The best science books

34 authors have picked their favorite books about science and why they recommend each book.

Soon, you will be able to filter by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to explore books.

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

The Essential Tension

By Thomas S. Kuhn,

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

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

The Essential Tension

By Thomas S. Kuhn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

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


Who am I?

Deirdre Nansen McCloskey is Distinguished Professor Emerita of Economics and of History, and Professor Emerita of English and of Communication, adjunct in classics and philosophy, at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Trained at Harvard in the 1960s as an economist, she has written twenty-four books and some four hundred academic and popular articles on economic history, rhetoric, philosophy, statistical theory, economic theory, feminism, queer studies, liberalism, ethics, and law.


I wrote...

The Rhetoric of Economics

By Deirdre N. McCloskey,

Book cover of The Rhetoric of Economics

What is my book about?

Economists are poets / But don’t know it.  Economic modeling uses metaphors, not as mere ornaments or elucidations but as the very meat of the science (just as in physics or history). In her famous book, McCloskey illustrates the point with trenchant wit.  Her point is to not attack economics, but to show how it actually works its persuasions—for which she chooses great economists whose scientific work she admires. 

Changing Order

By Harry Collins,

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

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

Changing Order

By Harry Collins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

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


Who am I?

Deirdre Nansen McCloskey is Distinguished Professor Emerita of Economics and of History, and Professor Emerita of English and of Communication, adjunct in classics and philosophy, at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Trained at Harvard in the 1960s as an economist, she has written twenty-four books and some four hundred academic and popular articles on economic history, rhetoric, philosophy, statistical theory, economic theory, feminism, queer studies, liberalism, ethics, and law.


I wrote...

The Rhetoric of Economics

By Deirdre N. McCloskey,

Book cover of The Rhetoric of Economics

What is my book about?

Economists are poets / But don’t know it.  Economic modeling uses metaphors, not as mere ornaments or elucidations but as the very meat of the science (just as in physics or history). In her famous book, McCloskey illustrates the point with trenchant wit.  Her point is to not attack economics, but to show how it actually works its persuasions—for which she chooses great economists whose scientific work she admires. 

Personal Knowledge

By Michael Polanyi,

Book cover of Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy

Polanyi, an eminent Hungarian Jewish chemist who spent his career at the University of Manchester, was the smarter brother of the more famous Karl Polanyi, the socialist economic historian. Michael (Mihály) shows in the book how science depends on ordinary, “personal” knowledge, as for example in riding a bicycle. He was a “liberal” in the European sense, unlike his brother, and saw the scientific community as analogous to a free market, and the free market as analogous to a scientific community.

Personal Knowledge

By Michael Polanyi,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The publication of Personal Knowledge in 1958 shook the science world, as Michael Polanyi took aim at the long-standing ideals of rigid empiricism and rule-bound logic. Today, Personal Knowledge remains one of the most significant philosophy of science books of the twentieth century, bringing the crucial concepts of “tacit knowledge” and “personal knowledge” to the forefront of inquiry.

In this remarkable treatise, Polanyi attests that our personal experiences and ways of sharing knowledge have a profound effect on scientific discovery. He argues against the idea of the wholly dispassionate researcher, pointing out that even in the strictest of sciences, knowing…


Who am I?

Deirdre Nansen McCloskey is Distinguished Professor Emerita of Economics and of History, and Professor Emerita of English and of Communication, adjunct in classics and philosophy, at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Trained at Harvard in the 1960s as an economist, she has written twenty-four books and some four hundred academic and popular articles on economic history, rhetoric, philosophy, statistical theory, economic theory, feminism, queer studies, liberalism, ethics, and law.


I wrote...

The Rhetoric of Economics

By Deirdre N. McCloskey,

Book cover of The Rhetoric of Economics

What is my book about?

Economists are poets / But don’t know it.  Economic modeling uses metaphors, not as mere ornaments or elucidations but as the very meat of the science (just as in physics or history). In her famous book, McCloskey illustrates the point with trenchant wit.  Her point is to not attack economics, but to show how it actually works its persuasions—for which she chooses great economists whose scientific work she admires. 

Book cover of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Perhaps one of the greatest books ever written. Kuhn is one of the most brilliant thinkers in human history, the creator of the word “paradigm.” This book examines how science progresses over time, one worldview replacing another. More significantly, Kuhn argued that defenders of the current paradigm resist any challenge to its tenets to maintain respect and privilege. In short, science is limited by human insecurity and ego. I found this book to be imperative to any understanding of how the world works. 

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

By Thomas S. Kuhn,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Structure of Scientific Revolutions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A good book may have the power to change the way we see the world, but a great book actually becomes part of our daily consciousness, pervading our thinking to the point that we take it for granted, and we forget how provocative and challenging its ideas once were-and still are. "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" is that kind of book. When it was first published in 1962, it was a landmark event in the history and philosophy of science. And fifty years later, it still has many lessons to teach. With "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions", Kuhn challenged long-standing…


Who am I?

