Archive for the 'science books' category

Reading Diary: Graphic novel catch-up: Manga Guide to Physiology, Human Body Theatre, Secret Coders, Snowden

Feb 29 2016 Published by under book review, science books, Uncategorized

Rall, Ted. Snowden. New York: Random House, 2015. 224pp. ISBN-13: 978-1609806354

For those that have watched Citizenfour or read Glenn Greenwald's No place to hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. surveillance state, there's not much new or shocking in Ted Rall's excellent graphic novel, Snowden.

But for someone who hasn't had a chance to check out either or those works, this is a fantastic place to start a deeper exploration into the amazing story around Edward Snowden, one of the major figures in the current debate about the way governments try to control and monitor the Internet. It affects our privacy, our security not to mention our sense of whether or not our governments work for our benefit or whether they see our interests as subservient to their own desire for control and secrecy. And we're not just talking about the secret US government programs that Snowden blew the whistle on, but a whole bunch of other countries too.

Ted Rall's very fine graphic novel uses a stark and subtle style of illustration as well as a keen sense of narrative to hit the high points. This book is highly recommended for all library collections that deal with the interface between technology and politics -- academic, public and even middle school or high school libraries.

 

Tanaka, Etsuro; Keiko Koyama; and Becom Co. Ltd. The Manga Guide to Physiology. San Francisco: No Starch Press, 2016.256pp. ISBN-13: 978-1593274405

Similar to the Survive! Inside the Human Body graphic novel series I reviewed a little while back, The Manga Guide to Physiology is a spoonful-of-sugar-makes-the-medicine-go-down treatment of physiology in a graphic novel format, a specialty of the the publisher, No Starch Press. In fact, the Manga Guide series and the Survive! series are both No Starch publications.

An No Starch really knows how to do this type of book well. Just as the Survive! books combined a fun story with serious information about the various systems that make the human body run in quite a bit of detail, so too does the Manga Guide to Physiology. The framing story for the Manga Guide is a nursing student, Kumiko, who needs to, uh, bone up on physiology for a make up exam. Under the tutelage of a cool young prof, Kumiko combines studying for the exam with preparing to run a marathon. The framing here works extremely well as there's plenty of opportunity for light-hearted banter and well as serious discussion about physiology. The race-training provides a great opportunity for putting the book-learning into practice! As with many other books of this type, the story line covers only fairly basic information while each chapter has several pages of more in-depth information.

This is a very fine book which would work well for a quick study of the basics in any physiology course, sort of to provide some scaffolding to help get a student over the hump. Any academic, public or school library would benefit by having this fun and instructive book in their collection.

 

Wicks, Maris. Human Body Theater. New York: First Second Press, 2015. 240pp. ISBN-13: 978-1626722774

Maris Wicks' wonderful Human Body Theatre is quite similar to The Manga Guide to Physiology in that it is a fun and lighthearted digest of anatomy and physiology. However, while the Manga Guide could quite easily be used to provide some support/scaffolding for an actual course in physiology, HBT doesn't go into anywhere near the same detail. As such, it's more appropriate for younger students who show an interest in biology or physiology, probably at the elementary or middle school level. The art is simple and elegant yet detailed enough to illustrate the science while the story is fun and breezy. Basically, a skeleton telling it's story through the various systems of the body while it sort of re-assembles itself into a fully-fleshed body.

A fun book that I would recommend for any school or public library as well as any academic library that collects graphic novels. It would also make a perfect gift for any child that has shown some interest in science or biology.

 

Yang, Gene Luen and Mike Holmes. Secret Coders, Book 1. New York: First Second Press, 2015. 96pp. ISBN-13: 978-1626720756

Want to get a youngster in your life acquainted with the logical principles that underpin computer programming? Well, Volume 1 of Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes' Secret Coders series is just the book to get the tech ball rolling. Hopper has just started at a new school and is feeling a bit discombobulated. But she does make a few friends among the nerdier denizens of her new school. But there are mysteries at this new school -- some sort of cleaning robot that behaves by some strange rules or instructions. Hopper and her buddies' process of figuring out what that all means is the first step in the books stealthy introduction to what programming is all about -- teaching a machine to follow instructions. Of course, we have a cliff hanger so Volume 2 is anxiously awaited.

Of course, the name of our hero is a nice nod to computing history.

This is a very fine book that I would recommend for any school or public library as well as any academic library that collections science- or technology-themed graphic novels. It would also make a great gift for any young person who might be interested in science or technology.

