100 books like The Collapse of Chaos

By Jack Cohen, Ian Stewart,

Here are 100 books that The Collapse of Chaos fans have personally recommended if you like The Collapse of Chaos. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language

Asya Pereltsvaig Author Of Languages of the World: An Introduction

From my list on how human language works.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by languages since my teenage years, when, in addition to my native Russian, I learned English, French, Spanish, Latin, Hebrew, and Esperanto to varying degrees of fluency. But it was in college that I decided to pursue linguistics as a profession, in part influenced by one of the books on my list! After 20 years of doing scientific research and teaching linguistics at different universities, I switched gears and now focus on bringing linguistic science to the general audience of lifelong learners. Even if you don’t change your career, like I did, I hope you enjoy reading the books on my list as much as I have!  

Asya's book list on how human language works

Asya Pereltsvaig Why did Asya love this book?

This book is why I decided to become a professional linguist! It’s a classic: it set the bar high for writing about language in a way that’s scientifically accurate yet gripping.

I was utterly mesmerized by a myriad of things Pinker talks about, like Nicaraguan Sign Language, Broca’s area in the brain, and the workings of words like “riff-raff” and “ding-dong” (and why we don’t say “raff-riff” or “dong-ding”). I also love the author’s fascination with, and admiration for, the beauty and complexity of human language and of the human mind. 

By Steven Pinker,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Language Instinct as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Dazzling... Pinker's big idea is that language is an instinct...as innate to us as flying is to geese... Words can hardly do justice to the superlative range and liveliness of Pinker's investigations'
- Independent

'A marvellously readable book... illuminates every facet of human language: its biological origin, its uniqueness to humanity, it acquisition by children, its grammatical structure, the production and perception of speech, the pathology of language disorders and the unstoppable evolution of languages and dialects' - Nature


Book cover of The Runaway Brain: The Evolution of Human Uniqueness

Michael Edgeworth McIntyre Author Of Science, Music, and Mathematics: The Deepest Connections

From my list on to get you past selfish-gene theory.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a scientist at the University of Cambridge who’s worked on environmental research topics such as jet streams and the Antarctic ozone hole. I’ve also worked on solar physics and musical acoustics. And other branches of science have always interested me. Toward the end of my career, I became fascinated by cutting-edge issues in biological evolution and natural selection. Evolution is far richer and more complex than you’d think from its popular description in terms of ‘selfish genes’. The complexities are central to understanding deep connections between the sciences, the arts, and human nature in general, and the profound differences between human intelligence and artificial intelligence.

Michael's book list on to get you past selfish-gene theory

Michael Edgeworth McIntyre Why did Michael love this book?

I was blown away by the vistas it opened across classic work on genetics and palaeoanthropology, and the implications for understanding how our ancestors evolved.

It also showed how the politics of so-called ‘sociobiology’ impeded that understanding, through acrimonious disputes that later turned out to be pointless. Those disputes were very much examples of what I call ‘dichotomization’, the unconscious assumption that an issue is binary, an either-or question, when in reality it is far more complex with many different aspects.

By Christopher Wills,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

You might not suspect it, but we are currently living through a revolution in scientific knowledge. What we know about the human brain's workings and about the earliest history of our distant humanoid ancestors changes almost weekly. A new view of humanity is being forged - new theories appear all the time, splinter, are revised and adandoned. Scientists from different fields of research are finally co-operating and sharing their insights in order to map out a new view of the human brain. Paleaoanthropologists digging in Kenya, neuropyschologists building organic robots in their labs and geneticists unearthing the secret in all…


Book cover of The Music of Life: Biology Beyond Genes

Charlie Hodgman Author Of BIOS Instant Notes in Bioinformatics

From my list on the intersection of Bioinformatics and Systems Biology.

Why am I passionate about this?

