100 books like The Strangest Man

By Graham Farmelo,

Here are 100 books that The Strangest Man fans have personally recommended if you like The Strangest Man. 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 QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter

Michael G. Raymer Author Of Quantum Physics: What Everyone Needs to Know

From my list on quantum physics and quantum technology for beginners.

Who am I?

I am a professor of physics, passionate about researching physics and inspiring non-scientists to enjoy learning about physics. My research addresses how to use quantum physics to accelerate the development of quantum information science including quantum computing, quantum communications, and quantum measurement. My current projects are in developing quantum satellite communications, increasing the precision of telescopes, and constructing a quantum version of the Internet—the Quantum Internet. These topics revolve around quantum optics—the study of how light interacts with matter. I originated the idea of a National Quantum Initiative and lobbied the U.S. Congress to pass it into law, resulting in large investments in the new, exciting field of quantum technology.

Michael's book list on quantum physics and quantum technology for beginners

Michael G. Raymer Why did Michael love this book?

My second pick is by the master himself. Richard Feynman’s little book explains quantum electrodynamics or QED to a lay audience. Not only did he receive a Nobel Prize for his discoveries in this area, but Feynman was at the pinnacle of using deep understanding of physics to give the simplest possible yet accurate description of the world as seen through physics. He steps the reader slowly and carefully through some incredible journeys of logic (without equations) to explain how light travels from one place to another and how light interacts with matter such as electrons. It’s basic stuff, but deep and a fun ride. 

By Richard P. Feynman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Celebrated for his brilliantly quirky insights into the physical world, Nobel laureate Richard Feynman also possessed an extraordinary talent for explaining difficult concepts to the general public. Here Feynman provides a classic and definitive introduction to QED (namely, quantum electrodynamics), that part of quantum field theory describing the interactions of light with charged particles. Using everyday language, spatial concepts, visualizations, and his renowned "Feynman diagrams" instead of advanced mathematics, Feynman clearly and humorously communicates both the substance and spirit of QED to the layperson. A. Zee's introduction places Feynman's book and his seminal contribution to QED in historical context and…


Book cover of The Little Book of Cosmology

Marcus Chown Author Of The Ascent of Gravity

From my list on physics and physicists.

Who am I?

Formerly a radio astronomer at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Marcus Chown is a writer, journalist, and broadcaster. His popular books include 'The Ascent of Gravity' – The Sunday Times Science Book of the Year; Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand; Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You; and Solar System for iPad, winner of The Bookseller Digital Innovation of the Year.

Marcus' book list on physics and physicists

Marcus Chown Why did Marcus love this book?

The most striking thing about the night sky is that it is mostly black. But if your eyes, instead of seeing visible light, could see a type of invisible light known as microwaves, it would be white. The entire Universe is glowing with the “afterglow” of the big bang fireball. Greatly cooled by the expansion of the universe in the past 13.82 billion years, the “cosmic background radiation” now consists of low-energy radio waves, principally microwaves.

Imprinted on this radiation is a “baby photo” of the universe when it was a mere 400,000 years old and matter was beginning the long process of clumping under gravity that would culminate in galaxies such as our own Milky Way. From that photo can be extracted the numbers that define our Universe, from its age of 13.82 billion years to the fact that 70 percent of cosmic mass-energy is in the form of…

By Lyman Page,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The cutting-edge science that is taking the measure of the universe

The Little Book of Cosmology provides a breathtaking look at our universe on the grandest scales imaginable. Written by one of the world's leading experimental cosmologists, this short but deeply insightful book describes what scientists are revealing through precise measurements of the faint thermal afterglow of the Big Bang-known as the cosmic microwave background, or CMB-and how their findings are transforming our view of the cosmos.

Blending the latest findings in cosmology with essential concepts from physics, Lyman Page first helps readers to grasp the sheer enormity of the…


Book cover of Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality

Art Hobson Author Of Tales of the Quantum: Understanding Physics' Most Fundamental Theory

From my list on quantum physics and how the universe works.

Who am I?

