The best Albert Einstein books

Many authors have picked their favorite books about Albert Einstein and why they recommend each book.

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On a Beam of Light

By Jennifer Berne, Vladimir Radunsky (illustrator),

Book cover of On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein

You can’t talk physics without talking Einstein! This beautiful book explores Einstein’s curiosity and drive to know more, which began when he was young. His journey from nonverbal child to brilliant scientist is fascinating and inspiring for all kinds of readers.

Who am I?

I have always been fascinated by how the world works. What gives gravity so much power? Why is it easier to lift things with levers and pulleys? Why do we have electricity inside of our own bodies?! The world is amazing. My job editing nonfiction books for kids puts me on the front lines of some of the smartest science writing out there. While I had no hand in the making of the following five picture books about physics, they are still some of my favorites because of the way they peel back the mysterious layers of the world to show us the science hidden in our daily lives.

I wrote...

Forces: Physical Science for Kids

By Andi Diehn, Hui Li (illustrator),

Book cover of Forces: Physical Science for Kids

What is my book about?

What keeps us stuck on the ground? What makes magnets come together? What makes one team win during a game of tug of war? Forces!

In Forces: Physical Science for Kids, kids ages 5 to 8 are encouraged to observe and consider the different forces they encounter on a daily basis. Young readers develop a fundamental understanding of physical science and are impressed with the idea that science is a constant part of our lives and not limited to classrooms and laboratories. Simple vocabulary, detailed illustrations, easy science experiments, and a glossary all support exciting learning for kids ages 5 to 8. Perfect for beginner readers or as a read-aloud nonfiction picture book!

Mathematics for the Million

By Lancelot Hogben,

Book cover of Mathematics for the Million: How to Master the Magic of Numbers

This book has haunted me for years. For what is it, exactly, that gives it such enduring popularity? After all, it was first published in 1936, yet is still in print today. In his autobiography, Hogben remarks on the importance of eye-catching illustrations but speculates that its success may instead be because the book contains – most unusually for a 'popular' work – exercises and answers, making it more suitable for self-teaching. Whatever the real answer, his book must surely have something to teach anyone – like myself – who aspires to bring mainstream mathematics to life for the general public.

Who am I?

I am an applied mathematician at Oxford University, and author of the bestseller 1089 and All That, which has now been translated into 13 languages. In 1992 I discovered a strange mathematical theorem – loosely related to the Indian Rope Trick - which eventually featured on BBC television. My books and public lectures are now aimed at bringing mainstream mathematics to the general public in new and exciting ways.

I wrote...

The Wonder Book of Geometry: A Mathematical Story

By David Acheson,

Book cover of The Wonder Book of Geometry: A Mathematical Story

What is my book about?

What is the quickest route to mathematics at its best? 

In this book, I try to show how geometry can provide the answer, by drawing on its rich history, quirky personalities, and practical applications. Throughout, I highlight elegant methods of deduction and the most surprising results, and claim that, in this way, anyone can begin to enjoy some of the wonders of mathematics within just half an hour of starting.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Other Plays

By Steve Martin,

Book cover of Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Other Plays

I read this play before I saw it, and it was great as a read. Steve Martin is obviously known as a comedic actor. But if you like the few movies he’s written, think Roxanne and LA Story, then you might want to give this one a try. It’s the fictional meeting between Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein circa 1904. Picasso has started gaining fame for his breaking of artistic boundaries, and Einstein is a year away from releasing his theory of relativity. The two men have a chance meeting in a bar and drunkenly philosophize about art, science, society, meaning, and sex. And because it’s Steve Martin, don’t be surprised if Elvis comes along.

Who am I?

I'm the writer and artist of the Johnny Hiro graphic novels. In those books, I use pop culture reference humor, but never simply as a joke. A reference can act as a hint to a world beyond the story the writer tells. I often dig slightly into an emotional resonance behind that reference—perhaps the (fictional) story of why it exists, or perhaps it even becomes an integral plot point. Popular media and culture often have a direct influence on our creative arts projects. And just sometimes, that art becomes an integral part of the popular culture itself.