Mathematics and chemistry were my strongest subjects at school, and I started programming computers when I was 16, but life seemed most important. Hence I studied biochemistry in university but moved into molecular biology with programming to assist the data analysis. My track record in successfully predicting new biology through computing led to a pharmaceutical company recruiting me to do bioinformatics for them. However, not content with studying genes and proteins, I pushed for bioinformatics to move up into metabolism, anatomy, and physiology. That’s when I discovered systems biology. My international reputation lies at this interface and includes discoveries in microbial physiology, botany, agriculture, animal biology, and antenatal diseases.

Charlie's book list on the intersection of Bioinformatics and Systems Biology

Charlie Hodgman Why did Charlie love this book?

This book vindicates my long-held view that biological objects do not act in isolation but interact with other things to make a living whole. It confirms my opinion that genes are not the master controllers of living things.

Furthermore, it showed me that systems occur at different physical scales (molecules, cells, organs, organisms, populations), that the systems at these scales influence each other, and that no scale is dominant. To understand biological/medical phenomena, including human consciousness, one must look at the (multi-scale) systems, not their individual components, in isolation. 

Finally, I found it a lot of fun to read because it uses hypothetical stories to illustrate points. For example, silicon-based aliens visit Earth but fail to understand why certain things and people behave the way that they do.

By Denis Noble,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What is Life? Decades of research have resulted in the full mapping of the human genome - three billion pairs of code whose functions are only now being understood. The gene's eye view of life, advocated by evolutionary biology, sees living bodies as mere vehicles for the replication of the genetic codes.

But for a physiologist, working with the living organism, the view is a very different one. Denis Noble is a world renowned physiologist, and sets out an alternative view to the question - one that becomes deeply significant in terms of the living, breathing organism. The genome is…


Book cover of The Arrival of the Fittest: Solving Evolution's Greatest Puzzle

Michael Edgeworth McIntyre Author Of Science, Music, and Mathematics: The Deepest Connections

From my list on to get you past selfish-gene theory.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a scientist at the University of Cambridge who’s worked on environmental research topics such as jet streams and the Antarctic ozone hole. I’ve also worked on solar physics and musical acoustics. And other branches of science have always interested me. Toward the end of my career, I became fascinated by cutting-edge issues in biological evolution and natural selection. Evolution is far richer and more complex than you’d think from its popular description in terms of ‘selfish genes’. The complexities are central to understanding deep connections between the sciences, the arts, and human nature in general, and the profound differences between human intelligence and artificial intelligence.

Michael's book list on to get you past selfish-gene theory

Michael Edgeworth McIntyre Why did Michael love this book?

It’s a powerful update on Noble’s book, zooming in on the workings of the biomolecular circuits surrounding the DNA.

Some of the circuits are studied in great detail, looking closely at how they work, and at how they evolve in response to mutations in the DNA. A disadvantageous mutation is eliminated by natural selection. But as well as advantageous mutations it turns out that ‘neutral’ mutations, conferring no immediate advantage, are important and indeed crucial. That resolved one of the dichotomized disputes noted in Wills’ book.

By Andreas Wagner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The power of Darwin's theory of natural selection is beyond doubt, it explains how useful adaptations are preserved over generations. But evolution's biggest mystery eluded Darwin: how those adaptations arise in the first place. Can random mutations over a 3.8 billion years be solely responsible for wings, eyeballs, knees, photosynthesis, and the rest of nature's creative marvels? And by calling these mutations 'random', are we not just admitting our own ignorance? What if we could now uncover the wellspring of all biological innovation?

Renowned evolutionary biologist Andreas Wagner presents the missing piece in Darwin's theory. Using cutting-edge experimental and computational…


Book cover of Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness

Mitch Horowitz Author Of Daydream Believer: Unlocking the Ultimate Power of Your Mind

From my list on the extra-physical potentials of the mind.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a PEN Award-winning historian of alternative spirituality and a writer-in-residence at the New York Public Library. I track the impact and substance of supernatural beliefs—a source of fascination since my Queens, NY, boyhood—in books including Occult America, The Miracle Club, and Uncertain Places. I often say that if you do not write your own history, it gets written for you—usually by people who may not care about or even understand the values that emanate from your work. Given my personal dedication to the spiritual search, I call myself a believing historian (which most historians of religion actually are). I labor to explore the lives, ideas, and practices behind esoteric spirituality.

