Spring is here and lockdown restrictions are easing. What better time to sit in the garden or a park with a good book?
We’ve got a great selection of science books for you this month. Whether you’re interested in chemistry, time travel, how the human body works or even science fiction, there’s something in this list sure to capture your attention.
To hear about all the latest great non-fiction, join us over at the Science Focus Book Club. You’ll get free samples of new and popular books, plus reading recommendations and bookish news sent directly to your inbox. Just sign up to the Science Focus Book Club Newsletter.
10 of the best popular science books out in March 2021
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Illustrated edition
By Douglas Adams, illustrated by Chris Riddell
For its 42nd anniversary, sci-fi classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy has been released in a stunning new illustrated edition. See iconic characters like narcissistic Zaphod Beeblebrox, hapless Arthur Dent and Marvin the Paranoid Android brought to life through award-winning illustrator Chris Riddell’s gorgeous drawings.
Fans of the book will love revisiting the hilarious tale that plays havoc with physics and time, while new readers (and even older children) will enjoy experiencing it for the first time, complete with complementary illustrations that fit the madcap story perfectly.
Where the Wild Things Grow
By David Hamilton
Part how-to guide, part love letter to the ecosystems on our doorsteps, this book reveals the food hidden in plain sight that most of us have the chance to forage.
From wild mushrooms and berries to the weeds that grow in our gardens, David Hamilton draws on his own extensive experience to explain what’s out there and where to find it. Along the way, he also illuminates the science and history of wild foods and explains how to use them in recipes.
By Lina Meruane, translated by Megan McDowell
Writing a PhD on stars and galaxies is a tough task. So instead of completing her doctorate, a young woman instead wishes to become ill, in order to excuse herself from her writer’s block.
As she becomes tuned to her own body and starts to track its patterns and functions, she eventually experiences the beginning of an illness and mysterious symptoms. This unusual, intelligent novel from celebrated author Lina Meruane takes you on a journey through black holes, the past, relationships and illness that will leave you breathless.
By Ginny Smith
It seems like every day that you see an article talking about the ‘cuddle hormone’ oxytocin or the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin, and there are often questionable ideas like ‘dopamine fasting’.
But these ideas can be incredibly reductive. Hormones play many complex and intricate roles. In Overloaded, science writer and presenter Ginny Smith explores exactly what your brain chemicals do, how they control the way we behave, and what happens when we upset the balance.
How Long is a Piece of String?: More hidden mathematics of everyday life
By Rob Eastaway and Jeremy Wyndham
A classic popular science book, How Long is a Piece of String – now republished in hardback – has been entertaining and engaging maths enthusiasts since 2002. Eastaway and Wyndham answer all your essential maths questions like: should I take the stairs or the lift? How can I meet the perfect partner? And, of course, just how long is a piece of string?
By Emma Young
What senses do humans have? Well, there’s sight, touch, taste, hearing and smell. Then, of course, fashion sense, sense of humour and the sixth sense bring the total up to eight. Is that all of them?
Apparently not. Emma Young says that there are actually 32! Okay, maybe the last three aren’t really on the list. But what are the others?
Close your eyes and stand on one foot and you’ll start to wobble. That’s because you’ve thrown off your vestibular system, or sense of balance. If you fall over, you’ll activate another one of your senses: nociception, or pain.
Young takes you on a tour of all 32 of these senses and how we can use them better.
Chemistry for Breakfast
By Dr Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim
Chemistry might not seem like a useful science – after all, how often do you have to perform a titration in your day-to-day life? However, scientist and YouTuber Dr Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim says that chemistry actually comes up in your life all the time.
When you cook eggs in a Teflon pan, or you use a volumising hair spray, or even brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste, you are taking advantage of chemistry. Thi Nguyen-Kim explores the science of the everyday, intermingled with stories, illustrations, and fun facts to make you feel smart.
10 Short Lessons in Time Travel
By Brian Clegg
Time travel isn’t possible. It’s entirely the realm of science fiction, with grandfather paradoxes and speeding DeLoreans… right?
10 Short Lessons in Time Travel brings us up to speed on the real-life science behind the stories. Sure, you can travel forwards in time quite easily (theoretically) thanks to Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity. But what if you get there and realise you miss the 21st Century and fancy a chat with your mum? Can you go back?
Brian Clegg explains how Einstein’s later work, the theory of General Relativity, could allow loops in space-time to bring you back home, as well as how we might really go about travelling in time and what quantum physics has to do with it all.
The Musical Human
By Michael Spitzer
If you hear a catchy tune, you might hum along or tap your foot. You might even drum on the desk or sing out loud. It seems almost built into humans to react to music like this.
So where did our love of making music come from? Musicologist Michael Spitzer believes it has a long history, stretching back long before Mozart and Beethoven, before folk melodies and monastic plainchant, even before Homo sapiens created the very first musical instrument 40,000 years ago.
In The Musical Human, he explains why he thinks that music was a key feature in the origin story of humankind.
Happy Moments: How to Create Experiences You’ll Remember for a Lifetime
By Meik Wiking
Meik Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, a think tank which aims to take a scientific approach to our national moods, and evaluate why some countries are happier than others. Wiking helped to popularise the Danish idea of cosy togetherness in his 2016 book The Little Book of Hygge. Now he’s back with more on the science of happiness with Happy Moments.
Using insights from behavioural science and data from the Happiness Research Institute, Wiking explores how we can make ordinary moments in our everyday lives into happy memories.
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 annals of history. If you’re looking for a little inspiration, here are a few more of our book recommendations to mull over:
- 28 of the best non-fiction and fiction books we read in 2020
- 20 of the best wildlife books and nature writing
- 16 of the best maths books
- 5 best physics books, according to Jim Al-Khalili
- AI: 5 of the best must-read artificial intelligence books
- 5 race science books you must read
- Science books for kids: 5 books for budding scientists
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.