The best books about scientists

9 authors have picked their favorite books about scientists 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).

Annihilation

By Jeff VanderMeer,

Book cover of Annihilation

You can’t talk about weird, gothic science fiction, without mentioning Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation. The first in the Southern Reach trilogy, VanderMeer’s novel is a complex, surreal, and terrifying tale of four scientists who brave the uninhabited, quarantined, and inexplicable ‘Area X’ in search of answers. Annihilation expertly blends science fiction with the terror and mystery of the gothic: fusing scientific inquiry (“Remember that we are to put our faith in your measurements…The measurements do not lie”), with hallucinations, temporal ambiguity, and mind manipulation. The lush, sentient, and menacing ecosystem is the quintessential gothic setting, and the story, revealed through the journal of the protagonist, is a perfect throwback to the original gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto. A standout example of modern, intelligent, gothic sci-fi.


Who am I?

All my life, I have been drawn to the dark, twisty, unconventional, rebellious stories; I was always a little disappointed with the Disney-fied fairytales, always enthralled by the dark imaginings of the originals. As I grew older, I recognised that these dark fables were not just confined to stories of fantasy, but present as seeds of discontent and destruction in our own reality—in the injustices of the present, and disasters of our potential future. As an author, I use these modern parables and prophecies—in dystopian, weird, and gothic science fiction—as a way to explore and critically reflect on our humanity and its future.  


I wrote...

Tasmanian Gothic

By Mikhaeyla Kopievsky,

Book cover of Tasmanian Gothic

What is my book about?

A dark biopunk thriller of gothic proportionsSolari wasn’t alive when the radiation rained down, but she’s living with the consequences—the mutations, the gangland war, and the wall that divides Tasmania’s affluent North from its contaminated South. Alone in the southern reaches, Solari survives by cooking wildly addictive snowrock for the local crime lord and avoiding the city’s mutants. 

But, when a bad deal turns worse, Solari is forced to run—escaping retribution with a stolen van and a pair of giant wings cleaved from a mutant moth. Grafting the wings to her body will disguise Solari as one of Tasmania’s most reviled, and set her on a dangerous journey through gangland strongholds to get to the Border Wall, and safety, in the north.

Ship Fever

By Andrea Barrett,

Book cover of Ship Fever: Stories

I’m the daughter of two scientists, and this book was deeply important to me when I first read it. It helped me understand my parents’ passion for and pursuit of botanical knowledge. Many of the characters in this collection (a novella and stories) are fictional botanists, but historical figures appear in several stories. For instance, “The English Pupil” features an elderly Carl Linnaeus and explores themes of botany and regret.


Who am I?

Three of my five novels have largely tragic historical settings—the siege of Leningrad, the Great Flood of 1927, and Hurricane Katrina—and I’ve always been fascinated and awed by how people survive the things they do. The origin of “May you live in interesting times” is disputed, but undoubtedly it's more curse than blessing. I’m also just fascinated by the way writers bring real people and events to life in new ways. As the daughter of scientists, I’m often drawn to works of fiction that feature scientists, real or invented. 


I wrote...

Hunger

By Elise Blackwell,

Book cover of Hunger

What is my book about?

Scouring the world, a scientist has spent his life collecting rare seeds for his country’s premier botanical institute. Even at home with the wife he loves, he remembers the beautiful women and strange foods he has tasted from Afghanistan to Abyssinia. When German troops surround Leningrad in 1941, food supplies dwindle and residents eat bark, barter pianos for flour, and trade sex for food. In the darkest hours of the siege, the institute’s scientists make a pact to leave untouched the storehouse of seeds they believe is the country’s future. But such a promise becomes difficult to keep as the siege continues. Based on true events, Hunger is the story of a man wrestling with his own morality and learning what it means to survive.

The Kid Who Named Pluto

By Marc McCutcheon, Jon Cannell (illustrator),

Book cover of The Kid Who Named Pluto

I didn’t want to leave older children out of this list. This book would make a fantastic gift for a child who loves science but considers themselves “too old” for picture books. This beautifully illustrated chapter book features children who followed their curiosities and questions to real discoveries that helped the world! A very inspiring read.


Who am I?