I wrote...

Johnny Hiro: Half Asian, All Hero

By Fred Chao,

Book cover of Johnny Hiro: Half Asian, All Hero

What is my book about?

Johnny Hiro is about a young sushi chef-in-training and his Japanese girlfriend Mayumi trying to live a happy-enough life in NYC. But such a big, chaotic city is hard, especially when filled with giant lizards, chef rivalries, ancient gods, ronin businessmen, and NY Times food reviewers. But with all the chaos, it’s essentially about trying to live happily enough as a young couple.

I felt like there was so much drama in romance stories, and I wanted to tell a story about a healthy-enough relationship with the responsibilities of rest of the world often causing the stresses that hurt us. Because, well, sometimes simply making rent is hard enough.

The Mathematician's Mind

By Jacques Hadamard,

Book cover of The Mathematician's Mind: The Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field

Scholarship, regardless of the particular field, is always a creative process. Craft and method, the fruits of a rigorous education and hard work, are essential prerequisites, but genuine breakthroughs often seem to result from some mysterious incubation: a wild dance of ideas that emerge from the subconscious, stirred up by the keen will to understand something. Only a few of them eventually make it, by way of sensual representations, to the surface of consciousness, where they are formed and articulated by logic and language. In this book, the great French mathematician Jacques Hadamard captivatingly describes his investigation into the psychological underpinnings of creativity. He stresses the role of images and emotions in thought processes. I have always liked his conclusion that every significant invention requires at least some poetic feel.

Who am I?

I hold the chair of Old Testament at the Faculty of Catholic Theology at Munich University in Germany. My main area of expertise is Semitic languages, though, which is also the field for which I previously held a chair at Leiden University in the Netherlands for fifteen years (eventually, however, Munich made me an offer one cannot refuse). Hence my main occupation concerns the interpretation of ancient texts in exotic languages such as Hebrew, Aramaic, Phoenician, and others, mostly at the baseline of individual words, grammatical forms, and syntactic constructions. Despite the seemingly dry, specialized character of my work, it is, in my view, a lifestyle rather than a job. 

I wrote...

Aramaic: A History of the First World Language

By Holger Gzella,

Book cover of Aramaic: A History of the First World Language

What is my book about?

In this volume—the first complete history of Aramaic from its origins to the present day—Holger Gzella provides an accessible overview of the language perhaps most well known for being spoken by Jesus of Nazareth. Gzella, one of the world’s foremost Aramaicists, begins with the earliest evidence of Aramaic in inscriptions from the beginning of the first millennium BCE, then traces its emergence as the first world language when it became the administrative tongue of the great ancient Near Eastern empires. He also pays due diligence to the sacred role of Aramaic within Judaism, its place in the Islamic world, and its contact with other regional languages, before concluding with a glimpse into modern uses of Aramaic. 


By David Leeming,

Book cover of Myth: A Biography of Belief

This short book takes a deep dive into the nature of mythology and its relationship to the human mind. As well as the mythologies of past civilizations, Leeming examines modern-day myths and cultural beliefs and shows how myths are living and evolving things that serve a human need to understand the universe. If you have ever wondered what makes a myth a myth, or why everyone seems to have them, this book has some interesting answers.

Who am I?

Graeme Davis has been fascinated by myth and folklore ever since he saw Ray Harryhausen’s creatures in Jason and the Argonauts as a child. While studying archaeology at Durham University, he became far too involved with a new game called Dungeons & Dragons and went on to a career in fantasy games. He has written game sourcebooks on various ancient cultures and their myths, and worked as a researcher and consultant on multiple video games with historical and mythological settings.

I wrote...

Thor: Viking God of Thunder

By Graeme Davis,

Book cover of Thor: Viking God of Thunder

What is my book about?