Since my first college course in quantum physics, I have been fascinated with this enigmatic, infinitely interesting theory. It's our most fundamental description of the universe, it's been found to be unerringly accurate, yet it's quite subtle to interpret. Even more intriguingly, "nobody really understands quantum physics" (as Richard Feynman put it). For example, the theory's central concept, the wave function, is interpreted radically differently by different physicists. I have always yearned to grasp, at least to my own satisfaction, a comprehensive understanding of this theory. Since retirement 23 years ago, I have pursued this passion nearly full-time and found some answers, leading to several technical papers and a popular book.

Art's book list on quantum physics and how the universe works

Art Hobson Why did Art love this book?

Given the radically distinct and often incongruent views of what quantum physics means, it is wise to glean a balanced sense of many views by studying the topic's history. Kumar's telling of the great, decades-long debate between two of the field's leading practitioners is authoritative and excitingly told. The book centers on the founding of quantum physics during the 1920s, the famous 1927 Solvay Conference on photons and electrons, and the thoughtful debate between Bohr and Einstein concerning the nature of reality. The author is a physicist, philosopher, and science writer.

By Manjit Kumar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'This is about gob-smacking science at the far end of reason ... Take it nice and easy and savour the experience of your mind being blown without recourse to hallucinogens' Nicholas Lezard, Guardian
For most people, quantum theory is a byword for mysterious, impenetrable science. And yet for many years it was equally baffling for scientists themselves.

In this magisterial book, Manjit Kumar gives a dramatic and superbly-written history of this fundamental scientific revolution, and the divisive debate at its core. Quantum theory looks at the very building blocks of our world, the particles and processes without which it could…


Book cover of Helgoland: Making Sense of the Quantum Revolution

William Egginton Author Of The Rigor of Angels: Borges, Heisenberg, Kant, and the Ultimate Nature of Reality

From my list on the ultimate nature of reality.

Who am I?

I am a professor of humanities at Johns Hopkins and have spent my career thinking, teaching, and writing about the relations between literature, philosophy, and science. Many years ago I started out thinking I would be a scientist, but then got pulled into literature and philosophy. Still, that original passion never left me. As I studied and read the great authors and thinkers from Classical Antiquity through the Middle Ages to the modern era, the big, fundamental questions of our place in the universe and the ultimate nature of reality seemed as pertinent to poets and philosophers as it is to physicists and cosmologists. 

William's book list on the ultimate nature of reality

William Egginton Why did William love this book?

Rovelli is one of the leading physicists in the world… and he writes like a novelist.

In Helgoland Rovelli tells the riveting story of the invention of quantum mechanics, while also explaining quantum mechanics—no mean feat! His book is at once a primer on the most important discovery of modern physics and a philosophical reflection on what that discovery tells us about ourselves, our knowledge, and the nature of the universe itself. 

By Simon Carnell, Carlo Rovelli, Erica Segre

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Named a Best Book of 2021 by the Financial Times and a Best Science Book of 2021 by The Guardian

“Rovelli is a genius and an amazing communicator… This is the place where science comes to life.” ―Neil Gaiman

“One of the warmest, most elegant and most lucid interpreters to the laity of the dazzling enigmas of his discipline...[a] momentous book” ―John Banville, The Wall Street Journal

A startling new look at quantum theory, from the New York Times bestselling author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, The Order of Time, and  Anaximander.

One of the world's most renowned theoretical…


Book cover of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

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?

This is a meticulously researched book, a deserving Pulitzer Prize winner; Christopher Nolan consulted it for his movie Oppenheimer due out this summer.

Shirley met Marty Sherwin in Washington D.C. in the fall of 2006 when she was beginning the research on what would become our book. Marty was beginning to pack up the files on Prometheus to give to the Library of Congress. He invited both Patricia and Shirley to his home and made a place for them to work at his dining room table.

By Kai Bird, Martin J. Sherwin,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked American Prometheus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Physicist and polymath, 'father of the atom bomb' J. Robert Oppenheimer was the most famous scientist of his generation. Already a notable young physicist before WWII, during the race to split the atom, 'Oppie' galvanized an extraordinary team of international scientists while keeping the FBI at bay. As the man who more than any other inaugurated the atomic age, he became one of the iconic figures of the last century, the embodiment of his own observation that 'physicists have known sin'.