Mitch's book list on the extra-physical potentials of the mind

Mitch Horowitz Why did Mitch love this book?

The most controversial aspect of nearly a century of research in quantum mechanics is how the perspective of an observer, either sentient or mechanical, determines reality on the subatomic scale. What does this say—if anything—about life in our above-ground, macro world? With zero sensationalism and great rigor, not to mention witty and accessible writing, physicists Rosenblum and Kuttner sort out questions of particle mechanics, quantum theory, and consciousness in a manner that is understandable to the layperson yet faithful to the findings of this most confounding of the hard sciences. 

By Bruce Rosenblum, Fred Kuttner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In trying to understand the atom, physicists built quantum mechanics, the most successful theory in science and the basis of one-third of our economy. They found, to their embarrassment, that with their theory, physics encounters consciousness. Authors Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner explain all this in non-technical terms with help from some fanciful stories and anecdotes about the theory's developers. They present the quantum mystery honestly, emphasizing what is and what is not speculation. Quantum Enigma's description of the experimental quantum facts, and the quantum theory explaining them, is undisputed. Interpreting what it all means, however, is heatedly controversial. But…


Book cover of What Is This Thing Called Science?

Bernard Beckett Author Of Genesis

From my list on get your head around consciousness.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an educator at heart and have been teaching in high schools for over thirty years now. I get a kick out of helping young people see the world anew and think about ideas in ways that at first seem strange and challenging to them, both in the classroom and through my novels. Of course, to be any good at that, I have to be inquisitive and open myself, and there’s nothing like the topic of consciousness to make you feel feeble-minded and ill-informed. It’s such a wondrous topic because it sits at the precise meeting point of so many of our scientific, cultural, artistic, religious, and philosophical traditions.

Bernard's book list on get your head around consciousness

Bernard Beckett Why did Bernard love this book?

Bookshelves groan under the weight of highly skilled science communicators, and through them those of us with no specialist knowledge can learn about evolution, quantum mechanics, neuroscience et al, and then bore people to death with our newfound knowledge. There is, however, a world of difference between the things science discovers and the stories we tell about these discoveries. I love this book because it makes the reader do the hard yards, thinking not just about the breathless new discoveries, but also the very nature of this knowledge, and hence its limits.

By Alan F. Chalmers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What Is This Thing Called Science? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Co-published with the University of Queensland Press. HPC holds rights in North America and U. S. Dependencies.

Since its first publication in 1976, Alan Chalmers's highly regarded and widely read work--translated into eighteen languages--has become a classic introduction to the scientific method, known for its accessibility to beginners and its value as a resource for advanced students and scholars.

In addition to overall improvements and updates inspired by Chalmers's experience as a teacher, comments from his readers, and recent developments in the field, this fourth edition features an extensive chapter-long postscript that draws on his research into the history of…


Book cover of The Direction of Time

Craig Callender Author Of What Makes Time Special?

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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?

Most academics have played the game David Lodge calls “Humiliations” in his novel Changing Places: you have to list books that you should have read but didn’t, the more scandalous the better. For a while, Reichenbach’s book was my go-to. I was writing my PhD on the direction of time but hadn’t read Reichenbach. Because it was old I figured I indirectly knew everything in it. Holy moly was I wrong! Not only is The Direction of Time the first serious blend of good philosophy and physics tackling the direction of time — plus a great example of the type of philosophy I deeply value — but it is still packed with insights. No question, I should have read it earlier in my life.  