Thor is best known today as a superhero in Marvel comics and films. In many ways he is the ultimate Viking: bluff, hearty, strong, and direct. And so he was in the earliest surviving stories from Norse myth. The thunder god has survived Roman attempts to conflate him with Classical gods, the bowdlerization of early Christian writers, Nazi attempts to co-opt him and his symbols, and more – and he has done so remarkably unchanged.

Creating Minds

By Howard E. Gardner,

Book cover of Creating Minds: An Anatomy of Creativity Seen Through the Lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Ghandi

Howard Gardner admitted Creative Minds was the personal favorite of all his books, and I can see why. From Albert Einstein’s transformational science to Martha Graham’s innovative dance, the book traces the personal forces at work in radical creativity of ‘the greats’ from science to arts and politics. It taught me to look at the entirety of a person’s biography to get to grips with their creativity and challenges the reader to think about a common creative scheme, but perhaps underestimates the role of conversation and community.

Who am I?

I have worked in scientific research and teaching for over 30 years, and maintained a love of art and music as well, but am saddened when I hear statements, especially from high-school pupils, that ‘there is no room for creativity or imagination in science.’ Like all working scientists, I know that imagination is the most important faculty for a scientist. The Poetry and Music of Science is my project to tease out the creative threads in the scientific process, and also to find the buried pathways that link science with the arts and humanities. The journey of discovery has been full of surprises and delights for me.

I wrote...

The Poetry and Music of Science: Comparing Creativity in Science and Art

By Tom McLeish,

Book cover of The Poetry and Music of Science: Comparing Creativity in Science and Art

What is my book about?

What human qualities make scientific discoveries, and which great art? Many would point to 'imagination' and 'creativity' in the second case but not the first. This book challenges the assumption that doing science is in any sense less creative than art, music, or fictional writing and poetry, and treads a historical and contemporary path to their shared creative process. Personal stories of scientists and artists reveal their common desires for a creative goal, experiences of failure, periods of incubation, moments of sudden insight, and the experience of the beautiful or sublime. Themes weaving through both science and art emerge.

A new paperback edition of The Poetry and Music of Science is being published on Feb 13th, completely revised and with a new chapter on Poetry and Theoretical Science.

Subtle Is the Lord

By Abraham Pais,

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

There are almost as many biographies of Einstein as there are of Lincoln! But Pais, who knew Einstein well, has produced the best, most reliable account of the great man’s life and work. If Einstein had died at the end of 1905 he would have been considered, without question, the greatest physicist of his time; but a decade later his work on general relativity placed him alongside Newton as one of the greatest of all time.     

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.  

I wrote...

The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age

By David N. Schwartz,

Book cover of The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age

What is my book about?

In 1942, a team at the University of Chicago achieved what no one had before: a nuclear chain reaction. At the forefront of this breakthrough stood Enrico Fermi. Straddling the ages of classical physics and quantum mechanics, equally at ease with theory and experiment, Fermi truly was the last man who knew everything – at least about physics. But he was also a complex figure who was a part of both the Italian Fascist Party and the Manhattan Project, and a less-than-ideal father and husband who nevertheless remained one of history's greatest mentors. Based on new archival material and exclusive interviews, The Last Man Who Knew Everything lays bare the enigmatic life of a colossus of twentieth-century physics.

Einstein's Dreams

By Alan Lightman,

Book cover of Einstein's Dreams

An enthralling, fictional description of a young scientist (Einstein) and his dreams/thoughts about space, time, relativity, and the nature of reality. The book fictionalizes Einstein’s dreams in 1905, his “Annus Mirabilis” (“Miracle Year”), in which he wrote four fundamental papers, including one on his theory of Special Relativity. While this is a work of fiction, the physics concepts are beautifully explained.

Who am I?

Mario Livio is an astrophysicist and author of seven popular science books, including the bestsellers The Golden Ratio and Brilliant Blunders. He worked for 24 years (till 2015) with the Hubble Space Telescope, and published more than 500 scientific papers. He lectures regularly to the general public, and has appeared on television programs ranging from 60 Minutes to NOVA to The Daily Show.