I'm an author, thinker, philosopher, and social critic. My previous books include gold award winner The New Individualism: Personal Change to Transform Society, Leah’s Way, and Reason for Existence. My works are used in hundreds of colleges and universities and have been featured in several publications. I received my B.A. in Government and M.A. in Government from California State University, Sacramento. My thesis was entitled “Toward a Credible Central Intelligence Agency.” The research included interviews with the intelligence community and national security officials, including a former CIA Director. That process enabled vast insights into the structures and functions of society, specifically the confluence of politics, economics, power, technology, security, order, religion, and transformation.


I wrote...

The Full Extent: An Inquiry Into Reality and Destiny

By Richard Botelho,

Book cover of The Full Extent: An Inquiry Into Reality and Destiny

What is my book about?

In the early 20th century, discoveries in quantum mechanics proved Consciousness is the ground of all being. This finding contradicted scientific materialism, which posited matter as foundational; instead, matter results from the Mind. Moreover, Consciousness was antecedently linked to a First Mind, the universe a mental and spiritual construction of a Divine Being. The Full Extent expands on these quantum truths and considers their spiritual implications, positioning the human future.

The Voyage of the Beagle

By Charles Darwin,

Book cover of The Voyage of the Beagle

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

The Voyage of the Beagle

By Charles Darwin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With an Introduction by David Amigoni.

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

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


Who am I?

My first experience of sailing was in an open dinghy in the North Sea in winter; the second was capsizing in the path of a hovercraft at Cowes. I was put off for years. But once Jenny and I moved to spectacular British Columbia, we were inspired to try again. In 1985 we left on what would become a 4-year circumnavigation of the world; more recently and over several years we made our way back under sail from Cape Town to BC, spending a year in Patagonian waters. My other (paying) career has been as a diplomat, which is everything long-distance-sailing is not: people, rules, compromises, convention. Over the years, things have more-or-less balanced out.


I wrote...

Winter in Fireland: A Patagonian Sailing Adventure

By Nicholas Coghlan,

Book cover of Winter in Fireland: A Patagonian Sailing Adventure

What is my book about?

In the 1970s, seduced by the power ballad “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and the cover art on Bruce Chatwin’s “In Patagonia”, Nick Coghlan fled rainy Britain to take up a job at a posh boarding school in Buenos Aires. Over the course of three long summers, he and his wife Jenny fell in love with the windswept plains and snow-capped peaks of southern South America. Once Nick’s contract was up, they vowed one day to return. They did so 25 years later, aboard a tiny blue sailboat. Nick’s book is a riveting account of a year exploring the wildest and loneliest waters in the world, in the wake of Cook and Darwin: “A story by adventurers for adventurers” (Pacific Rim Review of Books).  

Book cover of A Short History of Nearly Everything

A Short History of Nearly Everything is great for two reasons. The first of which is just getting a better understanding of how science has developed our thought process and beliefs over the past several hundred years and how it impacts and changes our views based on new findings.

The second, and more impactful, lesson to be taken from this book is how it approaches scientific philosophies. A Short History of Nearly Everything takes the most complex scientific theories and facts and breaks them down to the most simplest concept.  

Thus proving, in order to get everyone to have confidence in your thought process and decisions, every leader must break down the most complex issues to their most basic level to be understood.

A Short History of Nearly Everything

By Bill Bryson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

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

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

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


Who am I?

My passion for developing entrepreneurial and business instinct is simple. It is all based on confidence. Over time, my experiences have shown me that many leaders (myself included) can end up in “decision paralysis” and default to taking no action at all. Leaders can have all of the information and indicators that a decision is the right thing to do, but they default to doing nothing. By developing a better understanding of my own instincts, I have been able to build confidence in the decisions I have made over the past 20 years, thus eliminating any deterrents from making sound decisions.


I wrote...

How Much Does It Cost to Make a Donut?: And Other Questions That Make Us Hate Accounting

By Cassmer Ward,

Book cover of How Much Does It Cost to Make a Donut?: And Other Questions That Make Us Hate Accounting

What is my book about?

It is easy to acknowledge that most business owners and entrepreneurs don’t consider accounting to be their favorite part of business. While they agree on the importance and value accounting brings, the subject matter isn’t sexy. How Much Does It Cost to Make a Donut? takes general accounting principles and shows the reader how to apply them to everyday business issues through stories rather than mathematical exercises. Through a series of entrepreneurial lessons learned, the author illustrates how even the most simple accounting decision can have a profound effect.

