John Horgan is helping us all set up our reading lists for the coming holiday season by highlighting a couple of lists of best science books. First he has some critical comments on the recently published Discover Magazine list of 25 best science books. As an antidote to the flaws he sees in that list, he also turns us in the direction of the The Center for Science Writings of the Stevens Institute of Technology where there's a list-in-progress of the 100 Greatest Science Books. That list is up to number fifty and still accepting nominations.
Perhaps even more interesting, Horgan gives us a list of the Ten Worst Science Books.
- Capra, Frifjof, The Tao of Physics
- Drexler, Eric, Engines of Creation
- Edelman, Gerald, Bright Air, Brilliant Fire
- Gladwell, Malcolm, The Tipping Point
- Gould, Stephen Jay, Rocks of Ages
- Greene, Brian, The Elegant Universe
- Hamer, Dean, The God Gene
- Kramer, Peter, Listening to Prozac
- Kurzweil, Ray, The Age of Spiritual Machines
- Murray, Charles, and Richard Herrnstein, The Bell Curve
- Wilson, Edward, Consilience
Luckily, I haven't read any of those yet although I do own the Gould and Wilson and may get around to reading at least the Wilson. I'm afraid I don't do that much better on the list of good books but the main reason for that is that the science books I have tended to read over the years have been mostly on computing or engineering topics, neither of which are terribly well covered in the Stevens or Discover lists. (Yes, I did nominate some good computing books.)
In the interests of self-improvement, I'll list a bunch (11!) of the science books that are in the two lists that I'd like to get around to reading. If and when I do get around to reading them, I'll certainly review them on the other blog where I have been trying to review more science books during my sabbatical this year.
- Dawkins, Richard, The Selfish Gene
- Diamond, Jared, Guns, Germs, and Steel
- Gleick, James, Chaos
- Hofstadter, Douglas, Godel, Escher, Bach
- Pais, Abraham, Subtle Is the Lord
- Penrose, Roger, The Emperor’s New Mind
- Rhodes, Richard, The Making of the Atomic Bomb
- Watson, James, The Double Helix
- Weinberg, Steven, The First Three Minutes
- Sagan, Carl, The Cosmic Connection
- Gould, Stephen Jay, The Mismeasure of Man
Update: Horgan follows up with another post, expanding on his reasons for putting The Bell Curve and Listening to Prozac on the worst book list.