites to the Edinburgh Science Festival last year with his intrepid adventure through invention and design detailed in The Toaster Project. Find out exactly what happens when you build a toaster from scratch on his website.
- Margaret Attwood’s fiction is certainly inventive, but she’s also taken her creativity off the page with her LongPen device, which can sign books remotely. We tried to pick one Attwood in particular and couldn’t choose so there was a tiny game of bingo and the genetic engineering-tastic Oryx and Crake won. Hurrah!
- Travel back to the Islamic Golden Age and marvel at the constructions and designs detailed by Ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari in the Book of Knowledge and Ingenious Mechanical Devices. Written back in 1206 and STILL has one of the best book titles ever. It’s a bit hard to get hold of, but the trusty National Library of Scotland has a copy.
- Finally, say thanks to the guy who inadvertently brought The Only Way is Essex into your living room: John Logie Baird. Television and Me is the story of one Scotland’s most inventive sons in his own words.
Favourite Popular Science
Some of the classics of pop science are to be found here. Much as we love some good poetry and fiction delving into science, sometimes you just need some good old-fashioned FACTS in a FACT BOOK. These books manage to make various aspects of science fascinating to hear about, and are the ones which made us fall in love with all different bits of the universe. Good popular science might teach you a bit, but it should inspire you a lot.
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
This book takes you around the universe, the world, delving into rocks, cells, trees, and, well, nearly everything. With his trademark humour, he keeps you chuckling while at the same time leaving you awestruck at the amazing things you are learning.
Dinosaur in a Haystack by Stephen J. Gould
Short stories about the natural world, each very varied in topic, but all carrying a particular message inspiring you to think a little deeper.
Y, the Descent of Men by Steve Jones
What is the point of being a man? Delve into the biology to find out how they work, and how they are different from the other half our species.
Nature via Nurture by Matt Ridley
What makes us who we are? Genes determine many of our characteristics, but can in turn be affected in many ways by the environment outside the body. The interaction between the two influences result in a complex set of rules governing how we develop and behave.
Mutants: On the Form, Varieties and Errors of the Human Body by Armand Marie Leroi
A brilliant narrative account of our genetic grammar and people whose bodies have revealed it. With fascinating tales of long-lived Croatian dwarves, ostrich-footed Wadoma tribesmen and sex-changing French convent girls to keep the interest piqued.
Bad Science by Ben Goldacre
Much dubious information is presented in the media as being scientific, when in fact it is anything but. This book focuses on unpicking the evidence behind misleading claims from journalists, the pharmaceutical industry, alternative therapists, and government reports.
The Private Life of the Brain by Susan Greenfield
How do the physical facts of thousands of tangled neurons give rise to the rich experience that we call consciousness? Read this to find out what’s going on in there.
The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking
In a fascinating and accessible discussion that ranges from quantum mechanics, to time travel, black holes to uncertainty theory, to the search for science’s Holy Grail – the unified field theory (or in layman’s terms the ‘theory of absolutely everything’) Professor Hawking once more takes us to the cutting edge of modern thinking.
Molecules at an Exhibition: Portraits of Intriguing Materials in Everyday Life by John Emsley
A guided tour through a rogue’s gallery of molecules, some harmful some pleasant, showing how they affect our lives; from caffeine to teflon, nicotine to zinc. Full of fascinating and surprising facts about everyday things.
The Pleasure of Finding Things Out by Richard Feynman
Reading Feynman’s lectures is like peering into a pool made of wonder and then falling in and never coming out again. The collection is full of his shorter works, so an excellent starting point for those just dipping their toe into the waters…
50 Years at Gombe by Jane Goodall
Yes, she is the chimpanzee lady. 50 Years… is a look back at a pioneering life in wildlife conservation, but also the healthcare initiatives which took place around those big apes.
The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
Dawkins’ iconic text about self-preservation within genetics. It explains just why you’ll go so far for your genes (aka children).
