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?
We read A LOT of popular science books here at BBC Science Focus (seriously, we could build walls with the many volumes we still need to read on our desks), so we’ve picked out what we think are the must-read books coming out this month.
Whether it’s new non-fiction, a beautiful reissue of an old classic or even a spot of sci-fi, they are all good books to read on this list.
Don’t just take our word for it though. To give you a flavour of what’s inside we often have extracts, interviews and features written by the authors and scientists alongside our recommendation.
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.
10 of the best popular science books coming in August 2020
Spoon-Fed: Why Almost Everything We’ve Been Told About Food is Wrong
£12.99, Jonathan Cape, 27 August 2020
Think you know which foods are good for you, and which are bad? Think again.
Professor Tim Spector reveals how little scientific research exists behind common misconceptions about nutrition – even those that form the basis of many medical and government food recommendations.
In this follow-up to his best-selling book The Diet Myth, Spector separates fact from the fiction to answer questions like: should we count calories? Do supplements work? Is fast-food really terrible for us?
What Do You Think You Are?
£12.99, Icon Books, 6 August 2020
What makes you, you? From the atoms in your body to the origin of consciousness, this comprehensive guide to how humans came to be is a must-read.
In science writer Brian Clegg’s clear and authoritative voice, What Do You Think You Are? takes the present-day, modern human reader on a journey through evolutionary history, back to the very beginnings of space and time.
£16.99, Jonathan Cape, 27 August 2020
The author of the deeply moving book H is for Hawk returns this month with Vesper Flights, a collection of essays about the relationship between humans and nature.
Regarded as one of this century’s greatest nature writers, Helen Macdonald takes simple moments – of nesting birds, wild boars emerging from the woods, foraging for mushrooms on an autumn day – and weaves them with history, personal reflection and political comment.
The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy’s Vanishing Explorers
£18.99, Oneworld, 6 August 2020
Astronomer Emily Levesque charts the history of the profession, following her colleagues across the globe and back in time. But now, we sit at the precipice of a new way of observing the starts – through robots, instead of our own eyes – and that has consequences across the sciences.
Levesque’s writing is witty and honest, and asks us all to reconsider our relationship with the Universe.
Clean: The New Science of Skin and the Beauty of Doing Less
£16.99, Bodley Head, 6 August 2020
James Hamblin has not used soap on anywhere but his hands for the last five years. In 2016 he began showering less, and now has “pretty much stopped altogether”.
But why would a doctor do such a thing? According to Hamblin, the microbes on our skin don’t benefit from the constant washing, scrubbing and moisturising as much as we think they do. Though whether there’s such a thing as being ‘too clean’ is up for debate.
The science of our largest organ is one often overlooked, but in Clean all is laid bare – do with it what you will. But remember, don’t stop washing your hands.
The System: Who Owns the Internet and How it Owns Us
£18.00, Bloomsbury, 20 August 2020
The internet knows us. We give our data almost too willingly, clicking ‘accept all’ without much reflection. But by offering up our information so easily, we’re putting power in someone’s hands.
The System spells out the past, present and future of the internet. From the cables and servers that make up the physical building blocks of the internet, to the organisations and social media giants that decide who sees what. James Ball’s new book is an eye-opening, engaging expose.
The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking)
£20.00, Allen Lane, 4 August 2020
The end of the Universe may be a common feature in science fiction, but this one isn’t a crisis that can be averted by a team of superheroes. The Universe really will come to an end one way or another, and we have an idea how – five ideas, actually.
In The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking), astrophysicist Dr Katie Mack dives into these five possible apocalypses, from the Universe gradually fading out to the ‘quantum bubble of death’.
The Great Inoculator: The Untold Story of Daniel Sutton and his Medical Revolution
£16.99, Yale University Press, 11 August 2020
The story of Edward Jenner’s vaccination is well-known, and he’s revered as the man who helped to save the world from smallpox. But Gavin Weightman believes there’s another person who also deserves the credit.
Surgeon Daniel Sutton worked on inoculation, making it simpler and more effective. But because he didn’t publicise his methods widely until the end of his life, he never received the credit he may have deserved.
Survival of the Friendliest
Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods
£16.99, Oneworld, 20 August 2020
Professor of anthropology Brian Hare and research scientist Vanessa Woods reveal how the ability to cooperate with members of the same species is vital for evolutionary success.
Drawing on animal behaviour research, Hare and Woods pose a new theory of ‘self-domestication’: how selection against aggression in mammals, such as dogs and apes, had effects on their physiology and psychology.
Calling Bullsh*t: The Art of Scepticism in a Data-Driven World
Carl T Bergstrom and Jevin D West
£20.00, Allen Lane, 4 August 2020
On the surface, the world seems awash with fake news, false hype and click bait. But where did it all begin? Why does it spread? And how can you tell the false from the real when both look the same on the screen?
A biologist and a data scientist come together in Calling Bullsh*t to unpick the data and provide the reader with the tools needed for skeptical browsing.
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 the book on Instagram, and join the Science Focus Book Club for a community of other science book lovers.
- Note: These publication dates might change due to the coronavirus outbreak.