 
(Manga Guide to Physiology, Human Body Theatre and Secret Coders review copies all provided by the publishers.)

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Other science graphic novels and illustrated books I have reviewed:

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Reading Diary: The Story of Life in 25: Fossils Tales of Intrepid Fossil Hunters and the Wonders of Evolution by Donald R. Prothero

Jan 25 2016 Published by under book review, science books

Donald R. Prothero's The Story of Life in 25 Fossils: Tales of Intrepid Fossil Hunters and the Wonders of Evolution has a bit of something for everyone. It's a great introduction to the history of life on the planet Earth, it's a solid primer on why evolution is true. It's a fun read with lots of tales of paleontological adventure and derring do. One of my favourite parts is the list of "must visit" natural history museums both in the US and around the world (I've been to seven of them, but I hope to visit more of them!). Tips on where you can actually see the fossils under discussion for yourself among those great museums.

But mostly it has dinosaurs and scum and sea monsters and frogs and turtles and snakes and whales and horses and even humans too, at the end.

What Prothero has done is pick 25 different organisms from the dawn of life until to the first human skeleton and in each chapter given a fairly complete story for that fossil or class of organisms. For example, the opening chapter is on the first fossilized micro-organisms, not so much about one particular fossil. Other chapters are much more about specific fossils, for example the one on archaeopteryx focuses on a fairly small number of examples in the evolution of birds. Other chapters, for example on the evolution of horses, tell the story in more evolutionary terms and discuss a wider ranger of different species and fossils. Every chapter has graphs and illustrations, used to great effect, as well as a list of further reading both in the scholarly and popular literature.

We take tours of the Burgess Shale, global warming denialism, Shark Week, the Lock Ness Monster meet important yet largely unknown figures like the incredibly important English fossil collector Mary Anning.

Overall, Prothero gives us great narrative drive, all you would ever want to know about a bunch of different fossils as well as the historical and social context to bring it all together. I recommend this book without hesitation for any academic library that collects popular science books. Public libraries and high school or middle school libraries would also find this to be a wonderful addition to their science collections.

Prothero, Donald R. The Story of Life in 25 Fossils: Tales of Intrepid Fossil Hunters and the Wonders of Evolution. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015. 408pp. ISBN-13: 978-0231171908

(Review copy provided by publisher.)

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Best Science Books 2015: Gizmodo's The Science Books We Loved Most in 2015

Jan 13 2016 Published by under best science books 2015, science books

As you all have no doubt noticed over the years, I love highlighting the best science books every year via the various end of year lists that newspapers, web sites, etc. publish. I've done it so far in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

And here we are in 2015!

As in previous years, my definition of "science books" is pretty inclusive, including books on technology, engineering, nature, the environment, science policy, history & philosophy of science, geek culture and whatever else seems to be relevant in my opinion.

Today's list is Gizmodo's The Science Books We Loved Most in 2015.

  • H Is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald
  • The Hunt for Vulcan...And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe by Thomas Levenson
  • Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman
  • Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Munroe
  • The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua
  • Spooky Action at a Distance: The Phenomenon That Reimagines Space and Time--and What It Means for Black Holes, the Big Bang, and Theories of Everything by George Musser
  • A is For Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup
  • The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life by Nick Lane
  • Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe by Lisa Randall
  • Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology by Johnjoe Mcfadden and Jim Al-Khalili
  • The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science by Andrea Wulf
  • Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics by Richard Thaler

And check out my previous 2015 lists here!

Many of the lists I use are sourced via the Largehearted Boy master list.

(Astute readers will notice that I kind of petered out on this project a couple of years ago and never got around to the end of year summary since then. Before loosing steam, I ended up featuring dozens and dozens of lists, virtually every list I could find that had science books on it. While it was kind of cool to be so comprehensive, not to mention that it gave the summary posts a certain statistical weight, it was also way more work than I had really envisioned way back in 2008 or so when I started doing this. As a result, I'm only going to highlight particularly large or noteworthy lists this year and forgo any kind of end of year summary. Basically, all the fun but not so much of the drudgery.)

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Best Science Books 2015: Library Journal Best Books 2015 Core Nonfiction

Jan 12 2016 Published by under best science books 2015, science books

As you all have no doubt noticed over the years, I love highlighting the best science books every year via the various end of year lists that newspapers, web sites, etc. publish. I've done it so far in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

And here we are in 2015!

