22 of the best science books 2017

22 of the best science books from 2017

We love books and we get so many of them through our door it's always difficult to pick out the best read, but that we have done - here's our pick of the best from 2017.

Last year saw a wealth of beautiful, science-themed graphic novels, illustrated books, long reads and mind-bending puzzles. Here are some of our favourites…

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(answers to the puzzles at the bottom)

1

Swearing Is Good For You

Emma Byrne

£12.99, Profile Books

The next time someone tells you off for swearing, give them a copy of this book. Byrne explains all the ways in which swearing is good for us, from pain relief to team bonding, and reveals what cursing chimpanzees can tell us about the origin of dirty words.

Swearing Is Good For You Emma Byrne

2

Mysteries Of The Quantum Universe

Thibault Damour & Mathieu Burniat

£17.99, Particular Books

Billed as ‘Tintin meets Brian Cox’, this book performs the tricky task of making quantum physics accessible. Join Bob and his dog Rick on a journey through the world of the very small, talking atoms with Einstein and eating crêpes with Max Planck.

Mysteries Of The Quantum Universe Thibault Damour & Mathieu Burniat £17.99, Particular Books

3

Only Connect: The Official Quiz Book

Jack Waley-Cohen

£14.99, BBC Books

TV’s most fiendish quiz gets its own book, so put on your lateral thinking cap and start looking for those hidden connections.

Puzzle: The titles of four nursery rhymes have had their vowels removed and their consonants respaced. How quickly can you decipher them? Find the answer here.

Only Connect: The Official Quiz Book Jack Waley-Cohen £14.99, BBC Books

4

The Animals Among Us

John Bradshaw

£20, Allen Lane

Why do we keep pets? Bradshaw argues that it goes beyond cuteness and companionship, and all the way back to an ancient connection in our shared past. Weaving together psychology and evolutionary science, the book will give pet owners a newfound appreciation for their furry friends.

Listen to the Science Focus podcast where we speak to John about his book and why we love pets

The Animals Among Us John Bradshaw £20, Allen Lane

5

Beyond Infinity

Eugenia Cheng

£12.99, Profile Books

It takes a talented writer to bring the concept of infinity to life, but Cheng’s infectious enthusiasm makes maths a delight. Discover why some infinities are bigger than others, and why there’s always room at an infinite hotel, even if it’s full.

Read an extract from Beyond Infinity or discover out five fascinating facts about infinity

Beyond Infinity Eugenia Cheng £12.99, Profile Books

6

Graphic Science

Darryl Cunningham

£16.99, Myriad Editions

With his crisp comic art, Cunningham tells the stories of seven scientists who history has rather overlooked. Mary Anning, Alfred Wegener, Fred Hoyle, Jocelyn Bell Burnell… they’re names you may have heard of, but Graphic Science underlines the importance of their work.

Graphic Science Darryl Cunningham £16.99, Myriad Editions

7

Testosterone Rex

Cordelia Fine

£14.99, Icon Books

The winner of this year’s Royal Society books prize, Fine cuts through gender stereotypes with panache, dispelling the myth that testosterone creates a deep-rooted division between the sexes and discussing what this means for the society we live in.

Read an extract from Testosterone Rex or our interview with Cordelia Fine

Testosterone Rex Cordelia Fine £14.99, Icon Books

8

Inferior

Angela Saini

£12.99, Fourth Estate

The second book on our list to tackle gender stereotypes, Saini discusses how centuries of science have painted a distorted picture of sex differences, the impact this has had on women in society, and how we’re finally beginning to redress the balance.

Inferior Angela Saini £12.99, Fourth Estate

9

The Penguin Book Of Puzzles

Dr Gareth Moore

£12.99, Michael Joseph

A feast of brainteasers from across the centuries. Try your hand at word games, maths challenges, logic conundrums and more.

Puzzle: Place each number from 1 to 9 into the cells (a different single number in each cell) so that the indicated equations are correct. Evaluate from left-to-right and top-to-bottom.

The Penguin Book Of Puzzles Dr Gareth Moore £12.99, Michael Joseph

10

Other Minds

Peter Godfrey-Smith

£20, William Collins

The octopus is essentially an alien species right here on Earth – a sentient being whose intelligence has evolved entirely independently from our own. Godfrey-Smith peers into the minds of these cephalopods, revealing what they can tell us about the nature of consciousness itself.

Read an extract from Other Minds

Other Minds Peter Godfrey-Smith £20, William Collins

11

Gastrophysics

Charles Spence

£16.99, Viking

In this breezy introduction to the new science of gastrophysics, Spence explains why our mealtimes are a truly multisensory experience. It turns out that everything from the background music to the colour and shape of our plates affects the taste of our food.

Read our interview with Charles Spence

Gastrophysics Charles Spence £16.99, Viking

12

Women In Science

Rachel Ignotofsky

£12.99, Wren & Rook

Discover (or rediscover) the work of 50 trailblazing female scientists in Ignotofsky’s gorgeously illustrated book. Familiar names like Marie Curie and Ada Lovelace sit alongside lesser-known pioneers such as Maria Sibylla Merian, one of the first and more important entomologists.

