Best Science Books 2009: The top books of the year! (Updated)

Mar 22 2010 Published by under best science books 2009, science books

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.

Some notes/caveats:

  • 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.

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.

5 responses so far

  • bsci says:

    It's interesting that of 32 lists the most any book was represented was 12 times. This points to a diversity of science and and how widely varying the definition of "best science book" varies across critics. I suspect there's a good bit more repetition on generic best non-fiction book lists.

    Also, it's been fun keeping up on these series of posts. A total of science 178 books worthy of mention in a single year is also pretty cool. Sadly, I probably won't have time to read more than one or two of them so I did order one based on seeing it on these lists (not one of the repeaters)

  • wk says:

    Thanks for compiling the list of books. I've read three books that I wouldn't have read otherswise (Age of Wonder, Logicomix, and Dirac).

  • John Dupuis says:

    You're welcome. It's always nice to know that one's obsessions are useful to others.

  • Lassi Hippeläinen says:

    These days inflation is running rampant. All books must now have not one but two titles, as in "Wuthering Heights: The Life and Times of Heathcliff".

  • John Dupuis says:

    Yeah, most non-fiction titles seem to be that way these days: Blah blah blah: What the Book Is Really About.

    I'm even seeing it a lot with fiction: BlahBlahBlah: A Novel.

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