There is a difference between science books and books about science, and it has taken me about 25 years to realize the value of reading about how science happens. Many of the qualities that a good scientist possesses are not easily described except through the stories about scientific discoveries. But perhaps more importantly, I find that the stories about science reveal something about the human spirit and our ability to seek meaning and find fulfillment in our work. Furthermore, when the stories are well told, they have an artistic quality that conveys the beauty and eloquence of knowledge.
Here are a few of the books that I have found to be profoundly worthwhile.
- Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood. Oliver Sachs, 2001.
- His Brother’s Keeper. Jonathan Weiner, 2004.
- The Fly in the Cathedral. Brian Cathcart, 2004.
- The 13th Element: The Sordid Tale of Murder, Fire, and Phosphorous. John Emsley 2000.
- Wandering in the Gardens of the Mind: Peter Mitchell and the Making of Glynn. John Prebble and Bruce Weber, 2003.
- The Emperor of Scent: A Story of Perfume, Obsession, and the Last Mystery of the Senses. Chandler Burr, 2003.
- The Last Sorcerers: The Path from Alchemy to the Periodic Table. Richard Morris, 2003.
- The Northern Lights: the true story of the man who unlocked the secrets of the Aurora borealis. Lucy Jago. 2001.
If you enjoy this type of reading, one way to find more books about science is to ask the librarians about good science authors like John Emsley or Peter Ball.
It is also possible to use a SUBJECT search in the library catalog. SUBJECT terms are a controlled vocabulary, so often the same terms are used in various contexts and will lead you to similar types of books that deal with different subjects. For example, using the search term “popular works” will get you books about Chemistry, Phosphorous, and Analytical Chemistry. Below are some SUBJECT search terms to get you started.
|Chemistry--Popular works||Science--History||Feminism and science|
|Physics--History||Genetics--History||Women in science|
|Geology--History||Cosmology--History||Women in technology|
|Alchemy--History||Scientists||Women in chemistry|
|Evolution--History||Mechain, Pierre||Sacks, Oliver|
|Chemistry--History||Nightengale, Florence||Eiseley, Loren|
|Arc measures--History||Biochemists||Mercator, Gerhard|
|Pasteur, Louis||Science--Social aspects.||Humboldt, Alexander von|
|Lavoisier, Antoine||Phosphorus--Popular works||Neurologists--England--Biography|
|Biologists--United States--Biography||Chemistry, Analytic--Popular works|
|Physicians--United States--Biography||Physicists--United States--Biography||Chemicals--Manufacture and industry|