Read an extract from Women in Science

Women In Science Rachel Ignotofsky £12.99, Wren & Rook

13

Ask An Astronaut

Tim Peake

£20, Century

Who better to describe life in space than someone who’s walked the (space)walk? Tim pens answers to the public’s burning questions, revealing what space smells like, how he enjoyed a cosmic cuppa, and what it felt like to return to Earth.

Read our Tim Peake interview after his return to Earth

Ask An Astronaut Tim Peake £20, Century

14

Caesar’s Last Breath

Sam Kean

£20, Doubleday

Every breath we take tells a story as old as the Earth. Kean’s eye-opening guide to the science and history of our atmosphere takes in everything from radioactive pigs and spontaneous combustion to Julius Caesar’s final moments and some unforgettable performance art at the Moulin Rouge.

Read our interview with Sam Kean

Caesar’s Last Breath Sam Kean £20, Doubleday

15

Puzzle Ninja

Alex Bellos

£14.99, Guardian Faber

Try your hand at over 200 challenges from Japan. The 20+ puzzle types are rated easy to excruciating, and there’s not a Sudoku in sight.

Puzzle: Divide the grid into L-shaped tiles, like the one below, made up of four cells each. Every white cell must be in an L-shaped tile, with no cells left over. Probably best to use a pencil!

Puzzle Ninja Alex Bellos £14.99, Guardian Faber

16

Out Of Nothing

Daniel Locke & David Blandy

£14.99, Nobrow

Combining science fact with dreamlike imagery, Locke and Blandy’s eye-popping graphic novel celebrates the ingenuity of the human mind. We travel across centuries from Gutenberg’s printing press to Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, via Picasso, Einstein, Rosalind Franklin and more.

Out Of Nothing Daniel Locke & David Blandy £14.99, Nobrow

17

Admissions

Henry Marsh

£16.99, Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Following up 2014’s much-lauded Do No Harm was never going to be easy, but this second part of Henry Marsh’s memoir is an equally honest, human and beautifully written account of the ups and downs of his life as a brain surgeon.

Admissions Henry Marsh £16.99, Weidenfeld & Nicolson

18

To Be A Machine

Mark O’Connell

£12.99, Granta

With shades of Jon Ronson and Louis Theroux, O’Connell explores the world of transhumanism, meeting the cyborgs, utopians and futurists who hope to use technology to improve the human condition. It makes for an engrossing, witty and at times disturbing read.

Read an extract from To Be A Machine

To Be A Machine Mark O’Connell £12.99, Granta

19

Anatomy

Hélène Druvert & Jean-Claude Druvert

£18.95, Thames & Hudson

A cutaway book of the human body, Anatomy elicited gasps of delight in the office. Its flaps and delicate lasercuts allow kids to explore the organs, systems and senses that keep us alive, while the accompanying text provides a nice introduction to human biology.

Anatomy Hélène Druvert & Jean-Claude Druvert £18.95, Thames & Hudson

20

Patient H69

Vanessa Potter

£16.99, Bloomsbury Sigma

One day, Vanessa Potter started to lose her sight. Within three days, she was completely blind. Patient H69 documents her descent into darkness – and her subsequent recovery as, armed with scientific insight, she began to make sense of her unique condition.

Pick up a copy of BBC Focus issue 308 where we interview Vanessa Potter about her experience

Patient H69 Vanessa Potter £16.99, Bloomsbury Sigma

21

The Angry Chef

Anthony Warner

£12.99, Oneworld

Paleo, GAPS, alkaline, detox… so many diets, but do any of them actually work? With scientific rigour and a generous helping of expletives, Warner takes on the food fads one by one, and asks why we’re so easily taken in by pseudoscience in the first place.

Read our interview with Anthony Warner

The Angry Chef Anthony Warner £12.99, Oneworld

22

The Lost Words

Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris

£20, Hamish Hamilton

Worried by the way in which natural words (acorn, dandelion, kingfisher, etc) are disappearing from children’s vocabulary, Robert Macfarlane has teamed up with illustrator Jackie Morris to produce this exquisite ‘spell book’, combining acrostic poems with hand-painted artwork.

The Lost Words Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris £20, Hamish Hamilton

Missing Vowels

ONE, TWO, BUCKLE MY SHOE
OLD KING COLE
POP GOES THE WEASEL
ORANGES AND LEMONS

Puzzle from The Official Only Connect Quiz Book, edited by Jack Waley-Cohen (£14.99, BBC Books)

Arithmetic Square

arithmeticsquare_solution

Puzzle from The Penguin Book Of Puzzles, edited by Dr Gareth Moore (£12.99, Michael Joseph)

L-Panel

lpanel_solution

Puzzle from Puzzle Ninja by Alex Bellos (£14.99, Guardian Faber)


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