By Hans Reichenbach,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ever a source of philosophical conjecture and debate, the concept of time represents the beating heart of physics. This final work by the distinguished physicist Hans Reichenbach represents the culmination and integration of a lifetime's philosophical contributions and inquiries into the analysis of time. The result is an outstanding overview of such qualitative, or topological, attributes of time as order and direction.
Beginning with a discussion of the emotive significance of time, Reichenbach turns to an examination of the time order of mechanics, the time direction of thermodynamics and microstatistics, the time direction of macrostatistics, and the time of quantum…


Book cover of The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision

Bettina von Stamm Author Of The Other Side of Growth: An Innovator's Responsibilities in an Emerging World

From my list on today’s complex world and help our planet.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an innovation expert for over 30 years, I've been cautioning about the "dark side" of innovation and emphasized the importance of sustainability. Though in light of the urgency of our planet's situation, we need to shift our focus from sustainability to regeneration. The unprecedented complexity and connectedness of today’s world demand thinking in systems, and the kind of innovation that leads to the transformation of our current social and economic systems so we can live in harmony with nature. This requires us to question who we collaborate with, what we value, and how we create value. We need to work together differently, with different leadership, and to change our own ways of thinking.

Bettina's book list on today’s complex world and help our planet

Bettina von Stamm Why did Bettina love this book?

For too long we have considered everything in the world through the lens of linear relationships.

Slowly – too slowly in my view – are we realizing the systemic nature of most things.

What Fritjof and Luigi do in their book is enable the reader to truly internalize the systemic nature of the world that we are part of. The ‘being part of’ aspect is critical.

Too many of us humans seem to consider ourselves to be the pinnacle of evolution, tobe in control, to have the right to plunder our planet at our heart’s content.

It is high time everyone realizes that we are but part of a system, entirely dependent on it and its healthiness. While it might be a little heavy-going at times, the book takes the reader on a journey at the end of which any chance to still see the world through a linear lens…

By Fritjof Capra, Pier Luigi Luisi,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Over the past thirty years, a new systemic conception of life has emerged at the forefront of science. New emphasis has been given to complexity, networks, and patterns of organisation, leading to a novel kind of 'systemic' thinking. This volume integrates the ideas, models, and theories underlying the systems view of life into a single coherent framework. Taking a broad sweep through history and across scientific disciplines, the authors examine the appearance of key concepts such as autopoiesis, dissipative structures, social networks, and a systemic understanding of evolution. The implications of the systems view of life for health care, management,…


Book cover of Inventing Temperature: Measurement and Scientific Progress

Angela Potochnik Author Of Idealization and the Aims of Science

From my list on exploring strange features of science.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a philosopher before I knew what philosophers were: asking questions to challenge the starting points for conversations. My biggest pet peeve has always been people who were sure they entirely understood something. While scientists conduct science to help learn about the world, philosophers of science like me study science to try to figure out how it works, why (and when) it’s successful, and how it relates to human concerns and society. Humans ultimately invent science, and I think it’s fascinating to consider how its features relate to our interests and foibles and how it’s so successful at producing knowledge and practical abilities. 

Angela's book list on exploring strange features of science

Angela Potochnik Why did Angela love this book?

This book takes what seems to be an incredibly basic feature of the world—temperature—and shows how a tremendous amount of scientific ingenuity and choices made over two centuries contributed to defining and measuring temperatures.

Showing how concepts taken for granted today emerged over time and could have been different helps reveal how little of what we know comes from direct observation. 

By Hasok Chang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What is temperature, and how can we measure it correctly? These may seem like simple questions, but the most renowned scientists struggled with them throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. In Inventing Temperature, Chang examines how scientists first created thermometers; how they measured temperature beyond the reach of standard thermometers; and how they managed to assess the reliability and accuracy of these instruments without a circular reliance on the instruments themselves.

In a discussion that brings together the history of science with the philosophy of science, Chang presents the simple yet challenging epistemic and technical questions about these instruments, and…


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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in philosophy, quantum physics, and math?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about philosophy, quantum physics, and math.

Philosophy 1,659 books
Quantum Physics 104 books
Math 262 books