Book cover of The Essential David Bohm

I first encountered the philosophy of physicist Bohm in another book by the philosopher Renée Weber (Dialogues with Scientists and Sages) in which she, the Dalai Lama, and Bohm (among others) explore, well, everything. But Bohm’s own exploration blends Buddhist concepts with physics. One of the many reasons I am Buddhist myself is its architecture and allowance for new concepts including physics theory and the reality of light itself. His implicate order for the universe explains more about its reality than accepted current theory. I’m no physicist nor towering intellectual, but I am following the Buddha’s advice to figure it out for myself. This book helped immensely. Sadly his work is overlooked by the scientific community.

The Essential David Bohm

By Lee Nichol,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

There are few scientists of the twentieth century whose life's work has created more excitement and controversy than that of physicist David Bohm (1917-1992). For the first time in a single volume, The Essential David Bohm offers a comprehensive overview of Bohm's original works from a non-technical perspective. Including three chapters of previously unpublished material, each reading has been selected to highlight some aspect of the implicate order process, and to provide an introduction to one of the most provocative thinkers of our time.


Who am I?

I became Buddhist while I was working in Southeast Asia, in Thailand specifically. Here’s one of the great lessons I learned, or perhaps it’s merely a koan, and that is this, no true Buddhist is Buddhist. It’s my own saying and one that I live by because Zen, Tibetan or Theravada are all structured disciplines with ritual and even recognized leaders. And I think the Buddha would laugh one of his full bellied roars to learn that there were, in some cases, global organizations all named in his honor. That’s not to make light of the way of organized Buddhism, merely to say that it isn’t my way.


I wrote...

Book cover of The Power of Awareness: And Other Secrets from the World's Foremost Spies, Detectives, and Special Operators on How to Stay Safe and Save Your Life

What is my book about?

A spy is suddenly aware she's being stalked through the streets of an overseas city. A special ops soldier intuitively recognizes something's "off" during a high-risk mission. In these life-threatening situations, experts know exactly how to use their senses and what actions to take. The Power of Awareness will make sure you will, too.

In his empowering book, Dan Schilling shares how to identify and avoid threats using situational awareness and intuition just like the pros. Told with wit and wisdom, this compelling guide uses harrowing stories from Dan's special operations career and those of other experts to outline six easily implemented rules you can apply anywhere to improve your personal safety. By the last page you'll know that your own Power of Awareness can save your life.

Book cover of Unnatural Nature of Science

I spend a lot of my time trying to clarify the bilge poured out by the merchants of fake science: the flat-earthers, creationists, and climate deniers mainly, but also medical quacks and other fruitloops who throw out alternative science, stuff which is like normal science, with one small exception. I was already fighting these fights when Wolpert came to Sydney, and I chaired a lecture he gave. He showed us where the problem lay in combatting idiocy: the idiots depend on naïve and naked intuition.

Invariably, these unhinged pseudo-realities rely on a simple misreading of scientific lore, and Lewis explained that this is because a great deal of science is counter-intuitive. We can’t see evolution happening, the world looks flat, the sun appears to go around us, and common sense says that kinetic energy must be proportional to velocity, not it's square. Enter the simpleton who slept through a key…

Unnatural Nature of Science

By Lewis Wolpert,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How is it that nobody--except maybe scientists--sees science for what it is? In this entertaining and provocative book, Lewis Wolpert draws on the entire history of science, from Thales of Miletus to Watson and Crick, from the study of eugenics to the discovery of the double helix. The result is a scientist's view of the culture of science, authoritative and informed and at the same time mercifully accessible to those who find cohabiting with this culture a puzzling experience. Science is arguably the defining feature of our age. For anyone who hopes to understand its nature, this lively and thoughtful…


Who am I?

A lot of the books I write are about science or history, and Mr Darwin just happened to be about both: it was a history of science, as science was in 1859. People say the world changed after Darwin published, The Origin of Species in 1859, but Origin was a symptom not a cause. My book is a history of science that looks at how the world was changing (and shrinking) in the year 1859, as new specimens, new materials, new technologies, and new ideas came into play.


I wrote...

Mr Darwin's Incredible Shrinking World

By Peter Macinnis,

Book cover of Mr Darwin's Incredible Shrinking World

What is my book about?

In 1859 Charles Darwin's revolutionary The Origin of Species was first published—but the book was just another example of the ferment and change happening in that year. In that year scientists peered through microscopes and discovered the workings of tiny organisms; technology made huge leaps and bounds as machines took on tasks with a speed and consistency never before seen; the concepts of time and distance were themselves challenged as telegraph cables, train lines, and steamships crisscrossed the globe; and everything was illuminated as powerful telescopes looked to the heavens and gas lamps lit the streets. Mr Darwin's incredible shrinking world takes readers back to this amazing and innovative year.

