10 of the best science books coming out this month – November 2020

Whether it's smart non-fiction, paperback or hardback, or even some sci-fi backed by hard science, here are our picks of the best popular science books coming out this month.

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Do you have an insatiable thirst for knowledge? Are you curious about the world around you? Itching for something new and thrilling to pass the time, or just something to drag you away from Netflix? Either way, we recommend digging your nose into a good science book. But where to begin?

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We read A LOT of popular science books here at BBC Science Focus, so we’ve picked out what we think are the must-read books coming out in November 2020.

And if you’re still searching for great titles to add to your science reading list, sign up to the Science Focus book club newsletter and get free samples of new and popular books, plus reading recommendations and bookish news sent directly to your inbox.

Looking for Christmas gift ideas? Check out our list of the best science and tech gifts.

10 of the best popular science books out in November 2020

Metazoa: Animal Minds and the Birth of Consciousness

Cover of Metazoa

Peter Godfrey-Smith

£20.00, Harper Collins, 29 October 2020

It’s a question that philosophers and scientists still struggle to answer: what is consciousness?

Scuba-diving philosopher Peter Godfrey-Smith first introduced us to animal consciousness in Other Minds, where he explained in depth how the octopus came to be so intelligent. Now, he looks at the whole of the animal kingdom to understand the evolution of experience.

There Are Places in the World Where Rules Are Less Important than Kindness: And Other Thoughts on Physics, Philosophy and the World

Cover of There Are Places in the World Where Rules Are Less Important than Kindness

Carlo Rovelli

£20.00, Allen Lane, 05 November 2020

Over the course of his career, theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli has written essays that connect all sorts of topics, from philosophy to science history, astronomy to politics.

What is between certainty and uncertainty? Where do ideas come from? And what does it mean for us to know that Einstein made errors? This short collection of his writings from the last decade has something to offer for avid admirers of his work and new Rovelli readers alike.

Numb and Number: How to Avoid Being Mystified by the Mathematics of Modern Life

Cover of Numb and Number

William Hartston

£12.99, Atlantic Books, 05 November 2020

Numbers tell us everything and nothing. They’re used in the statistics that surround us on a daily basis, from the rise in COVID-19 cases to the savings on spendings we hope to make before Christmas.

But if you’re not one of the lucky few who can say, “Oh, mathematics was my best subject at school,” then you might find yourself stumped by the news, or personal finance, or chaos and catastrophe (yes, William Hartston shows us there’s maths involved there, too). Luckily, Numb and Number is able to explain these things and more, in a way that’s easy to understand and even enjoyable to read.

The Language Lover’s Puzzle Book: Lexical perplexities and cracking conundrums from across the globe

Cover of The Language Lover’s Puzzle Book

Alex Bellos

£14.99, Faber, 05 November 2020

It’s cold and dark and we’re in lockdown. In other words, it’s the perfect time for puzzles. For those of us who love Countdown and crosswords, Guardian puzzler Alex Bellos’s newest book of puzzles is the perfect way to pass the time.

Do Bees Need Weeds: A Gardener’s Collection of Handy Hints for Greener Gardening

Cover of Do Bees Need Weeds?

Holly Farrell and Gareth Richards

£14.99, RHS and Octopus Publishing Group, 06 November 2020

This handy guide to gardening contains over 100 answers to your horticultural questions, as well as solutions to common problems and fun ideas to get the whole family involved.

For anyone who found themselves a little more green-fingered after the first UK lockdown but feels uneasy at the thought of keeping a garden alive through a frosty winter and beyond, this little book is the holy grail.

The Pattern Seekers: A new theory of human invention

Cover of The Pattern Seekers

Simon Baron-Cohen

£20.00, Allen Lane, 10 November 2020

What is it about humans that makes us innovative?

It is our ability to identify patterns in the world, says autism expert Simon Baron-Cohen, that make us see the blueprints for invention. This ability, he argues, is linked to autism. And, by understanding our cognitive diversity, we can further human progress.

Black Hole Survival Guide

Cover of Black Hole Survival Guide

Janna Levin

£9.99, The Bodley Head, Vintage, 12 November 2020

What would happen if you fell into a black hole? Janna Levin, a professor of physics and astronomy, reveals what her research has told us about these mysterious objects, and what we do and don’t know about falling into one.

For fans of Jim Al-Khalili’s The World According to Physics, this book is an accessible and engaging introduction to one of the Universe’s most extraordinary phenomenon.

Sapiens: A Graphic History

Cover of Sapiens: A Graphic History

Yuval Noah Harari, David Casanave, David Vanderneulen

£18.99, Jonathan Cape, 12 November 2020

The best-selling book by Yuval Noah Harari has been beautifully adapted into a graphic novel just in time for Christmas. The story of humankind is told through the delicate illustrations, bringing science and history together to help us understand how Homo sapiens came to inhabit the Earth.

The Comedy of Error: Why evolution made us laugh

Cover of The Comedy of Error

Jonathan Silvertown

£12.99, Scribe UK, 12 November 2020

We all know how good it feels to laugh, really deeply from somewhere within our stomach, or to make someone spit out their tea in response to a joke. A day without it is sure to be glum. But what evolutionary purpose does our comedic nature hold?

Professor of evolutionary ecology Jonathan Silvertown explores the meaning of laughter in this clear and concise title. As being funny makes us sexier, it’s handy to know that he’s also included a few tips on how to be a comedic genius.

Exploring the Elements

Cover of Exploring the Elements

Isabel Thomas

£17.95, Phaidon, 18 November 2020

Elements. They make up everything. There are 92 found in nature, and there have been another 26 created by scientists. In this colourful compendium, Isabel Thomas takes us on a journey through (or rather, down, diagonally and across) the periodic table.

Perfect for those studying for science GCSEs and A-Levels, but also for us chemistry fanatics, too. Did you know that sulphur, a key ingredient of gunpowder, is also included (safely) in food additives? Sulphur-based preservatives keep our meals bacteria-free!

The best books of all time

We reckon this is a fine selection of books to read this month, but there are plenty more that are well worth your time from the annuls of history. If you’re looking for a little inspiration, here are a few more of our book recommendations to mull over:

Are you excited to read any of the books on this list? Let us know what you think of our pick of the best science books out this month by messaging us on Twitter or Facebook, tag us in a picture of you reading any of the books on Instagram, and join the Science Focus Book Club for a community of other science book lovers.

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  • Note: These publication dates might change due to the coronavirus outbreak.