I’m a deeply curious person who has always loved the intersections of science and art, and the related intersection of the humanities and technology. I also have a passion for children’s books and have worked as both a writer and an editor, and as a developer of interactive apps and games based on children’s books. My latest book is a collaboration with one of my favorite childhood (and teenage) writing partners, Hena Khan. It’s an adventure where you get to make choices that turn you into a hero or a villain. It’s called Super You: The Power of Flight. I hope you’ll check it out!


I wrote...

How Many Jelly Beans?

By Andrea Menotti, Yancey Labat (illustrator),

Book cover of How Many Jelly Beans?

What is my book about?

How Many Jelly Beans? is a giant book of giant numbers! It’s an award-winning picture book that helps kids visualize what big quantities look like. Starting with ten, children work their way up to a thousand, then ten thousand, a hundred thousand, and finally, one million! These quantities take the form of colorful jelly beans spread out all over the pages. The final spread folds out like a big poster so all the jelly beans will fit! There’s even a little bit of division thrown in, when kids learn how many jelly beans they’d be eating per day if they ate a thousand jelly beans in a year. Numbers like this become so real for kids when they are colorful beans of their favorite flavors!

Merchants of Doubt

By Naomi Oreskes, Erik M. Conway,

Book cover of Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Climate Change

Terrifying and eye-opening, this tells the true story of machinations worthy of a John Grisham thriller. A small but powerful group is determined to deny science and subvert democracy by manufacturing a lucrative new product: doubt. As the authors meticulously document, this is done deliberately and cynically, by corrupting a handful of scientists, destroying the lives of incorruptible ones, and going heavy on lobbying and media spin. But unlike the thrillers, the ending on climate denial has still to be written; the ball is in our court.


Who am I?

I’m a philosopher and former journalist. I’ve been teaching, writing, and thinking about climate justice for nearly two decades. Ever more frustrated by the gulf between what’s morally and scientifically imperative, and what governments are prepared to do, I determined to speak (and listen) to a wider audience than my academic bubble. Climate change is a moral emergency, not just a technical, scientific, economic, or political one. The more people who recognise that, the better. As a writer, I couldn’t have managed without the experiences and wisdom of others, personal, scholarly, or professional. These books, among many others, have moved me and helped me to figure out a way forward.


I wrote...

What Climate Justice Means and Why We Should Care

By Elizabeth Cripps,

Book cover of What Climate Justice Means and Why We Should Care

What is my book about?

We owe it to our fellow humans, and other species, to save them from the catastrophic harm caused by climate change. This book explains why. It uses clear reasoning and poignant examples, starting with irrefutable science and uncontroversial moral rules. It unravels the legacy of colonialism and entrenched racism, and exposes the way we live now as fundamentally unjust. 

Then it asks where we go from here. Who should pay the bill for climate action? Who must have a say? How can we hold multinational companies, organisations—even nations—to account? And what should each of us do now? Recognise climate justice as the fundamental wrong it is, and climate activism is a moral duty, not a political choice.

The Vast Wonder of the World

By Mélina Mangal, Luisa Uribe (illustrator),

Book cover of The Vast Wonder of the World: Biologist Ernest Everett Just

Ernest Everett Just said, “The egg cell is also a universe.” Reading those words gives me chills. This book showcases the same wonders that amazed me when I first began studying biology, and which I later tried to show my own students as a biology teacher. At the same time, this is the story of a scientist who persevered despite racism and discrimination. While the text and illustrations will appeal even to very young readers, the back matter gives more in-depth information about Just’s research, perfect for older kids.


Who am I?

I am a former science teacher and science writer with a PhD in neuroscience. I have published thirty books for young readers, many with scientific themes. In elementary school, I was amazed by seeing pond water under a microscope. In high school, I sat in biology class feeling like my brain might explode from realizing how incredible it is that trillions of tiny cells work together to make up our bodies. I want to help my young readers find the same joy in connecting with science that I did, and to have that same feeling that their brains might explode—in a good way—from learning new, astonishing information.


I wrote...

Who Is a Scientist?

By Laura Gehl,

Book cover of Who Is a Scientist?

What is my book about?

Who Is a Scientist? features fourteen diverse modern-day scientists, showing gorgeous photos of each scientist both at work and at play. I wanted kids to know how many different types of scientists there are, and that while some scientists work in labs, others work in observatories or in forests or even in the Sahara Desert. I also wanted young readers to see that scientists are real people who have many of the same passions that they do...like playing soccer, dancing, and eating ice cream. I want kids to read this book and believe that they can grow up to be scientists too.