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
A pioneer of the environmental movement, Carson was a marine biologist with a penchant for being awesome. Silent Spring was published back in 1962 and helped kickstart people being nice to nature.
Fermat’s Last Theorem by Simon Singh
An entertaining introduction to one of mathematic’s greatest riddles, with Andrew Wiles as the intrepid hero.
Science Books in Film
This section can be divided into science-fiction, and real science. The science fiction books usually have less of a focus on the monsters or aliens portrayed than you might think; often a political undercurrent commenting on human society and morality is present in the book, which is not transferred to the film. Most aficionados recommend the books over the films, so if you saw and liked any of these, then definitely try the book.
Dune by Frank Herbert
Intrigue, deception, betrayal, and survival in a strange land. Game of Thrones in space!
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
Actually a collection of short stories related to robotics and where the three Laws of Robotics were developed. Makes you think.
Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin
A real “what if ?” book, where a man can dream and change reality. His manipulation, ostensibly for good, illustrates the corruptive nature of power and that we never seem to know when to stop.
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
The book isn’t about man-eating plants… well, it is, but mostly it’s about people. About how they react to terrifying situations, the strength of will and character needed to overcome them, and the drives that led them down destructive paths in the first place.
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Enjoy the thrilling ride through an island repopulated with dinosaurs from long ago.
A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
A dark story of addiction, paranoia and the quest to remain sane in a future world of chaos.
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
Humanity is investigating an alien communication device when they are betrayed by their own most sophisticated AI computer, HAL.
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
A Martian invasion of Earth by a highly evolved race of tripod aliens. The original alien invasion novel.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Not so much a book about the future world, but about what if there were no books? And what happens in a strict society when dissenters join together to resist and rebel?
The following books/ films don’t fall into the “Friday night popcorn” bracket, but are ones to challenge perceptions and make you think about how we live our lives today. Read or watch to get the message.
The End of the Line by Charles Glover
Overfishing, the industries that have led to it, and what will happen if we don’t solve the problems in time. Helpful information to allow consumers to choose sustainable fish to buy.
An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore
The film that made America acknowledge climate change. The book lays out the issues around climate change in an uncomplicated way, then proceeds to explain why the governments around the world are unwilling to step up to the challenge of controlling it.
Science Books for Children
There are many fantastic and informative, bright and exciting science books for children in the bookshops now. These are just a few of our favourites:
George’s Secret Key to the Universe (and series) by Lucy & Stephen Hawking
Yes, THE Stephen Hawking! The father-daughter duo have written a space adventure with learning and pictures along the way, which will have the Famous Five fans lining up ready to jump through the wormhole.
The Time and Space of Uncle Albert (and series) by Russell Stannard
Famous scientist Uncle Albert and his niece Gedanken enter the dangerous and unknown world of a thought bubble. Their mission: to unlock the deep mysteries of Time and Space . . . Another great fun space adventure book.
Usborne 50 Science / The Big Book of Science things to make and do.
DK First Encyclopaedias– Science, Space, Dinosaurs, Animals, Our World
Usborne See Inside Series-lift the flaps (for younger children)- Science, Space, Your Body, Under the Sea, Things that Go, Planet Earth, Dinosaurs, Your Head, Trains, Cars, Atlas, Airport, Recycling
These do exactly what it says on the tin- big books filled with fun ways for your little ones to explore science, and pages full of fascinating facts presented in a colourful, interesting format.
Horrible Science Series by Nick Arnold and Tony De Saulle
Many varied titles such as: Blood, Bones and Body Bits, Evolve or Die, Killer Energy, Painful Poison, and Horrible Science of Everything will catch their bloodthirsty attention long enough to soak up some science.
Science Museum Q&A by Glenn Murphy
Along the same lines are these books. Why is Snot Green, Will Farts Destroy the Planet?, Space, Black Holes and Stuff, all present their material in a fun way to 9-11 year old readers.
One Smart Fish, by Chris Wormell
A picture book for young children, this has a fantastic illustration of evolution that helps to make this confusing-to-grasp process clear for them.