When it comes to nonfiction science books, I definitely have a "type." (I blame Mary Roach for this.) And when I heard that I Contain Multitudes could teach me something about the world around me with engaging clarity and humor, I needed to read it. In it, Ed Yong explores the interconnected web of life that's built on microbes--long thought to be a threat to life, but now known to be a key part of it. Through this lens, we learn to look at ourselves not just as the static result of a specific set of DNA, but as evolving communities of interdependent organisms. Much has been written about
When reading a Mary Roach book, always bring a strong stomach and a sense of humor. Grunt, Roach’s bestselling follow-up to Gulp, is filled with anecdotes about pretty much every aspect of military science that you can imagine. Inside you’ll find a chapter on failed shark repellents, another on surviving IEDs through science, one on stink bombs and weaponized odors, and another where the author offered herself up as a guinea pig to have her sweat collected and analyzed. When covering the horrifying topics of amputations and urogenital wounds, she retains her humor while not being disrespectful
You had me at "In the tradition of Oliver Sacks..."
I love listening to scientific books, but not being a scientist myself, need a particular type of science writing. I want to go in depth into whatever subject is being explored, but I need the author to perform that particularly impressive feat of giving me some basic background without boring me or making me feel talked down to. Sacks, in his psychological case studies, mastered this talent, covering many of the fascinating, horrifying, sad and beautiful cases he had encountered over his long career as a doctor and writer. Sacks sadly
Lately I've been traveling a lot, and a string of great nonfiction audiobooks have kept me sane. I need something fascinating, hopefully with a touch of humor, to keep me awake and not bored out of my mind while I travel. Having hit the jackpot with my last choice, I was hoping my next choice wouldn't disappoint. And luckily, serendipity led me to Sy Montgomery's The Soul of an Octopus.
Books on animal psychology, done well, are some of my very favorites. I've loved books like Irene Pepperberg's Alex & Me and Karen Pryor's Reaching the Animal Mind. I want smart science and interesting
Ben Goldacre is a British doctor who has a major bone to pick with science done badly, and with the media that often misuses, misunderstands, or distorts scientific concepts (intentionally or not). His catchphrase is the pithy, "I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that." In his book Bad Science, he takes on multiple cases of ideas and practices that have, he argues, been propped up either by bad science or bad communication about science, such as homeopathy and the anti-vaccine movement. Lest you think he's a paid shill for the pharmaceutical industry, as he is often accused
Whether you're a lush (as Betty White says, "Vodka is a kind of hobby") or a teetotaler, this book will fascinate and entertain (I was laughing out loud at least once every chapter). I particularly recommend the eAudiobook, which I listened to on a long road trip. It made the time fly by, listening in turn to chapters about the history of yeast and the chemical reasons behind hangovers (and their "cures"), to the author's anecdotes about visiting famous breweries and drinking tragically expensive scotch in distinguished New York City bars. The narrator, Sean Runnette, has a pleasingly apt