For the last little while I've been compiling lists from various media sources giving their choices for the best books of 2009. Some of the lists have been from general media sources, in which case I've just extracted the science-related books. From science publications, I've included most or all of the mentioned titles.
What I'm doing in this post is collating all the books I've mentioned in all those lists and compiling a sort of master list of all the books mentioned three or more times. There were twelve of them and they are listed below.
- These aren't in any way the "best" books of 2009, only the most popular books on year's best lists. For the most part, all the books mentioned wil likely be very good since they've attracted the most media "best" mentions. But, they are also almost certainly the books that had the biggest promotional budgets and sent out the most review copies.
- There are probably one or two straggler "best of" lists that haven't come out yet. Library Journal, for example, does a list around the March time frame. (last year's) That's fine -- I just don't feel like waiting. I may update this list later on if it seems appropriate.
- Similarly, there may be lists that were published that I just missed.
- Finally, in some of the longer mainstreams lists that I did see, I can't guarantee I consistently pulled in the same "edge cases" in to my science-y lists. There were 25 books mentioned twice so one or two of those might have squeaked onto this list.
- British, American and Canadian publication dates can mean that a 2008 British & Canadian book is a 2009 American book and vice versa. It happens. For example, I have the British paperback edition of Age of Wonder already.
- There were 178 different books mentioned among the various lists. If you want to see my spreadsheet, just let me know and I'll email it to you. If I get more than one or two requests, I'll probably just load it into Google Docs.
Enjoy -- and good reading!
Here's the list, in descending order of mentions.
- The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes (13)
- The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom by Graham Farmelo (9)
- Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos H. Papadimitriou, Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna (8)
- The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann (8)
- The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Ricard Dawkins (5)
- The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (4)
- Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less are the Keys to Sustainability by David Owen (4)
- Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City by Eric W. Sanderson (4)
- Plastic Fantastic: How the Biggest Fraud in Physics Shook the Scientific World by Eugenie Samuel Reich (3)
- Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species by Sean B. Carroll (3)
- Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization by Jeff Rubin (3)
- Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin (3)
- Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard W. Wrangham (3)
- The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T.R. Reid (3)
- Reading in the Brain: The Science and Evolution of a Human Invention by Stanislas Dehaene (3)
- Cold: Adventures in the World's Frozen Places by Bill Streever (3)
Any comments? First of all, there's not a whole lot of actual science among the books -- more edge cases or about historical or socail aspects of science. That's probably more a function of the number of pure science sources I found versus the mainstream ones. Second, not a whole lot of women on the list, unfortunately. Third, Logicomix is third, which is pretty cool.
Update 2010.03.22: Updated the list with books from Library Journal Best of 2009 Sci-Tech Books. The standings did shift a little, for example with the Dirac book going into second place all by itself. Also, four books were added to the list with 3 mentions: Catching Fire, Healing of America, Reading the Brain and Cold. There are also now 198 separate books mentioned among all the lists.