10 books like A Naturalist at Large

By Bernd Heinrich,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like A Naturalist at Large. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

Buzz

By Thor Hanson,

Book cover of Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees

Perhaps more than any other group of animals, the 20,000 (or more) known bee species make the case that much of evolution is about the diversification of ways in which species interact with each other species and form coevolutionary alliances. In this book, scientist/naturalist Thor Hanson gives us a whirlwind tour of that diversity, showing us that honeybees are just the tip of the iceberg of the many relationships between bees and plants. As with the other authors on this list, Hanson is a reliable guide with a passion and wonder for whatever he chooses to study and write about, using clear, accessible, and enjoyable prose. 

Buzz

By Thor Hanson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

BBC RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE WEEK

'Popular science at its most accessible: fun, fascinating and full of engaging pen portraits of the scientists and bee enthusiasts he meets in the course of his research' Melissa Harrison, Guardian

'A smooth and accessible account of the insects that provide a significant amount of what we eat, introducing their fascinating diversity of behaviour. A reminder of why bees are wonders that we must protect.' Matt Shardlow, BBC Wildlife

Bees are like oxygen: ubiquitous, essential, and, for the most part,
unseen. While we might overlook them, they lie at the heart of relationships…


Cuckoo

By Nick Davies,

Book cover of Cuckoo: Cheating by Nature

There are few clearer examples of how species have coevolved relentlessly than the interactions between cuckoos and other birds. Cuckoos have evolved an arsenal of ways to deceive other avian species into raising their young, and their avian hosts have evolved a counter-arsenal of defenses to protect themselves from cuckoos. Nick Davies, who is one of the world’s leading ornithologists and evolutionary ecologists, has been studying this evolutionary arms race for decades at Wicken Fen near Cambridge, England. In this engaging book, he takes us on a scientific journey, relating what others had already discovered before he began his work and then what he and others have discovered since the 1980s at Wicken Fen and elsewhere through many years of patient observations and experiments. 

Cuckoo

By Nick Davies,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Beloved as the herald of spring, cuckoos have held a place in our affections for centuries. The oldest song in English celebrates the cuckoo's arrival, telling us that 'Sumer is icumen in'. But for many other birds the cuckoo is a signal of doom, for it is Nature's most notorious cheat. Cuckoos across the world have evolved extraordinary tricks to manipulate other species into raising their young. How do they get away with it?

In this enormously engaging book, naturalist and scientist Nick Davies reveals how cuckoos trick their hosts. Using shrewd detective skills and field experiments, he uncovers an…


A Planet of Viruses

By Carl Zimmer,

Book cover of A Planet of Viruses

Parasitism of other species is probably the most common way of life on earth. It is not uncommon for a species to have tens to hundreds of parasites that exploit it. Viruses have fine-tuned the parasitic lifestyle to the extreme, attacking just about all other forms of life and fueling the evolution of counter-defenses in their hosts. Viruses co-opt the genetic machinery of their hosts for just about everything they need to replicate themselves. Carl Zimmer’s book is not only the best introduction I know to the remarkable diversity of viruses, it also is written with the crystal clear, elegant prose and solid scientific grounding that are the hallmarks of all his writing. 

A Planet of Viruses

By Carl Zimmer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 2020, an invisible germ-a virus-wholly upended our lives. We're most familiar with the viruses that give us colds or Covid-19. But viruses also cause a vast range of other diseases, including one disorder that makes people sprout branch-like growths as if they were trees. Viruses have been a part of our lives for so long that we are actually part virus: the human genome contains more DNA from viruses than our own genes. Meanwhile, scientists are discovering viruses everywhere they look: in the soil, in the ocean, even in deep caves miles underground.

