Looking for something to read that isn’t directly related to your own scientific work? Try some of the books recommended by RSES PhD students and complied by Kelly-Anne Lawler.
Two books that should be on everyone’s reading list (these books are definitely not just for scientists!) are Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, and Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil. Bad Science deals with the, well, bad science, that occurs in industries as varied as pharmaceuticals (he has written an entire book on this topic – Bad Pharma), the beauty industry, education and homeopathy. According to Ben Goldacre himself it is a ‘book about the misuse of science by quacks, journalists, and big pharmaceutical companies’.
Weapons of Math Destruction delves into how black box algorithms are used in ways that affect us all, from getting a job or a bank loan, to deciding whether someone goes to prison, but few people have access to how they work. Cathy O’Neil’s website also has a list of her recommended maths books. Other books in this vein that have been recommended by RSES’ers include Invisible Women: Exposing data bias in a world designed for men by Caroline Criado Perez, and The Art of Logic: How to Make Sense in a World that Doesn’t by Eugenia Cheng.
Another of our PhD students recommends the following books to anyone interested in science, and in particular, physics – A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, A Brief History of Time and Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking, and Cosmos and Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagen.
Each year for the last ten years The Best Australian Science Writing series has compiled the ‘most riveting, poignant and entertaining science stories and essays from Australian writers, poets and scientists’. Each book includes pieces on a wide range of topics such as climate, biology, space, medicine and more. These books are great if you want to dip in and out for a quick read. Each chapter stands alone and can be read independently of the rest.
And if the real world is just too much, take a journey to Discworld. The Science of Discworld is the first in a series of four books by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen. By accident, the wizards of the Unseen University from the Discworld create the Roundworld (=our Earth). An excellent parody on our world, science, university politics, and society. This book is a good introduction to Pratchett’s universe for science-interested folks.
Thanks to everyone from RSES for your recommendations and keep them coming so I can include them in Part 2!