Good Reads - Nonfiction
Science Stories: Captivating Tales of Nature, Adventure,
The World Without Us by Alan Weisman - 2007
If every human being were to die overnight how would the world go on in man’s absence? This imaginative and apocalyptic question may be speculative but Weisman does his best with the available science to show what the world might adjust and what manmade relics will stand up after man’s passing. Assuredly there will be all the plastics products manufactured in the 20th century drifting about for millions of years, but what else will remain, how long, and what might thrive after mankind’s environmental ravaging has come to a standstill? Somewhat of a cautionary tale, this book is also a delight for the curious and macabre alike.
Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson - 2003
In this award-winning book, Bryson presents a series of
largely self-contained chapters covering a wide range of
scientific topics, from ancient fossils to the current
understanding of the human body, and from subatomic particles
to the vastness of the universe. Writing with his usual
wit, Bryson not only provides accessible scientific explanations,
but also the stories behind the discoveries.
Rarest of the Rare: Stories Behind the Treasures at the
Harvard Museum of Natural History by Nancy Pick - 2004
Like visiting a museum in the comfort of your living room,
this book offers photographs and very brief stories behind
many of the more unusual, interesting, and historically
significant exhibits at the Harvard Museum of Natural History.
Before the Big Bang: The Prehistory of Our Universe by Brian Clegg - 2009
It’s a great question, without any clear answer, but Clegg devotes equal space to the competing theories of what there was before the big bang, as well as summarizing how theories of creation have evolved over the past several thousand years. In fact, several theories refute that there was a big bang at all. There are cyclical universes, string theories, multi-verses, holographic paradigms and more, yet in roughly 300 pages of lucid writing Clegg manages to wrangle together a great introduction for the popular science reader, even if the question of what came before the big bang isn’t answered just yet.
Fabric of the Cosmos : Space, Time, and the Texture of
Reality by B. (Brian) Greene - 2004
The author of the popular The Elegant Universe (539.7 GRE,
and also available in video and DVD) presents a fascinating,
and often surprising, look at the nature of the universe
in a style easily accessible to the lay reader.
Planets by Dava Sobel - 2005
Sobel provides numerous and interesting scientific facts
in this lively overview of the solar system, but the book
is much more than a scientific treatise. By also focusing
on our historical and cultural relationships with the planets,
she provides a richer understanding of our celestial neighborhood.
The result is a fascinating blend of science and art that
will appeal to all readers. Sobel's Longitude:
The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest
Problem of His Time (526.62 SOB) is an equally enthralling
Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel by Michio Kaku - 2008
Kaku takes some of our fondest and wackiest science fiction staples such as force fields, invisibility rays, hyperspeed space ships, time travel and such, and explores how we might one day see all of them become a reality, even some in the current century. But this isn’t just a fun ride for science fiction enthusiasts as the Kaku always keeps the topic’s fun with his informal and sometimes humorous tone and clear explanations that make the impossible physics very possible to read.
Leon Foucault and the Triumph of Science by Amir
D. Aczel - 2003
A wonderful story of the lone scientific mind at work.
In 1854, Leon Foucault built a pendulum in his basement
and, after a series of refinements and modifications, was
able two years later to exhibit his work in the Pantheon
in Paris. Despite his definitive showing of the earth's
rotation, Foucault struggled his entire life for acceptance
by the scientific "establishment."
Universe: The Shocking True Story of Electricity by David Bodanis - 2004
Bodanis gives a surprisingly fascinating look at the practical
importance of electricity across the spectrum of life,
as well as the personalities of the many scientists whose
breakthroughs helped to shape our modern world.
Northern Lights by Lucy Jago - 2001
Jago describes the work of a Norwegian team, organized
by Kristian Birkeland in 1899, to discover the nature and
cause of the aurora borealis. This involved extended stays
along the Arctic Circle, requiring not only scientific
insight but also courage and endurance in the face of extreme
Fly in the Cathedral by Brian Cathcart - 2005
A brilliant collection of scientific minds were gathered
at Cambridge in the early 20th century, trying to discover,
among other things, the essential building blocks of the
atom. This is a story not only of the science but more
importantly the personalities, the setbacks, and ultimately
the triumphs involved in the quest.
Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach - 2010
Will humans ever travel to Mars? First, they will have to confront the reality that space is devoid of many of the necessities of life, such as air, gravity, and fresh produce—not to mention hot showers and privacy! Science writer Roach (Stiff and Bonk) uses her delight in the weirder aspects of science to entertain and educate the reader as she describes investigations of past and present space simulations on Earth. All space-loving readers will enjoy this offbeat look at the “science of life in space and space on Earth.”
Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are
Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean by Trevor Corson - 2004
A book that fishermen, environmentalists, ethicists, and
gourmets can savor. Corson portrays the challenges of lobster
fishing in Little Cranberry Island in the Gulf of Maine,
describes the life of lobsters in interesting detail, and
explores the ethical dilemmas of living within the food
To the Brink and Back—The Life and Times
of One Giant Bird by John Nielsen - 2006
On the brink of extinction in the 1970s, the condor is
beginning a resurgence thanks to a successful, but controversial,
captive breeding program. Nielsen lucidly describes the
logistical and philosophical debates among the environmentalists.
But his main focus is on the condor—its awkward and
disarming beauty, its relationship with humans, and its
struggle to survive as an ancient species in a modern world.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - 2010
Henrietta Lacks was a 31-year-old black mother of five in Baltimore when she died of a vigorous form of cervical cancer in 1951. Without her consent, doctors at Johns Hopkins took tissue samples from her cervix for research. This spawned the first viable cell lines which have aided in medical breakthroughs in several diseases from the polio vaccine to AIDS treatments. In spite of Ms. Lacks’ immense involuntary contribution to modern science, today her surviving family struggles in poverty and without health insurance cannot afford treatments for their ailments; treatments that their mother’s own cells helped to create.
The Mind’s Eye by Oliver Sacks - 2010
There a large gulf between what you see and what your eye sees. That may sound redundant, but as neurologist Oliver Sacks shows in The Mind’s Eye, a lot can get messed up when your eye sends what it sees to your brain to be interpreted. Sacks’ focus in this book is on people whose vision is affected by disabilities or disorders and how they have compensated for the mistakes in the brain, such as the concert pianist who slowly lost his ability to recognize objects (including musical scores), yet was able perform from memory. Sacks himself suffers from prosopagnosia, which means he cannot recognize faces, oftentimes his own relatives!
Conquer the Air: The Wright Brothers and the Great Race
for Flight by James Tobin - 2003
A thorough yet highly readable look at the life and work
of Wilbur and Orville Wright. Tobin also offers interesting
portrayals of their family, friends and colleagues, as
well as their competitors in the effort to build the first
The Day the World Exploded, August 27, 1883 by
Simon Winchester - 2003
Winchester describes one of the largest volcanic eruptions
in history and the deadly tsunamis that resulted from it,
setting the story vividly in the history and culture of
the time. He also sets forth the current understanding
of plate tectonics and the causes of such disasters.
Prepared by Keith Barlog, September 2011