Fully revised and updated, with new…


Monarchs and Milkweed

By Anurag Agrawal,

Book cover of Monarchs and Milkweed: A Migrating Butterfly, a Poisonous Plant, and Their Remarkable Story of Coevolution

Plants and insects make up most of the species on earth, and they have spent millions of years interacting and coevolving with each other. In this book, Anurag Agrawal weaves together what scientists have learned about one of the most charismatic of these interactions, those between milkweeds and monarch butterflies. He explores why the evolution of these interactions never ceases, but he also shows us just how difficult it can be to sort out how particular species coevolve. The book is a window into why the interactions between plants and insects may be the most diverse interactions that have ever evolved between complex organisms. Agrawal is a leading researcher on the evolution of interactions between plants and insects, and, fortunately, he is also an absorbing writer. 

Monarchs and Milkweed

By Anurag Agrawal,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The fascinating and complex evolutionary relationship of the monarch butterfly and the milkweed plant Monarch butterflies are one of nature's most recognizable creatures, known for their bright colors and epic annual migration from the United States and Canada to Mexico. Yet there is much more to the monarch than its distinctive presence and mythic journeying. In Monarchs and Milkweed, Anurag Agrawal presents a vivid investigation into how the monarch butterfly has evolved closely alongside the milkweed--a toxic plant named for the sticky white substance emitted when its leaves are damaged--and how this inextricable and intimate relationship has been like an…


Discovering

By Robert Root-Bernstein,

Book cover of Discovering: Inventing Solving Problems at the Frontiers of Scientific Knowledge

I remember reading this book probably about twenty years ago, and it has a great deal of insight into how to understand the scientific process, both in how it is carried out as well as how scientists can get better at discovery. Written primarily in the form of a dialogue between a set of archetypical characters and informed by a huge amount of work into the history and sociology of science, it takes the reader through how to understand creativity in science.

Discovering

By Robert Root-Bernstein,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Root-Bernstein (natural science and physiology, Michigan State) attempts to understand how scientists invent through an imaginary reconstruction of the arguments, reflections, and games of six fictional characters. The index is of names only. TheRoot-Bernstein (natural science and physiology, Michigan State) attempts to understand how scientists invent through an imaginary reconstruction of the arguments, reflections, and games of six fictional characters. The index is of names only. The bibliography is extensive but would be more useful to general readers if it were classified or annotated. Annotation copyright Book News, Inc. Portland, Or. bibliography is extensive but would be more useful to…


The Essential Tension

By Thomas S. Kuhn,

Book cover of The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change

The book is much better than his famous but often misread The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, because it gets down to detailed cases in physics, in which Kuhn was trained. Though he never accepted the term, it amounts to a “rhetoric” of physics, that is, a study of, in Aristotle’s definition, the available means of persuasion in a science or a court of law.

The Essential Tension

By Thomas S. Kuhn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Kuhn has the unmistakable address of a man, who, so far from wanting to score points, is anxious above all else to get at the truth of matters."-Sir Peter Medawar, Nature


Changing Order

By Harry Collins,

Book cover of Changing Order: Replication and Induction in Scientific Practice

Collins is a brilliant and lucid exponent of the (mainly British) “strong programme” in the sociology of science. He is one of the numerous “children of Kuhn,” in the sense that like Kuhn he understands scientists to be (usually) honest and serious human beings, not machines implementing an alleged Scientific Method.

Changing Order

By Harry Collins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This fascinating study in the sociology of science explores the way scientists conduct, and draw conclusions from, their experiments. The book is organized around three case studies: replication of the TEA-laser, detecting gravitational rotation, and some experiments in the paranormal. "In his superb book, Collins shows why the quest for certainty is disappointed. He shows that standards of replication are, of course, social, and that there is consequently no outside standard, no Archimedean point beyond society from which we can lever the intellects of our fellows."--Donald M. McCloskey, Journal of Economic Psychology