The book includes a scientist who wears a headscarf, a scientist with full-sleeve tattoos, a scientist who uses forearm crutches to get around in the field, a scientist with bright red lipstick, and many more. I hope the photos show kids that they don’t need to fit into any specific mold to be a scientist. 

Beyond the Hundredth Meridian

By Wallace Stegner,

Book cover of Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West

Former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt famously described his first reading of Stegner’s book about John Wesley Powell: it felt like a brick had been thrown through a windowpane, transforming his view of a West he thought he knew. The same thing happened to me when I read the book while serving as a Capitol Reef seasonal naturalist in my 20s. No one else writes like Stegner, who was born on the frontier and grew into a scholar of that frontier. In this book, he takes us along on Powell’s harrowing 1869 river trip down the Colorado River. And then Stegner uses Powell’s growing understanding of our arid West to illuminate the very nature of that desert West. Utah Canyon Country lies at the heart of his story.


Who am I?

Long ago, in college in Colorado, I discovered Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire—the classic that grew from journals he kept while a ranger at Utah’s Arches National Park. I’d grown up in the West, visiting national parks and revering park rangers. Abbey gave me the model—live and write in these wild places. After graduating, I snagged jobs myself as a seasonal ranger/naturalist at Arches and Capitol Reef national parks. I was thrilled. Since then, I’ve spent decades exploring and photographing Western landscapes. After working on 25 books about natural history, Native peoples, and conservation, Capitol Reef still remains my “home park” and Utah Canyon Country my spiritual home.  


I wrote...

The Capitol Reef Reader

By Stephen Trimble,

Book cover of The Capitol Reef Reader

What is my book about?

In The Capitol Reef Reader, I collect writing that best captures the spirit of Utah’s least-known national park in personal narratives, philosophical riffs, and historic and scientific records. Editing this anthology was a labor of love. I arrived in Capitol Reef in 1975 to work a season for the National Park Service as a ranger. I began reading everything I could find about the park’s cliffs, canyons, and characters, and I've never stopped. I'm endlessly intrigued by the challenge of responding to this place in language.

The Reader condenses this rich literature, featuring fifty writers, young and old, who have graced these canyons with their attention and imagination—along with my photographs from 45 years of wandering in the park.

Sphere

By Michael Crichton,

Book cover of Sphere

Michael Crichton was the first author I fell in love with as a child. And it wasn’t until I was older that I realized how influential he was as a science fiction writer. His novels were always written so realistically that I never thought of them as science fiction, which always meant outer space to me growing up. Sphere is a great example of science fiction that blends together elements of other genres, which is something that I like to do as a writer. Sphere’s story is presented in a way that you start to believe this could legitimately happen in our world, and I find stories like that fascinating. Sphere is one of Crichton’s best and tends to get overlooked because of Jurassic Park. Read this instead.


Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by science and space since I was a child and naturally gravitated toward science fiction. In many respects, it was a form of escapism, as I didn’t enjoy school. I always preferred escaping into another world or being taken on a journey to another world. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized that most great science fiction is a commentary on our own world and the issues we face daily. Science fiction, more than any other genre, does a better job of exploring and dissecting aspects of our world, which in turn helps us better understand our world and our relationship with it.


I wrote...

The Darkdrift

By Don Kinney,

Book cover of The Darkdrift

What is my book about?

Targeted LA cop Samuel Winter escapes the unforgiving Silanna cartel and flees to more familiar territory, New York City, where new enemies and friends—desperately bound to ancient text hidden in an otherworldly object—await his arrival and thrust him into a struggle to prevent a tragedy that may or may not occur, that may simply be shrouding a far greater catastrophe: the inescapable pull of the Darkdrift.

The Inventor's Secret

By Suzanne Slade, Jennifer Black Reinhardt (illustrator),

Book cover of The Inventor's Secret: What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford

We’ve all heard of these two inventors, but I hadn’t heard of the time they met. The title immediately intrigues and hooks in readers  – what did Ford and Edison learn from each other? Curiosity was a trait they shared that got them both into heaps of trouble and spurred them on to explore, innovate and create life-changing inventions. But before Henry successfully invented the Ford car, he looked longingly at Edison’s numerous successful inventions. What was the secret of his success? “Keep at it!” – such a simple, empowering tip, one that everyone can find inspiring and encouraging, especially young readers.


Who am I?

