Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a beautiful stack of brand-new science books. For Christmas is indeed a time for reading. In fact, in certain Scandinavian countries it’s traditional for families to give each other books as the sun sets on Christmas Eve, only to spend the rest of the evening reading and eating chocolate in bed.
Whether you want to treat yourself to something fascinating, or you want to get a thoughtful gift for the very special scientist in your life, you can’t go wrong with these.
Charles S. Cockell – The Equations of Life: The Hidden Rules Shaping Evolution
You know when you’re watching Star Trek, and all the aliens just look like people but with pointier ears or more rugged foreheads? Seems a bit unrealistic, doesn’t it? Surely if there’s life on other planets, it’s going to exist in a form that’s totally unrecognisable? Totally unrelatable? Totally alien?
Not so, says evolutionary biologist Charles S. Cockell. The laws of physics are fundamental and universal, and so too must be the laws of natural selection. This surely means that, if there is life out there, it has to follow the same rules as life on Earth.
So maybe Star Trek wasn’t too far off the mark when they depicted alien life as recognisably human…
Sally Coulthard – The Little Book of Snow
Are you dreaming of a white Christmas?
The Little Book of Snow describes itself as “the perfect book for anyone who loves that feeling when you open the curtains in the morning and find the world has turned to white.”
It answers questions like: Are no two snowflakes really ever alike? How many times has there been a white Christmas? Can it ever be too cold to snow?
This might well be the most Christmassy science book ever written. It’s basically the science of Christmas!
Daniel H. Pink – When
All those delicious Christmas dinners of your childhood might seem like the work of miracles, but if you ask your parents how they made it possible, they’ll probably tell you that the secret’s in the timing.
Whether you’re roasting the perfect turkey or starting your own business, timing really is everything. And in his latest book, Daniel H. Pink claims he’s stumbled upon “the scientific secrets of perfect timing.”
This is all about exploiting the hidden patterns of the day to build the ideal schedule, one that’ll help you to truly flourish in work, school, or the lab.
A perfect Christmas read if you want to spend your festive break plotting your next move – or if you want to dazzle your family with an exquisitely-timed Christmas dinner.
Hannah Fry – Hello World: How to be Human in the Age of the Machine
From social media to automation, algorithms run the world we live in.
Hannah Fry’s Hello World offers a succinct overview of the many, many, many algorithms that determine every aspect of your life, from what you eat to what you watch on Netflix.
Depending on your disposition, this might strike you as a bit too dystopian a read for the festive period. It might feel a bit too Black Mirror. But Hello World could function as a handbook for how to happily coexist with our algorithm overlords. It’s one of those “is this the future we really want?” sort of books, and reading it at Christmas could set you up for a more human 2019.
Stephen Hawking – A Brief History of Time
OK, so this isn’t a new book. But in 2018 we lost one of our greatest minds. So whether you’re reading it for the first time, or the seventeenth time, pay tribute to Professor Stephen Hawking by adding his masterpiece to your 2018 Christmas reading list.
Space, time, the Big Bang, black holes, spiral galaxies, string theory – it’s all here. And if you’ve never read Professor Hawking before, you’ll be astounded by just how accessible he makes these daunting theories.
Steven Pinker – Enlightenment Now – The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress
With nothing but bad news on TV and in the papers, it can sometimes feel like the end of the world is just around the corner. In his latest book, neuroscientist Steven Pinker asks – “Is modernity really failing? Or have we failed to appreciate progress and the ideals that make it possible?”
That’s right. This is a book that looks at the data and dares to argue that things are actually getting better.
“If you follow the trendlines rather than the headlines, you discover that our lives have become longer, healthier, happier, more peaceful, more stimulating and more prosperous – not just in the West, but worldwide.”
Bill Gates described this one as his “new favourite book of all time.” This book may make you feel genuinely happy to be alive, and genuinely optimistic about the future. Which is exactly what you want at Christmas! Tidings of comfort and joy!
So over to you – which science books have rocked your world in 2018? Why not tweet us @Radleys and let us know?