Reading a science book is a fantastic way to expand your mind and teach you things you didn’t know you wanted to know. But if you’re anything like me, you might struggle to find the time to sit down and read a complex non-fiction book, even if it’s really interesting. So your best bet is an audiobook.
We’ve picked a selection of fascinating science audiobooks on a range of topics, from evolution to mental health, and food science to Neanderthals.
The best science audiobooks to listen to in 2021
Rebecca Wragg Sykes
When we call someone a Neanderthal, we usually mean that they’re brutish, violent or stupid. In Kindred, archaeologist Rebecca Wragg Sykes reveals that we owe our cousins an apology.
These ancient humans were different from us in many ways, but they were just like us in many more. They wore clothes, they made art, and they looked after one another – in other words, they were smart and compassionate. Wragg Sykes takes us through the discoveries that are turning the tables on everything we thought we knew about Neanderthals.
Some Assembly Required
We often hear that birds are descended from dinosaurs, and all land animals descended from fish. But somewhere along the line, modern species’ ancient ancestors must have made enormous evolutionary leaps to make these changes possible.
How did dinosaurs develop wings for flight, and how did fish evolve lungs to breathe on land? The answer is that the questions are wrong. Big evolutionary changes happen by a different mechanism altogether: repurposing features that already exist.
In Some Assembly Required, Neil Shubin – co-discoverer of Tiktaalik, a ‘missing link’ between fish and land animals – explains how these changes came about.
Eugenics and the study of racial differences were rejected after WWII, but unfortunately, that doesn’t mean their ideas ceased to have any influence on society.
In Superior, Angela Saini takes us through the history of race science, starting with the inception of race as a concept – which, by the way, has no basis in science. Saini follows the story all the way through to the present day, exploring why race science is rising again, and how it feeds dangerous far-right beliefs.
- Listen to Angela on the Science Focus Podcast
- Listen to Superior by Angela Saini for free with an Audible trial
Be Who You Want
They say that a leopard never changes its spots. Well, maybe it’s true for leopards, but for humans, not necessarily. It’s not quite as simple as setting a few New Year’s resolutions and turning your whole life around, but neuroscientist Dr Christian Jarrett argues that, with enough time and effort, you can change aspects of your personality.
If you have a specific goal in mind – say, to be more extraverted to help you succeed at work – then there are techniques that will help you achieve it. And it’s all based on psychological research, so you have the best chance of making the changes stick.
- Listen to Christian on the Instant Genius podcast
- Read an extract from Be Who You Want
- Listen to Be Who You Want by Christian Jarrett for free with an Audible trial
Mental health has become a big topic in recent years, with more and more campaigns to raise awareness of the issue. So, in general, we’re well aware that mental illness can affect anybody, and that we all need help sometimes.
But we’re less aware of the science. What’s going on in our brains when our mental health takes a knock? How do antidepressants and talking therapies actually help? And is it really ‘all in your head’? Neuroscientist Dean Burnett uses cutting-edge research to answer all these questions and more in Psycho-Logical.
Caroline Criado Perez
Have you ever noticed a situation where men are considered the default, and women are a special case? Maybe it’s in superhero movies, when only a couple of films in a cinematic universe have a female lead; maybe it’s a new phone that’s too big for the average woman to hold comfortably in her hand; maybe it’s when someone assumes that ‘Dr Smith’ is a man.
Often, these are just annoyances – but they can also be costly, or even deadly. Did you know, for example, that the EU didn’t require new cars to be tested on a female crash-test dummy until 2015?
In Invisible Women, Caroline Criado Perez uncovers all the ways that our world is built with men in mind, why that’s a problem, and what we can do to fix it.
- Listen to Caroline on the Science Focus Podcast
- Read an extract from Invisible Women
- Buy Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez on Amazon
Everyone has their own ideas about what we should be eating, what diets we should follow and how best to lose weight. But while food and diet advice is everywhere, very little of it is backed up by good science.
Luckily for us, epidemiologist Prof Tim Spector is here to explain why everything we’ve been told about our diets is wrong – even in official government recommendations. Through the latest research, he explains the truth behind the myths and fads.
- Food myths debunked: 7 food “facts” that are completely wrong
- Buy Spoon-Fed by Tim Spector on Amazon
The best books of all time
We reckon this is a fine selection of science audiobooks, but if nothing here takes your fancy, take a look at a few more of our book recommendations:
- 16 of the best quiz collections and puzzle books for adults in 2021
- 7 of the best smart thinking books to read in 2021
- 5 of the best dinosaur books for adults and kids