As in previous years, my definition of "science books" is pretty inclusive, including books on technology, engineering, nature, the environment, science policy, history & philosophy of science, geek culture and whatever else seems to be relevant in my opinion.

Today's list is Library Journal Best Books 2015 Core Nonfiction.

  • The Death of Cancer: After Fifty Years on the Front Lines of Medicine, a Pioneering Oncologist Reveals Why the War on Cancer Is Winnable—and How We Can Get There by DeVita, Vincent T & Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn
  • The Heart Healers: The Misfits, Mavericks, and Rebels Who Created the Greatest Medical Breakthrough of Our Lives by Forrester, James
  • Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life by Nagoski, Emily
  • Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine by Offit, Paul A
  • Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science by Dreger, Alice
  • The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Montgomery, Sy
  • Resurrection Science: Conservation, De-Extinction, and the Precarious Future of Wild Things by O’Connor, M.R
  • NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Silberman, Steve
  • The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Wulf, Andrea

And check out my previous 2015 lists here!

Many of the lists I use are sourced via the Largehearted Boy master list.

(Astute readers will notice that I kind of petered out on this project a couple of years ago and never got around to the end of year summary since then. Before loosing steam, I ended up featuring dozens and dozens of lists, virtually every list I could find that had science books on it. While it was kind of cool to be so comprehensive, not to mention that it gave the summary posts a certain statistical weight, it was also way more work than I had really envisioned way back in 2008 or so when I started doing this. As a result, I'm only going to highlight particularly large or noteworthy lists this year and forgo any kind of end of year summary. Basically, all the fun but not so much of the drudgery.)

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Reading Diary: Data Management for Researchers: Organize, maintain and share your data for research success by Kristin Briney

Kristin Briney's Data Management for Researchers: Organize, maintain and share your data for research success is a book that should be on the shelf (physical or virtual) of every librarian, researcher and research administrator. Scientists, engineers, social scientists, humanists -- anyone who's work involves generating and keeping track of digital data. This is the book for you.

Like the title says -- data management for researchers. If you have data and you're a researcher, this is the book for you. Organize, maintain and share, the title says. If you're a researcher that needs to manage data, organizing, maintaining and sharing that data is exactly what you want to do.

And Kristin Briney is just the person to help. With a PhD in chemistry, you know she's been on the researcher side of the equation. And with a Master's in Library and Information Studies, you also know that she's studied the managing/organizing/sharing side of the equation and can bring deep insight and solid advice there too.

And that's the focus of the book -- insight and advice. Insight into the problems and issues around dealing with data and advice with how to deal with them.

The chapter topic areas give a good sense of the topics covered, so I don't have to go into detail with explanations of what's covered:

  • The data problem
  • The data lifecycle
  • Planning for data management
  • Documenting your data
  • Organizing your data
  • Improving data analysis
  • Managing secure and private data
  • Short-term storage
  • Preserving and archiving your data
  • Sharing/publishing your data
  • Reusing data

Briney covers a lot of ground and goes into pretty deep detail for most areas. Inevitably, not every section will be equally relevant to every potential reader and not every detail or discussion will be new information to everyone. Given breadth of topics and the level of detail in each area and that Briney mostly starts each section from square one, this book will work for everyone at pretty well every skill level.

Some judicious skimming will be inevitable for most potential readers, as will perhaps some selective Googling for addition background information in certain area. Briney has you covered. In fact, an interesting way to deal with the detail might be by taking this book in two passes. The first pass to get a sense of the "universe of data things you need to know" and a second more focused on "what I need to know to survive my current situation." Whether that situation is a librarian hoping to build a data service, a PI hoping to get a little better at the things an onrushing funder mandate is going to require or a grad student ready to tackle their first real project, all the information you need is there. You just have to zero in on it.

That being said, the sections on data management plans, preserving & archiving and sharing data are all must-read sections for everyone. Making research data openly available where possible, for reuse and replication purposes, is an important goal for, in particular, all of science.

I recommend this book without hesitation for all academic libraries. Individual researchers, research administrators, funding agency employees and academic librarians would all find much useful information. Simply giving copy to new graduate students is probably a worthwhile investment at any institution.

Briney, Kristin. Data Management for Researchers: Organize, maintain and share your data for research success. Exeter, UK: Pelagic Publishing, 2015. 250pp. ISBN-13: 978-1784270117

(Review copy provided by publisher.)

