We’ve been spoilt for choice when it comes to science books this year! That’s why we’re looking forward to spending Christmas catching up on those we didn’t get round to reading.
If you’re looking forward to doing the same (in between a mince pie or two) we’ve produced a roundup of our favourite science books of the year, to help you decide what to read.
The Life Project: The Extraordinary Story of Our Ordinary Lives, By Helen Pearson
Thanks to the determination of a small group of people, British science has produced the longest running study of human development, spanning five generations.
The results of the cohort study, which began in 1946, have gone on to influence fundamental aspects of British people’s lives from how we look after our health, to how we raise our children. The findings included exposing the harm smoking in pregnancy can cause a child.
Despite this, the study remains unknown by many and underappreciated by some of those who know about it. Scientists have therefore struggled to find support to continue with similar large scale cohort studies. In The Life Project, Nature’s editor Helen Pearson makes a great case for keeping this tradition of cohort studies going.
The book is sobering to read, as it lays bear how far we still have to go in terms of creating a fairer society, where everyone has equal opportunities.
Inferior: The True Power of Women and the Science That Shows It, By Angela Saini
Women are better at multitasking and men are better at parking – right? Such notions about gender differences are so ingrained in our thinking that they are rarely questioned.
But how much do we really know about what science has to say about gender differences? Not as much as we might think, according to this compelling book by science journalist Angela Saini. She dissects the science on gender and exposes the fallacies behind the research, including a lack of objectivity.
Throughout the book she’s a stickler for evidence and takes meticulous care to cite her sources. It’s a timely book you’re bound to want to discuss with all the family this Christmas.
The Gene: An Intimate History, By Siddhartha Mukherjee
The gene is one of those scientific discoveries that has truly captured the public imagination. It’s common to hear people talk about “a gene for this” and “a gene for that” without appreciating the nuances of how genetics really works.
Whether you are new to genetics, or already have a firm grasp of it, this epic book is bound to prove thought provoking and illuminating. It will take you on a journey to the beginning of genetics, where you’ll meet all the characters who helped shape it, before ending with a look at what the future may hold.
The author also weaves in his own family experience with mental illness, which adds to the book’s sense of urgency. Along the way the book covers the role genetics has played in society and doesn’t shy away from its darker side too. In an age where home genetic testing kits are readily available over the internet for less than £100, an open discussion on the role of genetics is surely essential.
I Contain Multitudes, By Ed Yong
Bacteria have long been treated as the enemy but now research is showing such a view is too simplistic and many microbes can in fact be regarded as friends.
Our bodies play host to trillions of bacteria which we have a symbiotic relationship with and we are only just beginning to understand how much they affect us. Science writer Ed Yong examines the growing body of scientific literature on the subject and presents a measured view of the latest findings.
He explains how bacteria affects our most fundamental biology, including our genetic makeup and our immune system, and can even affect how we respond to cancer-fighting drugs.
According to Bill Gates “I Contain Multitudes is science journalism at its best” – need we say more?
Which science books have you enjoyed reading this year? We’d love to know! Why not tweet us @Radleys?