The best books on science, mathematics, and philosophy

Who am I?

Mario Livio is an astrophysicist and author of seven popular science books, including the bestsellers The Golden Ratio and Brilliant Blunders. He worked for 24 years (till 2015) with the Hubble Space Telescope, and published more than 500 scientific papers. He lectures regularly to the general public, and has appeared on television programs ranging from 60 Minutes to NOVA to The Daily Show.


I wrote...

Galileo: And the Science Deniers

By Mario Livio,

Book cover of Galileo: And the Science Deniers

What is my book about?

Galileo's story may be more relevant today than ever before. At present, we face enormous crises--such as the minimization of the dangers of climate change--because the science behind these threats is erroneously questioned or ignored. Galileo encountered this problem 400 years ago. His discoveries, based on careful observations and ingenious experiments, contradicted conventional wisdom and the teachings of the church at the time. Consequently, in a blatant assault on freedom of thought, his books were forbidden by church authorities.

Astrophysicist and bestselling author Mario Livio draws on his own scientific expertise to provide captivating insights into how Galileo reached his bold new conclusions about the cosmos and the laws of nature. Galileo was one of the most significant figures behind the scientific revolution. He believed that every educated person should know science as well as literature, and insisted on reaching the widest audience possible, publishing his books in Italian rather than Latin.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

Why did I love this book?

This is a remarkable book that combines mathematical logic with graphic art, music, and philosophy, in a way that is breathtaking in its scope and erudition. It is, in my opinion, one of the most original popular science books ever written. A true feast for the mind.

By Douglas R. Hofstadter,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Gödel, Escher, Bach as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Douglas Hofstadter's book is concerned directly with the nature of maps" or links between formal systems. However, according to Hofstadter, the formal system that underlies all mental activity transcends the system that supports it. If life can grow out of the formal chemical substrate of the cell, if consciousness can emerge out of a formal system of firing neurons, then so too will computers attain human intelligence. Goedel, Escher, Bach is a wonderful exploration of fascinating ideas at the heart of cognitive science: meaning, reduction, recursion, and much more.


Cosmos

By Carl Sagan,

Book cover of Cosmos

Why did I love this book?

This book was one of the first to give an almost poetic description of the solar system, our Galaxy, the universe, space science, and the search for extraterrestrial life. Carl Sagan’s legendary ability to make astrophysics attractive to the lay person shines through, and it illuminates our place in the cosmos.

By Carl Sagan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

* Spacecraft missions to nearby planets
* The Library of ancient Alexandria
* The human brain
* Egyptian hieroglyphics
* The origin of life
* The death of the sun
* The evolution of galaxies
* The origins of matter, suns and worlds

The story of fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution transforming matter and life into consciousness, of how science and civilisation grew up together, and of the forces and individuals who helped shape modern science. A story told with Carl Sagan's remarkable ability to make scientific ideas both comprehensible and exciting.


Einstein's Dreams

By Alan Lightman,

Book cover of Einstein's Dreams

Why did I love this book?

An enthralling, fictional description of a young scientist (Einstein) and his dreams/thoughts about space, time, relativity, and the nature of reality. The book fictionalizes Einstein’s dreams in 1905, his “Annus Mirabilis” (“Miracle Year”), in which he wrote four fundamental papers, including one on his theory of Special Relativity. While this is a work of fiction, the physics concepts are beautifully explained.

By Alan Lightman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It is ten minutes past six by the invisible clock on the wall. The young patents clerk sprawls in his chair, dreaming about time. He is Albert Einstein, and in his dreams he imagines new worlds, in which time can be circular, or flow backwards, or slow down at higher altitudes.


Men of Mathematics

By E.T. Bell,

Book cover of Men of Mathematics

Why did I love this book?

A fascinating collection of brief biographies of some of the greatest mathematicians to have ever lived. This book really brings the history of mathematics to life.The biographies were not intended to be complete. They emphasize amusing and romantic anecdotes, to create a more humanistic picture of the main characters, while giving the essence of their mathematical achievements.

By E.T. Bell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Synopsis coming soon.......


Book cover of A History of Western Philosophy

Why did I love this book?

This is one of the best introductions to western philosophy across the ages you will ever find. It both gives the historical and cultural facts and explains how those inspired the philosophical ideas. Russell writes in a rich, yet accessible and engaging language. This book is a triumph of scholar authority and clarity.

By Bertrand Russell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A History of Western Philosophy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 1946, History of Western Philosophy went on to become the best-selling philosophy book of the twentieth century. A dazzlingly ambitious project, it remains unchallenged to this day as the ultimate introduction to Western philosophy. Providing a sophisticated overview of the ideas that have perplexed people from time immemorial, it is 'long on wit, intelligence and curmudgeonly scepticism', as the New York Times noted, and it is this, coupled with the sheer brilliance of its scholarship, that has made Russell's History of Western Philosophy one of the most important philosophical works of all time.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in math, artificial intelligence, and mathematicians?

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