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Best Science Books 2015: Science News' favorite books of 2015

Jan 10 2016 Published by under best science books 2015, science books

As you all have no doubt noticed over the years, I love highlighting the best science books every year via the various end of year lists that newspapers, web sites, etc. publish. I've done it so far in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

And here we are in 2015!

As in previous years, my definition of "science books" is pretty inclusive, including books on technology, engineering, nature, the environment, science policy, history & philosophy of science, geek culture and whatever else seems to be relevant in my opinion.

Today's list is Science News' favorite books of 2015.

  • The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World by Andrea Wulf
  • The Reason for Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Change Our Lives by Stephen Buchmann
  • The Diet Myth: Why the Secret to Health and Weight Loss is Already in Your Gut by Tim Spector
  • Black Hole: How an Idea Abandoned by Newtonians, Hated by Einstein, and Gambled On by Hawking Became Loved by Marcia Bartusiak
  • How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction by Beth Shapiro
  • The Invaders: How Humans and Their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction by Pat Shipman
  • The Science of Mom: A Research-Based Guide to Your Baby's First Year by Alice Green Callahan
  • Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig by Mark Essig
  • Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh
  • Infested: How the Bed Bug Infiltrated Our Bedrooms and Took Over the World by Brooke Borel
  • Rust: The Longest War by Jonathan Waldman
  • Scientific Babel: How Science Was Done Before and After Global English by Michael D. Gordin
  • A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature's Deep Design by Frank Wilczek

And check out my previous 2015 lists here!

Many of the lists I use are sourced via the Largehearted Boy master list.

(Astute readers will notice that I kind of petered out on this project a couple of years ago and never got around to the end of year summary since then. Before loosing steam, I ended up featuring dozens and dozens of lists, virtually every list I could find that had science books on it. While it was kind of cool to be so comprehensive, not to mention that it gave the summary posts a certain statistical weight, it was also way more work than I had really envisioned way back in 2008 or so when I started doing this. As a result, I'm only going to highlight particularly large or noteworthy lists this year and forgo any kind of end of year summary. Basically, all the fun but not so much of the drudgery.)

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Reading Diary: Genius At Play The Curious Mind of John Horton Conway by Siobhan Roberts

Jan 04 2016 Published by under book review, mathematics, reading diary, science books

John Horton Conway is a great mathematician, certainly one of the greatest living mathematicians. Polymathematical in his mathematical interests (game theory, geometry, group theory, topology and more, not to mention the Game of Life), he's also one of the most eccentric, and that's saying a lot in a field where Cedric Villani is prime eccentricity competition.

As one can imagine, the biographer of an oddball character like Conway faces certain ... challenges ... that most biographers don't face. Memory, obstinacy, whimsy, the whole nine yards.

So it pleases me to say that Siobhan Roberts' recent biography, Genius At Play The Curious Mind of John Horton Conway, rises to the occasion and gives a wonderful and quirky portrayal of a wonderful and quirky figure in the history of mathematics.

But it must be said. If the author of a book about such an unconventional

unusual, irregular, unorthodox, unfamiliar, uncommon, unwonted, out of the ordinary, atypical, singular, alternative, different; new, novel, innovative, groundbreaking, pioneering, original, unprecedented; eccentric, idiosyncratic, quirky, odd, strange, bizarre, weird, outlandish, curious; abnormal, anomalous, aberrant, extraordinary; nonconformist, Bohemian, avant-garde; informalfar out, offbeat, off the wall, wacky, madcap, oddball, zany, hippie, kooky, wacko (here)

figure faces some challenges, so does the reviewer of such a book. How to convey both the book subject's personality and how that personality is reflected in the book itself? Because make no mistake, Roberts does a great job of mirroring Conway's personality

the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual's distinctive character.

"she had a sunny personality that was very engaging"

synonyms: character, nature, disposition, temperament, makeup, persona, psyche

"her cheerful personality"

qualities that make someone interesting or popular.

"she's always had loads of personality"

synonyms: charisma, magnetism, strength/force of personality, character, charm, presence
"she had loads of personality" (here)

in the way she tells the story -- fresh, fun, whimsical, a bit wild and offbeat. But not purposefully difficult or obtuse or overly wilful or inventively fanciful with details (like Conway also can be), I guess leaving those aspects out of the direct telling of the tales.

What I'm going to do is leave it to the book itself to tell it's own tale. Here's a bunch of quotes, I won't tell you who from, from Roberts or Conway or one of the other people quoted in the book. 'Cause where would the fun be in that.

