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…
(answers to the puzzles at the bottom)
Swearing Is Good For You
£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.
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.
Only Connect: The Official Quiz Book
£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.
The Animals Among Us
£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
£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
£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.
£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
£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.
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.
£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
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
Women In Science
£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
Ask An Astronaut
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
Caesar’s Last Breath
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
£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!
Out Of Nothing
Daniel Locke & David Blandy
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.
£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.
To Be A Machine
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
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.
£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
The Angry Chef
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 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.
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)
Puzzle from The Penguin Book Of Puzzles, edited by Dr Gareth Moore (£12.99, Michael Joseph)
Puzzle from Puzzle Ninja by Alex Bellos (£14.99, Guardian Faber)
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