Years later, haunted by Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oppenheimer became a staunch opponent of plans to develop the hydrogen bomb.…


Book cover of Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman

David N. Schwartz Author Of The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age

From my list on the lives of 20th century physicists.

Who am I?

My dad was a Nobel Prize-winning particle physicist who co-discovered the muon neutrino, a particle whose existence was first explained by Fermi. I am not a physicist myself but grew up around physicists and have always been fascinated by them and was lucky to have met many of the great 20th century physicists myself – through my father. My family background enabled me to know these great scientists not only as scientists but as people.  

David's book list on the lives of 20th century physicists

David N. Schwartz Why did David love this book?

James Gleick is one of the best popular science writers we have, and this classic biography of everyone’s favorite physicist was the first to peel back the curtain and give readers a deeper look into the man, his work, and his life. Behind the clowning and the joking was a deep sadness that Feynman carried with him throughout his life. But his contributions to physics, particularly quantum electrodynamics, put him in the legendary category. 

By James Gleick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

To his colleagues, Richard Feynman was not so much a genius as he was a full-blown magician: someone who “does things that nobody else could do and that seem completely unexpected.” The path he cleared for twentieth-century physics led from the making of the atomic bomb to a Nobel Prize-winning theory of quantam electrodynamics to his devastating exposé of the Challenger space shuttle disaster. At the same time, the ebullient Feynman established a reputation as an eccentric showman, a master safe cracker and bongo player, and a wizard of seduction.

Now James Gleick, author of the bestselling Chaos, unravels teh…


Book cover of Genius in the Shadows: A Biography of Leo Szilard, the Man Behind the Bomb

David N. Schwartz Author Of The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age

From my list on the lives of 20th century physicists.

Who am I?

My dad was a Nobel Prize-winning particle physicist who co-discovered the muon neutrino, a particle whose existence was first explained by Fermi. I am not a physicist myself but grew up around physicists and have always been fascinated by them and was lucky to have met many of the great 20th century physicists myself – through my father. My family background enabled me to know these great scientists not only as scientists but as people.  

David's book list on the lives of 20th century physicists

David N. Schwartz Why did David love this book?

Leo Szilard was one of the most interesting people of the 20th century. His first love was physics, and he is given credit for being the first to think about what would happen if someone could create a nuclear chain reaction. He worked closely with Fermi to make that chain reaction actually happen in Chicago in 1942, and was one of those who was able to see the great tragedy of the discovery, leading efforts in 1945 to try and prevent the use of the weapon against Japan. He was a colorful man, a bon vivant who loved to spend money on good clothes and fine food, and had the kind of mind that flitted from one idea to the next with the brilliance of a Monarch butterfly. His later years were devoted to the biological sciences. Lanouette/Silard have written the classic work on him. 

By William Lanouette, Bela Silard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Genius in the Shadows as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Leo Szilard has long been overshadowed by such luminaries as Einstein, Oppenheimer, and Enrico Fermi—with whom he codesigned the first nuclear reactor in 1942. A shy, witty eccentric, the Hungarian born Szilard lived both sides of the arms race, working first to prevent, then to hasten, and finally to outlaw nuclear weapons.

"Lanouette's book is eminently readable. . . . An excellent book spiced with telling anecdotes about a strange man who influenced world history."—Max F. Perutz, New York Review of Books

"Lanouette's exhaustively researched and artfully written account of one of the most underrated figures of the atomic age…


Book cover of Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein

Michael DiRuggiero Author Of Einstein: The Man and His Mind

From my list on Albert Einstein for the non-scientist.

Who am I?

I am the co-founder and current owner of The Manhattan Rare Book Company. I’ve been in the rare book business for 25 years, specializing in the history of science with particular emphasis on material relating to Albert Einstein. Like many people, I’ve long been drawn to Einstein, attracted by his wisdom, curiosity, personality, approachability, and general decency. 

Michael's book list on Albert Einstein for the non-scientist

Michael DiRuggiero Why did Michael love this book?