I wrote...

Galileo: And the Science Deniers

By Mario Livio,

Book cover of Galileo: And the Science Deniers

What is my book about?

Galileo's story may be more relevant today than ever before. At present, we face enormous crises--such as the minimization of the dangers of climate change--because the science behind these threats is erroneously questioned or ignored. Galileo encountered this problem 400 years ago. His discoveries, based on careful observations and ingenious experiments, contradicted conventional wisdom and the teachings of the church at the time. Consequently, in a blatant assault on freedom of thought, his books were forbidden by church authorities.

Astrophysicist and bestselling author Mario Livio draws on his own scientific expertise to provide captivating insights into how Galileo reached his bold new conclusions about the cosmos and the laws of nature. Galileo was one of the most significant figures behind the scientific revolution. He believed that every educated person should know science as well as literature, and insisted on reaching the widest audience possible, publishing his books in Italian rather than Latin.


By Manjit Kumar,

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

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.

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.

I wrote...

Tales of the Quantum: Understanding Physics' Most Fundamental Theory

By Art Hobson,

Book cover of Tales of the Quantum: Understanding Physics' Most Fundamental Theory

What is my book about?

You've heard that we live in a world made of atoms. More fundamentally, we live in a universe made of "quanta." Many things – light, radio, electricity, gravitational fields, neutron stars, black holes, dark energy – are not made of atoms. But everything is made of highly unified bundles of energy called "quanta" that obey the rules of quantum physics. This is a book about these quanta and their unexpected behavior tales, if you will, of the quantum.  

Quanta are reputed to be incomprehensible. But, although their peculiar habits are not what we would have expected, these habits are comprehensible. This book explains those habits – wave-particle duality, fundamental randomness, quantum states, being in two places at once, entanglement, non-locality, Schrodinger's cat, quantum jumps – in everyday language, without mathematics.


By Joseph Heller,

Book cover of Catch-22

Catch-22 is a laugh-out-loud funny and grotesquely horrific antiwar satire that exposes the absurdity of the military bureaucracy and of war. It focuses on Yossarian, a WWII bombardier who doesn’t want to fly any more missions. The book is so complex and detailed you’ll find something new in it with each reading. The title, meaning a dilemma with no solution, has found its way into the English language—you can look it up in Webster’s. The catch-22 in Catch-22 is this: If you wanted to get out of combat duty you had to be crazy. But anybody who wanted to get out of combat duty wasn’t really crazy. Many years ago, when I was writing about the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex, I often turned to Catch-22 for inspiration.

Who am I?

I’m a Brooklyn-born writer of what’s now called “creative nonfiction,” and whatever literary success I’ve had, I attribute in part to having studied the works of Hunter S. Thompson, Henry Miller, Philip Roth, Joan Didion, and Joseph Heller. I’ve assimilated their voices and used them as guides to help me find my own voice. Read any of my books and you’ll find subtle (and at times not so subtle) echoes of this Holy Quintet. My latest book, A Brooklyn Memoir, is in part an homage to Miller’s Black Spring.

I wrote...

A Brooklyn Memoir: My Life as a Boy

By Robert Rosen,

Book cover of A Brooklyn Memoir: My Life as a Boy

What is my book about?

A Brooklyn Memoir is an unsentimental journey through mid-century Flatbush, where Auschwitz survivors and WWII vets lived side by side and the war lingered like a mass hallucination.

Meet Bobby, a local kid who shares a shabby apartment with his status-conscious mother and bigoted father, a soda jerk haunted by memories of the Nazi death camp he helped liberate. Flatbush, to Bobby, is a world of brawls with neighborhood “punks” and Hebrew school tales of Adolf Eichmann’s daring capture. Drawn to images of mushroom clouds and books about executions, Bobby turns the hatred he senses everywhere against himself, but ultimately transcends the toxic forces that surround him. From a perch in his father’s candy store, Bobby provides a darkly comic child’s-eye view of postwar America.

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