The best books for intellectual and creative inspiration

Who am I?

I’m a neuroscientist, author, educator, TEDx speaker, and leading expert on the psychological science of smell. I am captivated by stories and the “why” and “how” science of the world around us. The books I’ve chosen spoke to me during periods when I was seeking answers and blooming intellectually and creatively. They provided inspiration from the skill with which words were crafted and revelation from the ideas they conveyed. I owe these books a debt of gratitude and hope that my writing may offer to others a smidge of the illumination and motivation that these works gave to me.


I wrote...

Why You Eat What You Eat: The Science Behind Our Relationship with Food

By Rachel Herz,

Book cover of Why You Eat What You Eat: The Science Behind Our Relationship with Food

What is my book about?

How is personality correlated with preference for sweet or bitter foods? What genres of music best enhance the taste of red wine? With clear and compelling explanations of the latest research, Rachel Herz explores these questions and more in this lively book. Why You Eat What You Eat presents our relationship to food as a complicated recipe whose ingredients—our senses, personality, emotions and surroundings—combine to make eating a potent and pleasurable event. Skillfully weaving curious findings and compelling facts into an engaging narrative that tackles important questions, Why You Eat What You Eat revealhow psychology, neurology and physiology shape our relationship with food, how food alters the relationship we have with ourselves and each other-- and ultimately how to explore a happier and healthier eating experience.

The books I picked & why

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Ever Since Darwin: Reflections on Natural History

By Stephen Jay Gould,

Book cover of Ever Since Darwin: Reflections on Natural History

Why this book?

Ever Since Darwin is described as a collection of essays on natural history. But it is much more than that. Ever Since Darwin is an album of captivating, perspicacious, funny, and delightfully crafted stories that explain evolution and the curiosities of the natural world by a writer with a genius for description. From the “spandrels of San Marco” to the “bushes” that natural selection prunes, Stephen Jay Gould deftly uses metaphor to deconstruct the fossil record and illuminate the exquisite complexities of evolution. All of Stephen Jay Gould’s books are brilliant, but Ever Since Darwin is my first love.

Ever Since Darwin: Reflections on Natural History

By Stephen Jay Gould,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ever Since Darwin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ever Since Darwin, Stephen Jay Gould's first book, has sold more than a quarter of a million copies. Like all succeeding collections by this unique writer, it brings the art of the scientific essay to unparalleled heights.


A Natural History of the Senses

By Diane Ackerman,

Book cover of A Natural History of the Senses

Why this book?

A Natural History of the Senses is gorgeously written and poetic while simultaneously presenting accurate basic science about our five senses. Diane Ackerman stunningly shows how a gifted writer can decipher a field, captivate the general public, and elicit the fascination and wonder that a topic deserves. I am also ever delighted by the fact that the book starts with the sense of smell, rather than relegating it to the least and last section as most books on our senses do. A Natural History of the Senses is a beautiful compendium of biology and a tour of human perception.

A Natural History of the Senses

By Diane Ackerman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Natural History of the Senses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Diane Ackerman's lusciously written grand tour of the realm of the senses includes conversations with an iceberg in Antarctica and a professional nose in New York, along with dissertations on kisses and tattoos, sadistic cuisine and the music played by the planet Earth.

“Delightful . . . gives the reader the richest possible feeling of the worlds the senses take in.” —The New York Times


Perfume

By Patrick Suskind,

Book cover of Perfume

Why this book?

Perfume is a story of bloodlust for scent. It is written with phenomenal pacing, shocking twists, and precise yet intense language that clutches you from the start. I am a murder mystery super fan and what could be better than a book about murder and smell! What is further amazing is the research that Patrick Suskind clearly did for this book. Indeed, I wrote to Suskind asking how he learned what he did about scent, but he did not respond-- I’ve since heard that he is a recluse. No matter-- Suskind has an uncanny intuition for the secrets and powers of scent, and Perfume will grip you by the heart and the nostrils.

Perfume

By Patrick Suskind,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An erotic masterpiece of twentieth century fiction - a tale of sensual obsession and bloodlust in eighteenth century Paris

'An astonishing tour de force both in concept and execution' Guardian

In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages. His name was Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and if his name has been forgotten today.

It is certainly not because Grenouille fell short of those more famous blackguards when it came to arrogance, misanthropy, immorality, or, more succinctly, wickedness, but because his gifts…


The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

By Thomas S. Kuhn,

Book cover of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Why this book?

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is a philosophical analysis of the history of science that lays bare the elusive nature of progress. Giving us terms like “paradigm shift”— that I love to use—Thomas Kuhn turns the way we think about advancement on its head and shows how unforeseen often vilified discoveries end up being the touchstone for landmark scientific development. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is insightful and impactful far beyond science and philosophy—its groundbreaking revelations will liberate your creativity, enable you to embrace the intellectually unexpected, and teach you how to think.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

By Thomas S. Kuhn,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Structure of Scientific Revolutions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A good book may have the power to change the way we see the world, but a great book actually becomes part of our daily consciousness, pervading our thinking to the point that we take it for granted, and we forget how provocative and challenging its ideas once were-and still are. "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" is that kind of book. When it was first published in 1962, it was a landmark event in the history and philosophy of science. And fifty years later, it still has many lessons to teach. With "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions", Kuhn challenged long-standing…


Running with Scissors

By Augusten Burroughs,

Book cover of Running with Scissors

Why this book?

Running with Scissors is a hysterically funny, poignant, shocking, and clever memoir. It is not a book about science, scent, or murder though plenty of murderous thoughts are recounted. Running with Scissors is a twisted and delightful coming of age story, it is escapism-- yet highly meaningful, and it spoke to me at a time when I was searching for my writing voice. Running With Scissors exploded my brain, and turned on the switch that gave me the words, enthusiasm, and motivation to write. My selfish benefits notwithstanding, this book is an enormous pleasure to read anytime, anywhere, and by everyone.

Running with Scissors

By Augusten Burroughs,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Running with Scissors as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times Bestseller

An Entertainment Weekly Top Ten Book of the Year

Now a Major Motion Picture

This is the true story of a boy who wanted to grow up with the Brady Bunch, but ended up living with the Addams Family. Augusten Burroughs's mother gave him away to be raised by her psychiatrist, a dead ringer for Santa Claus and a certifiable lunatic into the bargain. The doctor's bizarre family, a few patients and a sinister man living in the garden shed completed the tableau. The perfect squalor of their dilapidated Victorian house, there were no…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in evolution, the senses, and science?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about evolution, the senses, and science.

Evolution Explore 94 books about evolution
The Senses Explore 12 books about the senses
Science Explore 152 books about science

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Alan Turing, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and A Primer of Freudian Psychology if you like this list.