21 December 2016

Science Books Make Great Holiday Gifts – Especially These!

Posted by Dan Satterfield


Carl Sagan passed away 20 years ago today, but he left us with one of the greatest books about science ever written.

There are few gifts better than books, so here’s a list of great science books for ages 13 and up, along with a brand new entry that is rapidly becoming a best seller. First, is Carl Sagan’s 1997 classic The Demon Haunted World. I frequently quote from it, and every true science geek will tell you they love this book. If it were up to me, it would be required reading to graduate from high school in America. Giving a student this book can change their entire life; yes, it’s truly that good! There are not that many books that can teach you how to think, and once you have read it, you’ll have a very good understanding of why scientific method is mankind’s greatest invention. Sagan died twenty years ago today, but his legacy lives on in his books.

Another favorite is Bill Bryson’s a Short History of Nearly Everything, which may be one of the best popular science books ever written, and if you know someone fascinated by hurricanes, Divine Wind by Dr. Kerry Emanuel is a must. The best popular science books on meteorology are my friend Bob Henson’s Rough Guide to Weather and the Thinking Person’s Guide to Climate Change. I frequently recommend these books to parents who have a child that is weather obsessed. Bob’s writing skills are excellent and these books are crammed full of information. Also, The Madhouse Effect (by Dr. Michael Mann and Tom Toles) will show you how easily the public can be misled about science. Prepare to be shocked at what some top climate experts have had to put up with over the past two decades, and all of the above will keep you from falling into what Mann aptly refers to as “bizarro world”! 

And The New Entry..

Stephen Hawking was told by his editor that sales for his book A Brief History of Time would drop by 50% for every equation he put in it, so he ended up with just one: E=MC2. This may be why there are popular science books, followed by math-filled textbooks for college science majors, with almost nothing in between. That’s beginning to change now, and if you
loved the new (and old) Cosmos, or you watched the excellent Great Courses lectures on Astronomy by Dr. Alex Filippenko and want more, I have the book for you:


Tyson, Gott and Strauss have written the best and most up to date book on the cosmos I’ve seen. It’s not filled with math, but unlike most other popular science books, it has just enough of the basic equations in algebra to bring the story to life, and show you how we know, what we know, about us and our Universe.

I’m talking about such questions as how much the Sun weighs, and how do we know how far away the nearest star is? How can we weigh the Earth?  How can we be so sure the Universe started in a big-bang 13,700 million years ago?? All of these are answered clearly in this book, and that’s why it’s so good. It doesn’t just tell you what we know, it shows you how we found out! Neil de Grasse Tyson is already known as a great science communicator on TV (and on his podcast Star-Talk), but he’s an even better writer. Co-authors Gott and Strauss hit their chapters out of the ballpark, and these three scientists have together written a fabulous book.

Even if your math’s a bit rusty, you’ll LOVE this book, and I see it’s already labeled a best-seller on Amazon.

So much for what editors know;)