Science books recommended by scientists

Looking for some good science reads? RiAus (the Royal Institution of Australia) has an interesting list of books recommended by Australian scientists and commentators.

The list is not so pretty – it looks like it was built through cut-and-paste – but there are some good titles in there and it’s interesting to see who recommended what. There’s a bit of a mix of hard science and science fiction too: On a quick look The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy comes up several times.

I particularly like Bryan Gaensler’s sub-list both for its content and the fact I haven’t, yet, read any of these:

  • Pushing Ice, Alastair Reynolds: ‘An addictive read, with excellent characters and a horizon way beyond most other sci-fi.’
  • Pythagoras’ Trousers, Margaret Wertheim: ‘A giant wake-up call to science, pointing out that not only are physics & astronomy male-dominated, but even the way we do science is gender-biased.’
  • The Demon Haunted World, Carl Sagan: ‘One of the most elegant exposes on offer on the pitfalls of pseudo-science.’
  • The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell: ‘Science-fiction is at its best when it acts as a mirror to ourselves. This novel asks the question: If we came as colonisers to a new land in the 21st century, would we still make the mistakes of our 15th and 16th century forebears?’

It is interesting that, for an Australian list, there are so very few Australian authors mentioned even on the science fiction front. In fact Tim Flannery’s The Weather Makers is the only one I spotted.

The Australian Academy of Science has a far more deeply curated list of good science books for children. The list is divided by subject and age-group. It’s not a huge or comprehensive list but there are certainly some excellent suggestions in there. This one’s a great resource if you’re looking for science for kids, and it does include quite a few Australian authors and topics among the suggestions.

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