So You Say You’re Not a Scientist?

Science Books for Non-Scientists
“We are part of this universe; we are in this universe.”
Neil DeGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and author of Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandries.

Science books for the non-scientists among us help us experience the wonder of life through fascination, entertainment, and humor. A big thanks to Kerry McHugh at Shelf Awareness for her thoughts and book selections on this important subject!

We have excerpted the reviews here, but you can find the full Shelf Awareness post here: “Science Books for Non-Scientists.” 

In A Short History of Nearly Everything Bill Bryson observed that, among textbook authors, “there seemed to be a mystifying universal conspiracy… to make certain the material they dealt with never strayed too near the realm of the mildly interesting.” Luckily for the modern reader, contemporary science books have come a long way from the dry, never-interesting conspiracy of the scientific textbook–and Bryson’s own work is a testament to that fact…Bryson offers a quick tour of the greatest concepts of scientific theory, all in his characteristically witty and funny style. [Shelf Awareness]

Mary Roach’s writing brings about tears of laughter. Truly, it’s hard to believe that writing about cadavers (Stiff), digestion (Gulp) or military science (Grunt) could be so funny, but with anecdotes, footnotes and a sense of tell-all determination, Roach packs her books full of scientific detail and laugh-out-loud delights.[Shelf Awareness]

War? Cadavers? Bursting stomachs? Ew? But Mary Roach pulls it off perfectly…though you might want to check your squeamish level before you start! Find Mary Roach’s books in the library catalog.

Hope Jahen makes scientific study accessible through her memoir, Lab Girl. Her book is about “work, and love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together.” Jahen’s remarkable stories about her childhood playing in labs make her book luminous: “how she learned to perform lab work done ‘with both the heart and the hands’; and about the disappointments, triumphs and exhilarating discoveries of scientific work. . .[Jahen] “opens your eyes to the beautiful, sophisticated mechanisms within every leaf, blade of grass, and flower petal. . .an eloquent demonstration of what can happen when you find the stamina, passion, and sense of sacrifice needed to make a life out of what you truly love. . .” [Adapted from the publisher summary]

…In The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot explores the intersection of scientific study and social justice through the story of Henrietta Lacks, known as HeLa to scientists,  a poor black woman whose cancer cells were used without her knowledge or permission as the basis of myriad studies over the last several decades. [Shelf Awareness]

…The story of the Lacks family–past and present–is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of. . .Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’ captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.” [Adapted from the publisher summary]

You say you’re not a scientist? Try one of these engaging reads and open the door to a view of the world that might be a bit different from your usual.