  • p. 20: There goes somebody looking strange. Ergo it must [be] a friend of Dad's!
  • p. 25: You know, it's hard to think what message to send your tongue to get it to do this thing.
  • p. 51: I'm a Platonist at heart, although I know there are very great difficulties with that view.
  • p. 57: Mercifully, the hiring process for the Cambridge mathematics faculty was then loosey-goosey, somewhere between anarchic and irrational.
  • p. 64: "Had the baby?" / Yes. / "Boy or girl?" / Yes.
  • p. 74: Were my lectures anywhere near that coherent?
  • p. 75: The smitten students loved him as much for his mind as his silly high jinks, and maybe most of all for his singular hybrid of sophistication, sincerity, and lascivious showmanship.
  • p. 82: Cue the tremolo whistle that presage a duel in "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly." It's a mathematicians shootout. Who's the fastest to draw to draw a stellated icosahedron.
  • p. 97: During a trip to Montreal there was 8 inches of snow. Conway, as per usual, was wearing only his sandals.
  • p. 107: Are there any determinists present?
  • p. 124: I like to think of a huge abandoned warehouse equipped with logical devices such as AND, OR, and NOT gates.
  • p. 128: It terrifies him that another of his worst nightmares might come true, that his life will in the end be reduced to Life.
  • p. 133: You know, when you play a game, if you learn to be good at it, you find what it is you should be thinking about. That is really rather subtle. And that's what we do in mathematics.
  • p. 139: Come again? (As the actress said to the bishop.)
  • p. 145: Which is to say, Life could calculate pi. It could calculate anything. In the broadest logical sense, Life was a metaphor for all of mathematics; it contained all of mathematics.
  • p. 181: No. Yes. I'm not sure, to tell you the truth.
  • p. 186: Conway carries the Shannon philosophy to its extreme, often forced by his lack of system to rediscover his own results.
  • p. 213: Suppose surreal numbers had been invented first and real numbers second -- suppose it had gone the other way and we had all grown up learning surreal numbers.
  • p. 224: Conway's philosophy of study, which has served him well, is to always take his investigations several steps beyond what any reasonable human being would do.
  • p. 224: No no no no no! You're being far too REASONABLE.
  • p. 237: I arrived at the alcove armed with the "Monstrous Moonshine" paper...in hopes of getting, if not an answer, at least some elaboration about what exactly he and Norton had accomplished.
  • p. 242: Conway employs an entomologically inspired algorithm in explaining his own mating patterns.
  • p. 244: How, pray tell, does an unkempt nerdy mathematician get so lucky?
  • p. 275: It's one of the surest signs of senility in a scientist -- or a mathematician, for that matter -- when after having made a reputation in one subject, he somehow feels he can make a contribution to something else.
  • p. 364: We are parasites, we mathematicians, on the proper function of the brain.
  • p. 379: But my view is we are trying to find the truth, and there are other ways of finding the truth than proofs. And this is unsettling to mathematicians.
  • p. 390: Gareth, it must be said, is as psyched about having a nerd for a father as any boy could be.

You get the idea. And you'll have to get a hold of the book itself to figure out the context of the odder of the quotes above. Parasites. *snort*

Needless to say, this is an excellent book, one that belongs in every library's mathematics collection, academic or public. It is also indispensable for collections in the history of science or math. It would also make an excellent addition to the personal collection of any lover of math or personality.

(Review copy provided by publisher.)

Roberts, Siobhan. Genius At Play: The Curious Mind of John Horton Conway. New York: Bloomsbury, 2015. 480pp. ISBN-13: 978-1620405932

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Best Science Books 2015: NBC News 12 Notable Tech and Science Books of 2015

Jan 02 2016 Published by under best science books 2015, science books

As you all have no doubt noticed over the years, I love highlighting the best science books every year via the various end of year lists that newspapers, web sites, etc. publish. I've done it so far in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

And here we are in 2015!

As in previous years, my definition of "science books" is pretty inclusive, including books on technology, engineering, nature, the environment, science policy, history & philosophy of science, geek culture and whatever else seems to be relevant in my opinion.

Today's list is NBC News 12 Notable Tech and Science Books of 2015.

