The best books about Albert Einstein for the non-scientist

Michael DiRuggiero Author Of Einstein: The Man and His Mind
By Michael DiRuggiero

Who am I?

I am the co-founder and current owner of The Manhattan Rare Book Company. I’ve been in the rare book business for 25 years, specializing in the history of science with particular emphasis on material relating to Albert Einstein. Like many people, I’ve long been drawn to Einstein, attracted by his wisdom, curiosity, personality, approachability, and general decency. 


I wrote...

Einstein: The Man and His Mind

By Gary S. Berger, Michael DiRuggiero, Hanoch Gutfreund

Book cover of Einstein: The Man and His Mind

What is my book about?

Einstein: The Man and His Mind is an unprecedented visual biography that reveals Albert Einstein as a real person and the essence of his contributions. The visual—and artistically beautiful—format differentiates it from all previous books about him.

"Gary Berger and Michael DiRuggiero's photographic exploration of Einstein is indubitably a coffee-table book, but in its highest form. It's huge (34 x 26 cm) and contains a collection of beautiful imagery.... I've never seen anything quite like it... a fascinating find.“ - Pop Science Books

The books I picked & why

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Einstein: His Life and Universe

By Walter Isaacson,

Book cover of Einstein: His Life and Universe

Why this book?

This is without question the essential book on Einstein. Isaacson has such a dynamic voice that even though it is non-fiction, it reads like a novel. This is a remarkable accomplishment since the book does not sacrifice detail for narrative pace. Isaacson is brilliant at re-creating the joy of scientific discovery, for with his liberal use of Einstein's correspondence, you feel as if you are with Einstein sharing his excitement. Isaacson is also a master at explaining the science—he simplifies the mathematics, without losing the implications and importance of Einstein's theories.

Einstein: His Life and Universe

By Walter Isaacson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Einstein as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

By the author of the acclaimed bestseller 'Benjamin Franklin', this is the first full biography of Albert Einstein since all of his papers have become available. How did his mind work? What made him a genius? Isaacson's biography shows how his scientific imagination sprang from the rebellious nature of his personality. His fascinating story is a testament to the connection between creativity and freedom. Based on newly released personal letters of Einstein, this book explores how an imaginative, impertinent patent clerk - a struggling father in a difficult marriage who couldn't get a teaching job or a doctorate - became…


Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein

By Abraham Pais,

Book cover of Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein

Why this book?

Anyone studying Einstein (even cursorily) will quickly encounter Abraham Pais's classic. Published in 1982, it has stood like a monument, influencing every study of Einstein since. Pais knew Einstein well and sprinkles his book with invaluable personal anecdotes and first-hand information. Because it focuses on Einstein's science, it can be a little intimidating, but it is organized well and readers can bounce around the book easily, focusing on what they find most appealing

Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein

By Abraham Pais,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Subtle Is the Lord as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Subtle is the Lord is widely recognized as the definitive scientific biography of Albert Einstein. The late Abraham Pais was a distinguished physicist turned historian who knew Einstein both professionally and personally in the last years of his life. His biography combines a profound understanding of Einstein's work with personal recollections from their years of acquaintance, illuminating the man through the development of his scientific thought.

Pais examines the formulation of Einstein's theories of relativity, his work on Brownian motion, and his response to quantum theory with authority and precision. The profound transformation Einstein's ideas effected on the physics of…


Einstein and the Quantum: The Quest of the Valiant Swabian

By A. Douglas Stone,

Book cover of Einstein and the Quantum: The Quest of the Valiant Swabian

Why this book?

Of all the books I've read about Einstein, this one was, perhaps, the most eye-opening for me. For years, the prevailing opinion was that while Einstein was (of course) brilliant, and his special and general theories of relativity were seismically important, he was on the wrong side of history with his views on quantum theory. Stone sets the record straight: Einstein was indeed skeptical of many aspects of quantum theory (particularly with his refusal to accept quantum entanglement and inherent randomness), but his challenges to the theory were so intelligent and so piercing, that the entire scientific community had to respond to him. Stone argues convincingly that Einstein's concerns were often the driving force propelling the theory forward.

Einstein and the Quantum: The Quest of the Valiant Swabian

By A. Douglas Stone,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Einstein and the Quantum as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Einstein and the Quantum reveals for the first time the full significance of Albert Einstein's contributions to quantum theory. Einstein famously rejected quantum mechanics, observing that God does not play dice. But, in fact, he thought more about the nature of atoms, molecules, and the emission and absorption of light--the core of what we now know as quantum theory--than he did about relativity. A compelling blend of physics, biography, and the history of science, Einstein and the Quantum shares the untold story of how Einstein--not Max Planck or Niels Bohr--was the driving force behind early quantum theory. It paints a…


E = mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation

By David Bodanis,

Book cover of E = mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation

Why this book?

Using Einstein's most famous equation as his organizational theme, Bodanis offers a fresh and exciting approach to Einstein's life and work. Energy, mass, and the speed of light become characters of their own as Bodanis traces our evolving understanding of the nature of the universe. The book is all about context—delightfully so—giving Bodanis an excuse to introduce a kaleidoscope of colorful personalities who either influenced Einstein, or were influenced by him, all connected by their relationship to this most powerful of all equations.     

E = mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation

By David Bodanis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked E = mc2 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Already climbing the bestseller lists-and garnering rave reviews this "little masterpiece" sheds brilliant light on the equation that changed the world.

Bodanis begins by devoting chapters to each of the equation's letters and symbols, introducing the science and scientists forming the backdrop to Einstein's discovery from Ole Roemer's revelation that the speed of light could be measured to Michael Faraday's pioneering work on energy fields. Having demystified the equation, Bodanis explains its science and brings it to life historically, making clear the astonishing array of discoveries and consequences it made possible. It would prove to be a beacon throughout the…


An Einstein Encyclopedia

By Alice Calaprice, Daniel Kennefick, Robert Schulmann

Book cover of An Einstein Encyclopedia

Why this book?

This is probably the book I study the most when researching Einstein. Although comprehensive in scope, it is still easy to navigate, with clear chapter headings that allow the reader to find information quickly. While many people hear the word "encyclopedia" and expect dry and dull prose, that is not the case here, for it is a book designed to be read, not merely consulted. Near the end of the book, there is a chronological list of Einstein's papers with concise descriptions. This is a gift to anyone interested in Einstein's scientific life, since the authors make even the most difficult of Einstein's papers seem approachable.

An Einstein Encyclopedia

By Alice Calaprice, Daniel Kennefick, Robert Schulmann

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An Einstein Encyclopedia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the single most complete guide to Albert Einstein's life and work for students, researchers, and browsers alike. Written by three leading Einstein scholars who draw on their combined wealth of expertise gained during their work on the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, this authoritative and accessible reference features more than one hundred entries and is divided into three parts covering the personal, scientific, and public spheres of Einstein's life. An Einstein Encyclopedia contains entries on Einstein's birth and death, family and romantic relationships, honors and awards, educational institutions where he studied and worked, citizenships and immigration to America,…


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