100 books like Consilience

By Edward O. Wilson,

Here are 100 books that Consilience fans have personally recommended if you like Consilience. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life

Alex Rosenberg Author Of How History Gets Things Wrong: The Neuroscience of Our Addiction to Stories

From my list on for getting a grip on our reality.

Who am I?

Even before I became a philosopher I was wondering about everything—life the universe and whatever else Douglas Adams thought was important when he wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe. As a philosopher, I’ve been able to spend my life scratching the itch of these questions. When I finally figured them out I wrote The Atheist’s Guide to Reality as an introduction to what science tells us besides that there is no god. In How History Gets Things Wrong: The Neuroscience of Our Addiction to Stories I apply much of that to getting to the bottom of why it’s so hard for us, me included, to really absorb the nature of reality. 

Alex's book list on for getting a grip on our reality

Alex Rosenberg Why did Alex love this book?

Easier to read than On the Origin of Species, this book connects Darwin’s overwhelmingly significant explanatory insight to the last fifty years of advance in our understanding of biology, psychology, social science, and the nature of the mind. Dennett is a brilliantly ingenious builder of images and metaphors that really enable you to grasp Darwin’s breakthrough, one at least as important as Newton’s and Einstein’s, but more relevant to understanding the meaning of life. 

By Daniel Dennett,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Darwin's Dangerous Idea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life Daniel C. Dennett argues that the theory of evolution can demystify the miracles of life without devaluing our most cherished beliefs.

From the moment it first appeared, Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection has been controversial: misrepresented, abused, denied and fiercely debated. In this powerful defence of Darwin, Daniel C. Dennett explores every aspect of evolutionary thinking to show why it is so fundamental to our existence, and why it affirms - not threatens - our convictions about the meaning of life.

'Essential and pleasurable for any thinking…


Book cover of A Guinea Pig’s History of Biology

Sam Kean Author Of The Icepick Surgeon: Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science

From my list on the wonders of biology.

Who am I?

Sam Kean is the New York Times bestselling author of five books, including The Bastard Brigade, The Dueling Neurosurgeons, and The Disappearing Spoon. He edited The Best American Nature and Science Writing in 2018, and his stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, and Slate. His work has been featured on NPR’s “Radiolab,” “Science Friday,” “All Things Considered,” and “Fresh Air,” and his podcast, The Disappearing Spoon, debuted at #1 on the iTunes charts for science podcasts.

Sam's book list on the wonders of biology

Sam Kean Why did Sam love this book?

A topsy-turvy look at biology from the point of view of the animals (and plants) that make it possible. Richly detailed and full of engrossing characters, from Darwin’s time up to the genetically engineered marvels of today.

By Jim Endersby,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Guinea Pig’s History of Biology as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved," Darwin famously concluded The Origin of Species, and for confirmation we look to...the guinea pig? How this curious creature and others as humble (and as fast-breeding) have helped unlock the mystery of inheritance is the unlikely story Jim Endersby tells in this book.

Biology today promises everything from better foods or cures for common diseases to the alarming prospect of redesigning life itself. Looking at the organisms that have made all this possible gives us a new way of understanding how we got here--and perhaps of thinking…


Book cover of The Making of the Atomic Bomb

Shirley Streshinsky and Patricia Klaus Author Of An Atomic Love Story: The Extraordinary Women in Robert Oppenheimer's Life

From my list on the race to build the first atomic bomb.

Who are we?

Shirley Streshinsky was 11 years old when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Many scientists were responsible, but only Robert Oppenheimer was labeled “Father of the Atomic Bomb”. At twenty-nine while living in San Francisco she crowded into an auditorium at U.C. Berkeley to hear him speak. She left knowing she would write about him. Patricia Klaus has been a Modern British historian for years, the story of Robert Oppenheimer and the women he loved opened new worlds for her: the history of science and the discovery of fission in 1938. Her father was a pilot in the 509th Bomb Wing that had dropped the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.

Shirley's book list on the race to build the first atomic bomb

Shirley Streshinsky and Patricia Klaus Why did Shirley love this book?