  • On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks
  • The Man Who Wasn't There: Investigations into the Strange New Science of the Self by Anil Ananthaswam
  • Domesticated: Evolution in a Man-Made World by Richard C. Francis
  • Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe by Lisa Randal
  • The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution by David Wootton
  • The Hunt for Vulcan: . . . And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe by Thomas Levenson
  • Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
  • Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future by Martin Ford
  • The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World by Pedro Domingos
  • Big Science: Ernest Lawrence and the Invention that Launched the Military-Industrial Complex by Michael Hiltzik
  • Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight by Margaret Lazarus Dean
  • Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It by Marc Goodman

And check out my previous 2015 lists here!

Many of the lists I use are sourced via the Largehearted Boy master list.

(Astute readers will notice that I kind of petered out on this project a couple of years ago and never got around to the end of year summary since then. Before loosing steam, I ended up featuring dozens and dozens of lists, virtually every list I could find that had science books on it. While it was kind of cool to be so comprehensive, not to mention that it gave the summary posts a certain statistical weight, it was also way more work than I had really envisioned way back in 2008 or so when I started doing this. As a result, I'm only going to highlight particularly large or noteworthy lists this year and forgo any kind of end of year summary. Basically, all the fun but not so much of the drudgery.)

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Best Science Books 2015: Goodreads Choice Awards: Best Science and Technology

Dec 21 2015 Published by under best science books 2015, science books

As you all have no doubt noticed over the years, I love highlighting the best science books every year via the various end of year lists that newspapers, web sites, etc. publish. I've done it so far in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

And here we are in 2015!

As in previous years, my definition of "science books" is pretty inclusive, including books on technology, engineering, nature, the environment, science policy, history & philosophy of science, geek culture and whatever else seems to be relevant in my opinion.

Today's list is Goodreads Choice Awards: Best Science and Technology.

  • Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish by John Hargrove, Howard Chua-Eoan
  • Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World by Rachel Swaby
  • Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins by Susan Casey
  • Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime by Val McDermid
  • Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski
  • Elon Musk: Inventing the Future by Ashlee Vance
  • What Stands in a Storm: Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South's Tornado Alley by Kim Cross
  • On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks
  • Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain–for Life by David Perlmutter
  • How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy by Stephen Witt
  • Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel by Carl Safina
  • Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader by Brent Schlender
  • The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery
  • The Brain's Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity by Norman Doidge
  • Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World by Peter H. Diamandis
  • Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable, and What We Can Do About It by Marc Goodman
  • Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream by Joshua Davis
  • NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and The Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman
  • Rain: A Natural and Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett

And check out my previous 2015 lists here!

Many of the lists I use are sourced via the Largehearted Boy master list.

(Astute readers will notice that I kind of petered out on this project a couple of years ago and never got around to the end of year summary since then. Before loosing steam, I ended up featuring dozens and dozens of lists, virtually every list I could find that had science books on it. While it was kind of cool to be so comprehensive, not to mention that it gave the summary posts a certain statistical weight, it was also way more work than I had really envisioned way back in 2008 or so when I started doing this. As a result, I'm only going to highlight particularly large or noteworthy lists this year and forgo any kind of end of year summary. Basically, all the fun but not so much of the drudgery.)

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Reading Diary: How Machines Work: Zoo Break! by David Macaulay

Dec 20 2015 Published by under book review, science books, Uncategorized

This is the first popup book I've ever reviewed and I certainly hope it won't be the last.

David Macaulay's How Machines Work: Zoo Break! is a wonderful, whimsical, delightful and beautiful book that will charm and fascinate anyone who picks it up.

Aimed at younger children and told through the eyes of two zoo animals named Sloth and Sengi, it takes a pretty solid engineering approach to the world. It focuses on the core principles of how machines work and cleverly uses a popup devices on many pages to illustrate and even demonstrate those principles. Leverage and levers, wheels and pulleys, screws and gears, drilling down and putting all the pieces together to make a machine. One of the popup pages even lets you build a little lever and fulcrum and launch Sloth over the fence.

Clear and concise, fun to read and play with, this is a great book that I would recommend as a gift for anyone with a child in their lives. It's pretty enough and clever enough that many adults would appreciate it as well as an objet d'art. As for libraries, it might be a bit fragile for some environments, but it would make a great acquisition for story time. As well, it would be a great addition to collections for libraries at education schools.

Macaulay, David. How Machines Work: Zoo Break!. London: Dorling Kindersley, 2015. 32pp. ISBN-13: 978-1465440129

http://www.dk.com/us/9781465440129-how-machines-work-zoo-break/

(Review copy provided by publisher.)

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Other science graphic novels and illustrated books I have reviewed:

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