I love to get kids fired up about true stories, using their imaginations and believing in themselves as future innovators, inventors, and creators. Crayola crayons inventor Edwin Binney's story is a fabulous springboard for exploring nature, color and creativity. I love to draw and make stuff just like Binney, so his story resonated with me. The more I researched, the more I admired how he listened to what people needed and looked to nature for inspiration. I am intrigued by the origins of everyday objects. Here are some books that inspired me when I was writing, and that have that fascinating a-ha moment that spurs on innovation.


I wrote...

The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons

By Natascha Biebow, Steven Salerno (illustrator),

Book cover of The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons

What is my book about?

What child doesn't love to hold a crayon in their hands? But before Edwin Binney set out to change things, children couldn't really even draw in color. Here’s the true story of the inventor who so loved nature’s vibrant colors that he found a way to bring the outside world to children – in a bright green box for only a nickel! Discover how Binney and his team at Crayola created one of the world’s most enduring, best-loved toys – empowering children to dream and draw in color

Winner of the Irma Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature, NSTA best STEM book, ILA Children's Choice Reading List, Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection.

The Invisible Man

By H.G. Wells,

Book cover of The Invisible Man

Similar in vein, a more opaque story than Frankenstein, and with a more indeterminate morality surrounding the main character, who is, after all, a crackpot murderer, but eliciting perhaps the same complex reactions toward him and the other characters at the book’s tragic ending. 


Who am I?

I am one of those people who always feels sorry for the monster at the end of the movie. I am always more disturbed by the avenging townspeople’s bloodlust than the monster’s destructiveness. At a deeper level, for me these horror stories actually depict compassion, acceptance, and the hysteria whipped up by self-righteous mobs. They are books with very dark themes, and they generally do not have happy endings, but rather than being depressing, I find them instructive, even enriching, and certainly valuable. More than anything, they show me – in bloody detail  the terrifying limits of conformity.


I wrote...

Nothing

By Robin Friedman,

Book cover of Nothing

What is my book about?

For high school senior Parker, anything less than success is failure. A dropped extracurricular, a C on a calc quiz – one misstep, and his meticulously constructed life splinters. The countdown to HYP (Harvard, Yale, Princeton) has begun, and he will stay focused, no matter what.

That's why he has to keep it a secret. The pocketful of breath mints. The weird smell in the bathroom. Only Parker's little sister, Danielle, seems to notice that he's withering away.

Perdido Street Station

By China Miéville,

Book cover of Perdido Street Station

I fell in love with this book the moment I read its opening pages, and the love affair continued up to the final pages and still to this day. China Miéville does weird like no one else. And in this, his multi-award-winning sophomore novel and the first book in the Bas-Lag series, Miéville intelligently fuses a stunning array of genres and modes, from steampunk science fantasy to dystopian and gothic science fiction. So much of this book has lived in my subconscious for decades, inspiring a love for bug-punk, gangland-dystopian worlds with complex and flawed characters. The best book to read when looking to enter the world of weird fiction and gothic sci-fi. 


Who am I?

All my life, I have been drawn to the dark, twisty, unconventional, rebellious stories; I was always a little disappointed with the Disney-fied fairytales, always enthralled by the dark imaginings of the originals. As I grew older, I recognised that these dark fables were not just confined to stories of fantasy, but present as seeds of discontent and destruction in our own reality—in the injustices of the present, and disasters of our potential future. As an author, I use these modern parables and prophecies—in dystopian, weird, and gothic science fiction—as a way to explore and critically reflect on our humanity and its future.  


I wrote...

Tasmanian Gothic

By Mikhaeyla Kopievsky,

Book cover of Tasmanian Gothic

What is my book about?

A dark biopunk thriller of gothic proportionsSolari wasn’t alive when the radiation rained down, but she’s living with the consequences—the mutations, the gangland war, and the wall that divides Tasmania’s affluent North from its contaminated South. Alone in the southern reaches, Solari survives by cooking wildly addictive snowrock for the local crime lord and avoiding the city’s mutants. 

But, when a bad deal turns worse, Solari is forced to run—escaping retribution with a stolen van and a pair of giant wings cleaved from a mutant moth. Grafting the wings to her body will disguise Solari as one of Tasmania’s most reviled, and set her on a dangerous journey through gangland strongholds to get to the Border Wall, and safety, in the north.

Or, view all 29 books about scientists

New book lists related to scientists

All book lists related to scientists

Bookshelves related to scientists