A great popular science book needs to strike a balance between being accessible and entertaining to the general public, whilst being informative enough to satisfy the most inquisitive minds. When an author is successful in doing this, great popular science books are born. To ensure some diversity I have only included one entry per author and excluded books mentioned in other lists. Due to this many other great books by these authors weren’t included. Though most of these are best-sellers this is clearly a subjective list and I would love to hear your thoughts on what could be included in a follow-up list. The list is in no particular order.
10 A Briefer History of Time – Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow
Stephen Hawking is one of the world’s most famous physicists. He is well-known by the general public for his extensive work in theoretical physics, cosmology and unfortunately his debilitating battle with motor neuron disease. A Briefer History of Time is an updated and easier to read version of his 1988 bestseller, A Brief History of Time. The book – like its predecessor – reads like a biography of the universe, and is a great introduction to the world of physics. The Sunday Times sum it up best: “This book marries a child’s wonder to a genius’s intellect. We journey into Hawking’s universe while marveling at his mind.”
9 An A-Z Guide to the Elements – John Emsley
Full Title: Nature’s Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide to the Elements. A chemist and doctor of science turned full-time writer, Emsley is responsible for many popular science books. Nature’s Building Blocks looks at all the elements from Actinium to Zirconium discussing their role in nature, where the element originated, the common uses of the element, how the elements are used in health or illness and loads of other interesting and quirky facts around them. The book serves as a detailed and interesting essay on each element, much like and expanded and entertaining version of the periodic table.
8 Death by Black Hole – Neil Degrasse Tyson
Full Title: Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries. Tyson is a very charismatic, enthusiastic and entertaining fellow and that is very prominent in his works and media appearances. His book Death by Black Hole is no exception. In it he explores everything from the destructive nature of black holes to the gaffes made in science fiction films. His humorous nature and enthusiasm make this book a very enjoyable read. After reading this it’s easy to see how he got voted one of the most influential people in the world and perhaps even the sexiest astrophysicist alive, a few awards among many that he has accumulated over the years.