Published nineteen years before American Prometheus, this book also won a Pulitzer Prize.

A self-taught scientific writer, Rhodes is able to weave vivid character portrayals into the narrative of the science behind the bomb, turning a complex story into fascinating reading. Over several lunches with Patricia, Rhodes described Oppenheimer as someone who could antagonize and amuse at the same time.

She found the writer’s psychological  insights especially revealing. This is a book to be read and re-read.

By Richard Rhodes,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Making of the Atomic Bomb as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With a brand new introduction from the author, this is the complete story of how the bomb was developed. It is told in rich, human, political, and scientific detail, from the turn-of-the-century discovery of the vast energy locked inside the atom to the dropping of the first bombs on Japan. Few great discoveries have evolved so swiftly -- or have been so misunderstood. From the theoretical discussions of nuclear energy to the bright glare of Trinity there was a span of hardly more than twenty-five years. What began as merely an interesting speculative problem in physics grew into the Manhattan…


Book cover of The Book of Barely Imagined Beings

Sam Kean Author Of The Icepick Surgeon: Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science

From my list on the wonders of biology.

Who am I?

Sam Kean is the New York Times bestselling author of five books, including The Bastard Brigade, The Dueling Neurosurgeons, and The Disappearing Spoon. He edited The Best American Nature and Science Writing in 2018, and his stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, and Slate. His work has been featured on NPR’s “Radiolab,” “Science Friday,” “All Things Considered,” and “Fresh Air,” and his podcast, The Disappearing Spoon, debuted at #1 on the iTunes charts for science podcasts.

Sam's book list on the wonders of biology

Sam Kean Why did Sam love this book?

Imagine a medieval bestiary of whimsical creatures, but with a twist. Instead of being imaginary, the animals here really exist. The book moves alphabetically from axolotl to zebrafish, with a new delight on every page. It’s a perfect reminder of what biologist J.B.S. Haldane once said: that the universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it’s stranger than we can imagine.

By Caspar Henderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Book of Barely Imagined Beings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Axolotl to Zebrafish, discover a host of barely imagined beings: real creatures that are often more astonishing than anything dreamt in the pages of a medieval bestiary. Ranging from the depths of the ocean to the most arid corners of the earth, Caspar Henderson captures the beauty and bizarreness of the many living forms we thought we knew and some we could never have contemplated, inviting us to better imagine the precarious world we inhabit.

A witty, vivid blend of pioneering natural history and spiritual primer, infectiously celebratory about life's sheer ingenuity and variety, The Book of Barely Imagined…


Book cover of Understanding Philosophy of Science

Richard Farr Author Of You Are Here: A User's Guide to the Universe

From my list on how science actually works… or doesn’t.

Who am I?

I was once an academic philosopher, but I found it too glamorous and well-paid so I became a novelist and private intellectual mentor instead. I wrote You Are Here because I love what science knows, but an interest in how science knows drew me into the philosophy of science, where a puzzle lurks. Scientists claim that the essence of their craft is captured in a 17th Century formula, “the scientific method”... and in a 20th Century litmus test, “falsifiability.” Philosophers claim that these two ideas are (a) both nonsense and (b) in any case mutually contradictory. So what’s going on? 

Richard's book list on how science actually works… or doesn’t

Richard Farr Why did Richard love this book?

There are many short, accessible introductions to what current philosophers of science spend their time arguing about; this is one of the best. It wisely doesn’t cover everything, but instead uses Francis Bacon’s crucial break with the authority of Aristotle as a point of entry into current debates on half a dozen core issues such as inductive inference, progress, and realism.

By James Ladyman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Few can imagine a world without telephones or televisions; many depend on computers and the Internet as part of daily life. Without scientific theory, these developments would not have been possible.

In this exceptionally clear and engaging introduction to philosophy of science, James Ladyman explores the philosophical questions that arise when we reflect on the nature of the scientific method and the knowledge it produces. He discusses whether fundamental philosophical questions about knowledge and reality might be answered by science, and considers in detail the debate between realists and antirealists about the extent of scientific knowledge. Along the way, central…


Book cover of Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection

Samir Okasha Author Of Philosophy of Biology: A Very Short Introduction

From my list on the philosophy of evolution.

