The best books on the mysteries of the cosmos

Who am I?

With a PhD in astrophysics, cosmology is my day job. My research focuses upon the dark-side, the dark matter and energy that have shaped the evolution of the universe. My scientific journey began long ago with “How and Why Wonder Books”, from dinosaurs and evolution to astronomy and space exploration. I have always devoured tales about the fundamental universe, not only the immensity of the cosmos around us, but also the lives of the tiny bits-and-pieces from which matter is made. I still read a lot of popular science, especially on the history of life on Earth, and the future impact of Artificial Intelligence. 

I wrote...

A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos

By Geraint F. Lewis, Luke A. Barnes,

Book cover of A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos

What is my book about?

Over the last forty years, scientists have uncovered evidence that if the Universe had been forged with even slightly different properties, life as we know it - and life as we can imagine it - would be impossible. Join us on a journey through how we understand the Universe, from its most basic particles and forces, to planets, stars and galaxies, and back through cosmic history to the birth of the cosmos. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Cosmology: The Science of the Universe

Why did I love this book?

Cosmology encompasses our modern understanding of the universe, but what a strange universe it is, born in a fiery Big Bang, dominated by the dark-side, and expanding into a never-ending future. In his classic book, Harrison lays out the science of cosmology, exploring the nature of the Big Bang, the meaning of expansion, and our place in a seemingly infinite cosmos. With a lucid style, I love Harrison’s tour of modern cosmology. It is not just required reading for the cosmologist in training but is also essential for anyone wondering just how our universe works.    

By Edward R. Harrison,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Cosmology: The Science of the Universe is an introduction to past and present cosmological theory. For much of the world's history, cosmological thought was formulated in religious or philosophical language and was thus theological or metaphysical in nature. However, cosmological speculation and theory has now become a science in which the empirical discoveries of the astronomer, theoretical physicist, and biologist are woven into intricate models that attempt to account for the universe as a whole. Professor Harrison draws on the discoveries and speculations of these scientists to provide a comprehensive survey of man's current understanding of the universe and its…

Book cover of The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe

Why did I love this book?

Written by Nobel Prize winner, Steven Weinberg, The First Three Minutes unpacks the complex physics underway in the first few minutes of the universe. From an initial time where densities and temperatures were so high that no normal matter could exist, Weinberg follows the universe as it expands and cools, through the first nuclear matter, to the formation of the initial chemical elements and beyond. This book influenced me as a young cosmologist, revealing the power of physics in unraveling the events that shaped the universe in a blink of an eye.

By Steven Weinberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The First Three Minutes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Nobel Prize-winning physicist explains what happened at the very beginning of the universe, and how we know, in this popular science classic.

Our universe has been growing for nearly 14 billion years. But almost everything about it, from the elements that forged stars, planets, and lifeforms, to the fundamental forces of physics, can be traced back to what happened in just the first three minutes of its life.

In this book, Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg describes in wonderful detail what happened in these first three minutes. It is an exhilarating journey that begins with the Planck Epoch - the…

Book cover of The Five Ages of the Universe: Inside the Physics of Eternity

Why did I love this book?

What does tomorrow hold for the universe? Through this book, the authors step into the far future of the cosmos, starting from our universe today, lit with stars and galaxies, to a hundred trillion years hence when the last star has died. But at this point, the story has only just begun, and the authors continue to the distant time when matter will eventually melt, and black holes will evaporate into the background. Whilst some of the physics is speculative this is an exciting ride which reminds us, like everything, the universe is slowly and steadily winding down.

By Greg Laughlin, Fred Adams,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Five Ages of the Universe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE FIVE AGES OF THE UNIVERSE is a riveting biography of the universe which describes for the first time five distinct eras that Adams and Laughlin themselves defined as a result of their own research. From the first gasp of inflation that caused the Big Bang, through the birth of stars, to the fading of all light, THE FIVE AGES OF THE UNIVERSE describes the death of our own sun, tremendous fiery supernovae explosions, dramatic collisions of galaxies, proton decay, the evaporation of black holes and the possibility of communications when there are no planets or stars or even black…

Book cover of The New Ambidextrous Universe: Symmetry and Asymmetry from Mirror Reflections to Superstrings

Why did I love this book?

In the 1950s it was discovered that the cosmos was broken, a thing we boringly call parity violation. Physicists were shocked as they realized that the universe was not as perfect and symmetrical as they assumed. In his wonderful book, Gardner explores the meaning of symmetry and asymmetry in nature, from the fact that life prefers molecules with a particular twist, to the startling revelation that our universe seen in a mirror is not our universe. Whilst physicists have made their peace with a fundamentally broken universe, for the uninitiated the discovery is still disturbing.   

By Martin Gardner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The New Ambidextrous Universe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"What makes Gardner so appealing is his ease in exploring deep ideas . . . and making them accessible to the interested but nontechnical reader. This is a special talent and no one has ever displayed it quite as well as he does." — Los Angeles Times
"Absorbing; enlightening; lucid; witty; inventive. An exemplar of science writing at its very best." — American Mathematical Monthly
A substantial revision of Martin Gardner's earlier well-known work on mirror symmetry and asymmetry, The New Ambidextrous Universe takes readers on an extraordinary journey. With Gardner’s guidance, they explore the two fundamental scientific discoveries of…

Book cover of Three Roads to Quantum Gravity

Why did I love this book?

Modern physics has a problem. It is built on two key theories, Einstein’s general theory of relativity that explains the action of gravity, and quantum mechanics that accounts for the other fundamental forces. But these are incompatible, and physicists have tried to stitch these together for more than a century. Smolin explores the landscape of the leading contenders on the path to quantum gravity, including string theory, M-theory, and loop quantum gravity, highlighting the doors that will be opened when the journey is complete, from revealing the heart of black holes, to understanding where our universe came from. An important lesson is that physics is far from complete, and there is so much more to be discovered. 

By Lee Smolin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Three Roads to Quantum Gravity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Holy Grail of modern physics is the search for a 'quantum gravity' view of the universe that unites Einstein's general relativity with quantum theory. Until recently, these two foundational pillars of modern science have seemed incompatible: relativity deals exclusively with the universe at the large scale (planets, solar systems and galaxies), whereas quantum theory is restricted to the domain of the very small (molecules, atoms, electrons). Here, Lee Smolin provides the first accessible overview of current attempts to reconcile these two theories. Some of these approaches view the world as a hologram; others hold that basic particles must be…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in cosmology, the cosmos, and physics?

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