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.

The books I picked & why

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Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

By Douglas R. Hofstadter,

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

Why 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 Carl Sagan,

Book cover of Cosmos

Why 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.

Einstein's Dreams

By Alan Lightman,

Book cover of Einstein's Dreams

Why 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.

Men of Mathematics

By E.T. Bell,

Book cover of Men of Mathematics

Why 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.

A History of Western Philosophy

By Bertrand Russell,

Book cover of A History of Western Philosophy

Why 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.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in math, artificial intelligence, and mathematicians?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about math, artificial intelligence, and mathematicians.

Math Explore 103 books about math
Artificial Intelligence Explore 111 books about artificial intelligence
Mathematicians Explore 30 books about mathematicians

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like QED, How Not to Be Wrong, and Near-Earth Objects if you like this list.