Science in the Soul

By Richard Dawkins,

Book cover of Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist

This book is a collection of essays, letters, and lectures about the intrinsic value, importance, and beauty of science by one of its most talented and passionate communicators. Dawkins’s clear and often witty treatment of complex scientific issues is a breath of fresh air in this time of misinformation and ‘fake news.’ He writes primarily about biology, his own specialty, but ranges widely from ecology to evolution to genetics and even life beyond planet earth. Throughout, his incisive prose conveys the thrill and wonder of scientific discovery.

Science in the Soul

By Richard Dawkins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Richard Dawkins - author of The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, and The God Delusion - is one of science's greatest communicators. This anthology of more than forty pieces is a kaleidoscopic argument for the power and the glory of science.

Breathtaking, brilliant and passionate, these essays, journalism, lectures and letters make an unanswerable case for the wonder of scientific discovery and its power to stir the imagination; for the practical necessity of scientific endeavour to society; and for the importance of the scientific way of thinking - particularly in today's 'post-truth' world.

With an…


Who am I?

I’m a geoscientist and writer, and ever since my childhood explorations of the ponds, creeks, cliffs and forests of my native Ontario I’ve been fascinated with the natural world. During my PhD studies and subsequent academic career I’ve been fortunate to experience the thrill of experiment and discovery, and I’m passionate about communicating the wonders of science to others. I try to do that in my own books. Those I’ve recommended here, in my opinion, do it superbly. 


I wrote...

Endless Novelties of Extraordinary Interest: The Voyage of H.M.S. Challenger and the Birth of Modern Oceanography

By Doug Macdougall,

Book cover of Endless Novelties of Extraordinary Interest: The Voyage of H.M.S. Challenger and the Birth of Modern Oceanography

What is my book about?

My most recent book, Endless Novelties, is about adventure and scientific discovery during the three-and-a-half-year long Challenger expedition of the 1870s, which set out with the aim – no less – of determining the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of the world’s oceans, with particular attention to the deep sea (the title comes from a phrase the expedition’s scientific director used to describe what they might find).

I examine the factors that drove the small band of ceaselessly curious scientists on board Challenger (numbering only six, and embedded with more than 250 British Navy personnel who ran the ship) to leave their comfortable lives in Britain and embark on a long, difficult, and sometimes dangerous sea voyage. I explore their triumphs and hardships, their humor in the face of adversity, and most of all the discoveries they made by dredging up strange materials and creatures from the seafloor, and examining the biology of remote oceanic islands.

Science

By Patricia Fara,

Book cover of Science: A Four Thousand Year History

To properly understand where women fit in to the history of science, we need to have a fair grasp of what science and the history of science is, and this book offers a perfect introduction. It is the antidote to many linear “progress” driven narratives that insist that the history of western science is simply a straight line from the Greeks with each generation building and improving on the one before. This book attempts to tell the whole story of science, science from across the world, the internationalism of it, the politics, the interrelation between ideas and culture. Although not strictly about historical women in science, I’ve included it here as a kind of foundation to understanding the rest.

Science

By Patricia Fara,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Science: A Four Thousand Year History rewrites science's past. Instead of focussing on difficult experiments and abstract theories, Patricia Fara shows how science has always belonged to the practical world of war, politics, and business. Rather than glorifying scientists as idealized heroes, she tells true stories about real people - men (and some women) who needed to earn their living, who made mistakes, and who trampled down their rivals in their quest
for success.

Fara sweeps through the centuries, from ancient Babylon right up to the latest hi-tech experiments in genetics and particle physics, illuminating the financial interests, imperial ambitions,…


Who am I?

Formerly curator of astronomy at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, I am an occasional writer and researcher and a now full-time primary school teacher in the north of England.  My popular books include The Stargazer’s Guide and The Quiet Revolution of Caroline Herschel; I have also contributed to various academic publications, including a paper on William Herschel for Notes & Records of the Royal Society which won their 2014 Essay Award.


I wrote...

The Quiet Revolution of Caroline Herschel: The Lost Heroine of Astronomy

By Emily Winterburn,

Book cover of The Quiet Revolution of Caroline Herschel: The Lost Heroine of Astronomy

What is my book about?

Caroline Herschel was a quiet, unassuming, always accommodating eighteenth-century singer turned astronomer. She discovered several comets, nebulae, and star clusters and contributed in various ways to a family project that allowed her brother, William Herschel to become an astronomer so prolific and inventive he is sometimes termed the father of modern astrophysics. Curiously, much of the work that made Caroline her own name in astronomy took place in a 10-year period entirely missing from her journal.

My book looks at those 10 years, in part to celebrate that work which made her the first woman ever published in the Royal Society and a respected name across Europe, but also to understand why she decided to destroy the journal evidencing of her thoughts and feelings during that same period.

Or, view all 152 books about science

New book lists related to science

All book lists related to science

Bookshelves related to science