Who am I?

I am Professor of Philosophy of Science at the University of Bristol. I am interested in most areas of contemporary philosophy, in particular the interplay between philosophy and the natural and social sciences. Much of my recent work has focused on evolutionary biology, a science that is replete with implications for traditional philosophical debates about human nature, knowledge, and our place in the world.

Samir's book list on the philosophy of evolution

Samir Okasha Why did Samir love this book?

This short, clearly written book offers a penetrating analysis of the foundations of evolutionary biology. Godfrey-Smith develops a novel conceptual framework for understanding evolution based on the concept of a “Darwinian population,” which refers to any collection of entities capable of evolving by natural selection, and a “Darwinian individual,” which is a member of such a population. He uses this framework to shed light on topics including reproduction, symbiosis, culture, and transitions between levels of organization. The book is a perfect illustration of why science sometimes needs philosophy.

By Peter Godfrey-Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1859 Darwin described a deceptively simple mechanism that he called "natural selection," a combination of variation, inheritance, and reproductive success. He argued that this mechanism was the key to explaining the most puzzling features of the natural world, and science and philosophy were changed forever as a result. The exact nature of the Darwinian process has been controversial ever since, however. Godfrey-Smith draws on new developments in biology,
philosophy of science, and other fields to give a new analysis and extension of Darwin's idea. The central concept used is that of a "Darwinian population," a collection of things with…


Book cover of Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point: New Directions for the Physics of Time

Craig Callender Author Of What Makes Time Special?

From my list on time for people who love physics and deep thinking.

Who am I?

I am a philosopher of science who has an obsession with time. People think this interest is a case of patronymic destiny, that it’s due to my last name being Callender. But the origins of “Callender” have nothing to do with time. Instead, I’m fascinated by time because it is one of the last fundamental mysteries, right up there with consciousness. Like consciousness, time is connected to our place in the universe (our sense of freedom, identity, meaning). Yet we don’t really understand it because there remains a gulf between our experience of time and the science of time. Saint Augustine really put his finger on the problem in the fifth century when he pointed out that it is both the most familiar and unfamiliar thing.

Craig's book list on time for people who love physics and deep thinking

Craig Callender Why did Craig love this book?

Price is a philosopher and this book, along with Paul Horwich’s Asymmetries in Time and David Albert’s Time and Chance, are heirs of Reichenbach’s masterpiece. I select Price’s book here because it is more accessible than Horwich’s or Albert’s books. It is packed with fun and deep stuff: criticism of Hawking’s cosmology, exploration of the electromagnetic arrow of time, and serious discussion of wild ideas like causation going backward in time.

By Huw Price,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

`splendidly provocative ... enjoy it as a feast for the imagination.'
John Gribbin, Sunday Times

Why is the future so different from the past? Why does the past affect the future and not the other way round? The universe began with the Big Bang - will it end with a 'Big Crunch'? This exciting book presents an innovative and controversial view of time and contemporary physics. Price urges physicists, philosophers, and anyone who has ever pondered the paradoxes of time to look at the world from a fresh perspective and he throws fascinating new light on some of the great…


Book cover of Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA

Aubrey Clayton Author Of Bernoulli's Fallacy: Statistical Illogic and the Crisis of Modern Science

From my list on for data scientists trying to be ethical people.

Who am I?

I studied statistics and data science for years before anyone ever suggested to me that these topics might have an ethical dimension, or that my numerical tools were products of human beings with motivations specific to their time and place. I’ve since written about the history and philosophy of mathematical probability and statistics, and I’ve come to understand just how important that historical background is and how critically important it is that the next generation of data scientists understand where these ideas come from and their potential to do harm. I hope anyone who reads these books avoids getting blinkered by the ideas that data = objectivity and that science is morally neutral.

Aubrey's book list on for data scientists trying to be ethical people

Aubrey Clayton Why did Aubrey love this book?

