Take Ten: Weird Science

In April, our Reader’s Dozen Challenge is to pick up a book of science or science fiction. Since we figure more people are probably more comfortable finding a good science fiction read, we thought we’d share some good science books. The following titles are what we consider “narrative nonfiction,” true stories told with flair and a storyline to keep you turning pages. And just enough science to potentially make you dangerous…

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Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution – Holly Tucker

  • A sharp-eyed expose of the deadly politics, murderous plots, and cutthroat rivalries behind the first blood transfusions in seventeenth-century Europe.

The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives – Leonard Mlodinow

  • Critically analyzes the role of chance and random events, forces, and factors in shaping human existence, in a readable study of how the mathematical laws of randomness control the world around us.

The Gene: An Intimate History – Siddartha Mukherjee

  • From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling author of The Emperor of All Maladies comes a magnificent history of the gene and a response to the defining question of the future: What becomes of being human when we learn to “read” and “write” our own genetic information?

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot

  • Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer, yet her cells–taken without her knowledge–became one of the most important tools in medicine.

My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs – Brian Switek

  • A regular columnist for Smithsonian and Wired questions our long-held beliefs about dinosaurs and presents the latest scientific findings on what colors they really were, how they got so big and how they actually may have died out.

The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology – Simon Winchester

  • The world’s coal and oil industry, its gold mining, its highway systems, and its railroad routes were all derived entirely from the creation of William Smith’s first map. Simon Winchester unfolds the poignant sacrifice behind this world-changing discovery.

The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York – Deborah Blum

  • Chronicles the story of New York City’s first forensic scientists to describe Jazz Age poisoning cases, including a family’s inexplicable balding, Barnum and Bailey’s Blue Man, and the crumbling bones of factory workers.

Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers – Mary Roach

  • A look inside the world of forensics examines the use of human cadavers in a wide range of endeavors, including research into new surgical procedures, space exploration, and a Tennessee human decay research facility.

A World on Fire: A Heretic, an Aristocrat, and the Race to Discover Oxygen – Joe Jackson

  • Traces the breakthrough discovery of oxygen at the end of the 1700s by a pair of rival scientists, describing how English dissenter Joseph Priestley and French aristocrat Antoine Lavoisier waged a fierce competition to solve the “riddle of air.”

The World Without Us – Alan Weisman

  • A study of what would happen to Earth if the human presence was removed examines our legacy for the planet, from the objects that would vanish without human intervention to those that would become long-lasting remnants of humankind.

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Annotations courtesy of NoveList Plus. For more book reviews, author information, and reading suggestions, log into NoveList Plus with your TFPL Library card.

 

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