The Voyage of the Beagle

By Charles Darwin,

Book cover of The Voyage of the Beagle

The circumnavigation of the world by HMS Beagle (1831-36), with the young Darwin travelling as a companion to Captain Robert Fitzroy, was more consequential in the advancement of human knowledge than any of the voyages of Columbus, Magellan, or Cook. We sailed south into the Roaring Forties with Darwin’s highly readable narrative always at hand; more than half of it is set in Patagonia. It was thrilling to contemplate at Puerto Deseado the unchanged landscape that had brought to Darwin’s mind two lines from Shelley: “The wilderness has a mysterious tongue/Which teaches awful doubt.” And, as we left harbour, to skirt around an underwater rock that the usually vigilant Fitzroy failed to spot in time; it was marked on our chart as “Roca Beagle.” 

The Voyage of the Beagle

By Charles Darwin,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Voyage of the Beagle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With an Introduction by David Amigoni.

Charles Darwin's travels around the world as an independent naturalist on HMS Beagle between 1831 and 1836 impressed upon him a sense of the natural world's beauty and sublimity which language could barely capture. Words, he said, were inadequate to convey to those who have not visited the inter-tropical regions, the sensation of delight which the mind experiences'.

Yet in a travel journal which takes the reader from the coasts and interiors of South America to South Sea Islands, Darwin's descriptive powers are constantly challenged, but never once overcome. In addition, The Voyage of…


A Short History of Nearly Everything

By Bill Bryson,

Book cover of A Short History of Nearly Everything

This is a very good attempt to help inform people of where we came from and how we got here. I love the broad perspective and easy flow of the story. Bryson attacks the big questions and stimulates our thinking. This is a great starting point for exploring the issues in the tensions between science and religion. 

A Short History of Nearly Everything

By Bill Bryson,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked A Short History of Nearly Everything as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The ultimate eye-opening journey through time and space, A Short History of Nearly Everything is the biggest-selling popular science book of the 21st century and has sold over 2 million copies.

'Possibly the best scientific primer ever published.' Economist
'Truly impressive...It's hard to imagine a better rough guide to science.' Guardian
'A travelogue of science, with a witty, engaging, and well-informed guide' The Times

Bill Bryson describes himself as a reluctant traveller, but even when he stays safely at home he can't contain his curiosity about the world around him. A Short History of Nearly Everything is his quest to…


Lethal Tides

By Catherine Musemeche,

Book cover of Lethal Tides: Mary Sears and the Marine Scientists Who Helped Win World War II

Would the Allies have been successful in winning World War II without the contributions of women? Rosie the Riveters, code breakers at Bletchley Park, aviators who flew aircraft to and from the front, human computers at Los Alamos, and scientists that filled laboratory positions, all contributed to that success. But do we know their names? Do we understand the significance of their contributions?

This book highlights one woman’s contribution: Mary Sears, the chief US Navy oceanographer during World War II. Sexism kept her off marine voyages and forced her from academia so she became a military operative, joining the Navy. This is a book that blends oceanographic research with military intelligence. Her input allowed naval invasion forces to coordinate actions with the tides, locate and move around underwater obstacles, understand currents, weather, and critical time of day to achieve maximum success. She knew even the presence of tiny, floating phosphorescent…

Lethal Tides

By Catherine Musemeche,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Magnificently researched, brilliantly written, Lethal Tides is immensely entertaining and reads like an action novel. Catherine Musemeche has brought to life the incredible work of the scientists and researchers who made such a remarkable contribution to America's war effort in the Pacific theater during WWII." -Admiral William H. McRaven (U.S. Navy, Ret.), #1 New York Times bestselling author of Make Your Bed and The Hero Code

Lethal Tides tells the story of the virtually unknown Mary Sears, "the first oceanographer of the Navy," whose groundbreaking oceanographic research led the U.S. to victory in the Pacific theater during World War II.…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in science, the natural sciences, and philosophy?

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

Science Explore 152 books about science
The Natural Sciences Explore 39 books about the natural sciences
Philosophy Explore 392 books about philosophy