Anyone studying Einstein (even cursorily) will quickly encounter Abraham Pais's classic. Published in 1982, it has stood like a monument, influencing every study of Einstein since. Pais knew Einstein well and sprinkles his book with invaluable personal anecdotes and first-hand information. Because it focuses on Einstein's science, it can be a little intimidating, but it is organized well and readers can bounce around the book easily, focusing on what they find most appealing

By Abraham Pais,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Subtle Is the Lord as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Subtle is the Lord is widely recognized as the definitive scientific biography of Albert Einstein. The late Abraham Pais was a distinguished physicist turned historian who knew Einstein both professionally and personally in the last years of his life. His biography combines a profound understanding of Einstein's work with personal recollections from their years of acquaintance, illuminating the man through the development of his scientific thought.

Pais examines the formulation of Einstein's theories of relativity, his work on Brownian motion, and his response to quantum theory with authority and precision. The profound transformation Einstein's ideas effected on the physics of…


Book cover of The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World

Tamim Ansary Author Of The Invention of Yesterday: A 50,000-Year History of Human Culture, Conflict, and Connection

From my list on the human story as a single whole.

Who am I?

Tamim Ansary is the son of an Afghan father and an American mother.  As a writer, growing up in Afghanistan and growing old in America has drawn him to issues that arise from cultural confusion in zones where civilizations overlap. His books include histories and memoirs, which he considers two sides of the same coin: a memoir is history seen up close, history is memoir seen from a distance.  Much of his work explores how perspective shapes perceptions of reality—a central theme of his best-known book, Destiny Disrupted, A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes.

Tamim's book list on the human story as a single whole

Tamim Ansary Why did Tamim love this book?

Yes, yes, history is an unbroken river of themes, but it’s also a chain of pivotal dramatic episodes. Dolnick gives us one such moment. In 17th century Europe, within two generations, a collection of brilliant oddballs invented science. They’re people, so they’re doing the sorts of things people do, elbowing and shoving one another to find the ultimate truth before the other guy. I appreciate that in the course of reading such a wonderfully enjoyable story, I somehow learn a great deal about the truth they were seeking, the underlying mathematical order of the universe in which they believed.

By Edward Dolnick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Edward Dolnick’s smoothly written history of the scientific revolution tells the stories of the key players and events that transformed society.” — Charlotte Observer

From New York Times bestselling author Edward Dolnick, the true story of a pivotal moment in modern history when a group of strange, tormented geniuses—Isaac Newton chief among them—invented science and remade our understanding of the world.

At a time when the world was falling apart— in an age of religious wars, plague, and the Great Fire of London—a group of men looked around them and saw a world of perfect order. Chaotic as it looked,…


Book cover of Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton

Andrew Zangwill Author Of A Mind Over Matter: Philip Anderson and the Physics of the Very Many

From my list on biographies of physicists.

Who am I?

I am a physics professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Ten years ago, I switched my research focus from solid-state physics to the history of that subject. This was fertile ground because professional historians of science had almost completely ignored solid-state physics. I began my new career by writing two journal articles about the physicist Walter Kohn and his discovery of what became the most accurate method known to calculate the properties of solids. This experience led me to broaden my perspective and ultimately produce a biography of the theoretical physicist Philip Anderson. My next book will be a historical-sociological study of self-identity and disciplinary boundaries within the community of physicists.  

Andrew's book list on biographies of physicists

Andrew Zangwill Why did Andrew love this book?

Don’t let the length (over 900 pages) of this biography put you off. Instead, immerse yourself in the slow and powerful current of author Richard Westfall’s superbly written and richly detailed portrait of the skills, achievements, and obsessions of the singular genius that was Isaac Newton. Westfall explains in a masterful way Newton’s mathematics, his physics, his heretical theology, his fixation with alchemy, his activities running the Royal Mint, and his disputes with other scientists. These features, and Westfall’s evocative description of the intellectual and social milieu of Newton’s 17th-century world, make Never at Rest a compelling read.   

By Richard S. Westfall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Never at Rest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This richly detailed 1981 biography captures both the personal life and the scientific career of Isaac Newton, presenting a fully rounded picture of Newton the man, the scientist, the philosopher, the theologian, and the public figure. Professor Westfall treats all aspects of Newton's career, but his account centres on a full description of Newton's achievements in science. Thus the core of the work describes the development of the calculus, the experimentation that altered the direction of the science of optics, and especially the investigations in celestial dynamics that led to the law of universal gravitation.


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