The best books to make the deepest mysteries of science approachable

Who am I?

I’m a science writer with over 40 books published. Science is central to all our modern lives—but for many people it feels remote, and difficult to understand. I love the opportunity to communicate science—to turn it from a collection of facts into stories that people can relate to. I always read popular science before I got into writing, but, if anything, I read it even more now. My own background is physics and math—and I enjoy reading and writing about that—but sometimes, it’s particularly interesting to pull together different aspects of science that affect all of us, crossing disciplines and uncovering the wonders that science bring us.


I wrote...

What Do You Think You Are? The Science of What Makes You You

By Brian Clegg,

Book cover of What Do You Think You Are? The Science of What Makes You You

What is my book about?

In What Do You Think You Are?, I investigate what makes you the unique individual that you are. From the atomic level, through life itself to consciousness, genetics, and personality, we explore how each aspect of you—your DNA, your memories, your flesh and bone—has come to be.

Full of fascinating true stories—featuring royal ancestors, stellar deaths, real-life hobbits, and a self-reproducing crayfish, to name a few—this wide-ranging exploration of what makes you you is a one-of-a-kind voyage of (self) discovery.

The books I picked & why

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Existential Physics: A Scientist's Guide to Life's Biggest Questions

By Sabine Hossenfelder,

Book cover of Existential Physics: A Scientist's Guide to Life's Biggest Questions

Why this book?

I love the way that theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder makes use of her knowledge of the subject to tell us more about our relationship with life, the universe, and everything. This is no dry science text—we discover why past, present, and future seem different, what we know (and can’t know) about how everything began and how it will end, whether or not the concept of free will makes scientific sense and more. What is particularly fascinating is the revelation that some apparently scientific theories have no basis in science—and that science can’t disprove some beliefs that scientists often criticize.

Existential Physics: A Scientist's Guide to Life's Biggest Questions

By Sabine Hossenfelder,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Existential Physics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

"An informed and entertaining guide to what science can and cannot tell us." -The Wall Street Journal

"Stimulating . . . encourage[s] readers to push past well-trod assumptions [...] and have fun doing so." -Science Magazine

From renowned physicist and creator of the YouTube series "Science without the Gobbledygook," a book that takes a no-nonsense approach to life's biggest questions, and wrestles with what physics really says about the human condition

Not only can we not currently explain the origin of the universe, it is questionable we will ever be able to explain it. The…


Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong about the World--And Why Things Are Better Than You Think

By Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Ola Rosling, Hans Rosling

Book cover of Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong about the World--And Why Things Are Better Than You Think

Why this book?

For many, the most mysterious thing about science is the way that it relies on mathematics. Many find the way that numbers are used and presented impenetrable. Yet in this wonderful book, the late Hans Rosling shows just how and why our biases make it so difficult for us to put realistic numbers to what’s happening in the world around us. All around the world, people were asked questions about the state of the world and consistently their answers were worse than choosing at random—because we almost always think things are far worse than they really are. Rosling uncovers the real numbers and presents them in an impressively easy-to-absorb way.

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong about the World--And Why Things Are Better Than You Think

By Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Ola Rosling, Hans Rosling

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A hopeful book about the potential for human progress when we work off facts rather than our inherent biases.' BARACK OBAMA

'One of the most important books I've ever read - an indispensable guide to thinking clearly about the world.' BILL GATES

*#1 Sunday Times bestseller * New York Times bestseller * Observer 'best brainy book of the decade' * Irish Times bestseller * Guardian bestseller * audiobook bestseller *

Factfulness: The stress-reducing habit of only carrying opinions for which you have strong supporting facts.

When asked simple questions about global trends - why the world's population is increasing; how…


The World According to Physics

By Jim Al-Khalili,

Book cover of The World According to Physics

Why this book?

In this compact hardback, physicist Jim Al-Khalili outlines in a straightforward way what he describes as the “three pillars of physics”. These don’t overlap much with the physics many of us will have done at school: they are relativity, quantum theory, and thermodynamics. Yet Al-Khalili shows how these three topics help us understand how everything works. In an approachable way, without a single equation, we get a feel for the power of physics. Al-Khalili’s personality and enthusiasm shine through.

The World According to Physics

By Jim Al-Khalili,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The World According to Physics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Quantum physicist, New York Times bestselling author, and BBC host Jim Al-Khalili offers a fascinating and illuminating look at what physics reveals about the world

Shining a light on the most profound insights revealed by modern physics, Jim Al-Khalili invites us all to understand what this crucially important science tells us about the universe and the nature of reality itself.

Al-Khalili begins by introducing the fundamental concepts of space, time, energy, and matter, and then describes the three pillars of modern physics-quantum theory, relativity, and thermodynamics-showing how all three must come together if we are ever to have a full…


A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth: 4.6 Billion Years in 12 Pithy Chapters

By Henry Gee,

Book cover of A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth: 4.6 Billion Years in 12 Pithy Chapters

Why this book?

You can’t get much deeper in human terms than where life on Earth came from and how it developed. Despite the huge sweep of 4.6 billion years from the earliest life to its chances for the future (humans included), Henry Gee manages to make this story engaging. Biology and paleontology books can get bogged down in detail that just isn’t of interest, but here we are swept along by enjoyable writing. Who can resist a description of an ancient creature that reads, "Had it had wheels, it would have been an armored personnel carrier. With teeth."

A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth: 4.6 Billion Years in 12 Pithy Chapters

By Henry Gee,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Royal Society's Science Book of the Year

"[A]n exuberant romp through evolution, like a modern-day Willy Wonka of genetic space. Gee’s grand tour enthusiastically details the narrative underlying life’s erratic and often whimsical exploration of biological form and function.” —Adrian Woolfson,The Washington Post

In the tradition of Richard Dawkins, Bill Bryson, and Simon Winchester—An entertaining and uniquely informed narration of Life's life story.

In the beginning, Earth was an inhospitably alien place—in constant chemical flux, covered with churning seas, crafting its landscape through incessant volcanic eruptions. Amid all this tumult and disaster, life began. The earliest living things were…


Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand: Fifty Wonders That Reveal an Extraordinary Universe

By Marcus Chown,

Book cover of Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand: Fifty Wonders That Reveal an Extraordinary Universe

Why this book?

Sometimes you don’t want an intensely detailed exploration of a topic, but rather a series of interesting articles—and these 50 ‘wonders that reveal an extraordinary universe’ are an ideal way of dipping into some of the strangest and most wonderful aspects of modern science. Although each topic only lasts a few pages, it’s enough to get you interested and is bound to make you tell someone nearby about it. When you’ve read one, it’s hard not to go on and read a few more.

Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand: Fifty Wonders That Reveal an Extraordinary Universe

By Marcus Chown,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A mind-bending journey through some of the most weird and wonderful facts about our universe, vividly illuminating the hidden truths that govern our everyday lives.

Fact: You could fit the whole human race in the volume of a sugar cube.

Fact: The electrical energy in a single mosquito is enough to cause a global mass extinction.

Fact: You age more quickly on the top floor than on the ground floor.

So much of our world seems to make perfect sense, and scientific breakthroughs have helped us understand ourselves, our planet, and our place in the universe in fascinating detail. But…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in physics, earth, and the meaning of life?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about physics, earth, and the meaning of life.

Physics Explore 94 books about physics
Earth Explore 217 books about earth
The Meaning Of Life Explore 20 books about the meaning of life

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Braiding Sweetgrass, The Art of Statistics, and The Numbers Game if you like this list.