People need less Dawkins in their lives and more Lewontin, whose thought-provoking, accessible writing about evolutionary biology stands in fierce opposition to the trend toward genetic determinism that seems to be the rage nowadays. We are not simply our genes, Lewontin says, because the effects DNA has on our lives are mediated by social and environmental factors, many of which we can influence. While it’s nominally about biology, I also read this as a critique of causal inference, generally. What we consider a “cause” reveals our ideological commitments to certain aspects of the world being maintained, and we should be careful what causal lessons we draw from data.

By Richard C. Lewontin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Following in the fashion of Stephen Jay Gould and Peter Medawar, one of the world's leading scientists examines how "pure science" is in fact shaped and guided by social and political needs and assumptions.


Book cover of Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life

Samir Okasha Author Of Philosophy of Biology: A Very Short Introduction

From my list on the philosophy of evolution.

Who am I?

I am Professor of Philosophy of Science at the University of Bristol. I am interested in most areas of contemporary philosophy, in particular the interplay between philosophy and the natural and social sciences. Much of my recent work has focused on evolutionary biology, a science that is replete with implications for traditional philosophical debates about human nature, knowledge, and our place in the world.

Samir's book list on the philosophy of evolution

Samir Okasha Why did Samir love this book?

The traditional neo-Darwinian view of evolution understands inheritance in genetic terms, as the transmission of DNA from parents to offspring. Jablonka and Lamb argue convincingly that in addition to genetic inheritance, there exist three other inheritance systems in nature – epigenetic, symbolic, and behavioural – all of which play an important role in evolution. The book is not a work of philosophy in the strict sense, but rather a fascinating and conceptually-rich synthesis of a diverse body of empirical findings which, the authors argue, can only be accommodated by going beyond a purely geno-centric view of evolution.

By Anna Zeligowski, Eva Jablonka, Marion J. Lamb

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Evolution in Four Dimensions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ideas about heredity and evolution are undergoing a revolutionary change. New findings in molecular biology challenge the gene-centered version of Darwinian theory according to which adaptation occurs only through natural selection of chance DNA variations. In Evolution in Four Dimensions, Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb argue that there is more to heredity than genes. They trace four "dimensions" in evolution -- four inheritance systems that play a role in evolution: genetic, epigenetic (or non-DNA cellular transmission of traits), behavioral, and symbolic (transmission through language and other forms of symbolic communication). These systems, they argue, can all provide variations on which…


Book cover of Sex and Death: An Introduction to Philosophy of Biology

Samir Okasha Author Of Philosophy of Biology: A Very Short Introduction

From my list on the philosophy of evolution.

Who am I?

I am Professor of Philosophy of Science at the University of Bristol. I am interested in most areas of contemporary philosophy, in particular the interplay between philosophy and the natural and social sciences. Much of my recent work has focused on evolutionary biology, a science that is replete with implications for traditional philosophical debates about human nature, knowledge, and our place in the world.

Samir's book list on the philosophy of evolution

Samir Okasha Why did Samir love this book?

This book is an engaging treatment of philosophical issues in biology, with a strong though not exclusive focus on evolution. Written by two leading practitioners, the book continues to be an excellent entry point into the subject despite being more than 20 years old. For any reader of my own book who wants more detail, Sterelny and Griffiths’ text is ideal. Chock full of real-life examples, the book offers an excellent model of how philosophy can engage with biology. Topics discussed include function and adaptation, reductionism, levels of selection, the “selfish gene” theory, and more. 

By Kim Sterelny, Paul E. Griffiths,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Is the history of life a series of accidents or a drama scripted by selfish genes? Is there an "essential" human nature, determined at birth or in a distant evolutionary past? What should we conserve-species, ecosystems, or something else?

Informed answers to questions like these, critical to our understanding of ourselves and the world around us, require both a knowledge of biology and a philosophical framework within which to make sense of its findings. In this accessible introduction to philosophy of biology, Kim Sterelny and Paul E. Griffiths present both the science and the philosophical context necessary for a critical…


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