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My Top 10 Books

The Magic of Reality (2011)

Richard Dawkins

Magic takes many forms. Supernatural magic is what our ancestors used in order to explain the world before they developed the scientific method. The ancient Egyptians explained the night by suggesting the goddess Nut swallowed the sun. The Vikings believed a rainbow was the gods’ bridge to earth. The Japanese used to explain earthquakes by conjuring a gigantic catfish that carried the world on its back—earthquakes occurred each time it flipped its tail. These are magical, extraordinary tales. But there is another kind of magic, and it lies in the exhilaration of discovering the real answers to these questions. It is the magic of reality—science.

Packed with clever thought experiments, dazzling illustrations and jaw-dropping facts, The Magic of Reality explains a stunningly wide range of natural phenomena. What is stuff made of? How old is the universe? Why do the continents look like disconnected pieces of a puzzle? What causes tsunamis? Why are there so many kinds of plants and animals? Who was the first man, or woman? This is a page-turning, graphic detective story that not only mines all the sciences for its clues but primes the reader to think like a scientist as well.

Richard Dawkins, the world’s most famous evolutionary biologist and one of science education’s most passionate advocates, has spent his career elucidating the wonders of science for adult readers. But now, in a dramatic departure, he has teamed up with acclaimed artist Dave McKean and used his unrivaled explanatory powers to share the magic of science with readers of all ages. This is a treasure trove for anyone who has ever wondered how the world works. Dawkins and McKean have created an illustrated guide to the secrets of our world—and the universe beyond—that will entertain and inform for years to come.

A Short History of Nearly Everything (2004)

Bill Bryson

n Bryson’s biggest book, he confronts his greatest challenge: to understand—and, if possible, answer—the oldest, biggest questions we have posed about the universe and ourselves. Taking as territory everything from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization, Bryson seeks to understand how we got from there being nothing at all to there being us. To that end, he has attached himself to a host of the world’s most advanced (and often obsessed) archaeologists, anthropologists, and mathematicians, travelling to their offices, laboratories, and field camps. He has read (or tried to read) their books, pestered them with questions, apprenticed himself to their powerful minds. A Short History of Nearly Everything is the record of this quest, and it is a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge, as only Bill Bryson can render it. Science has never been more involving or entertaining.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (2017)

Neil deGrasee Tyson

What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed astrophysicist and best-selling author Neil deGrasse Tyson.

But today, few of us have time to contemplate the cosmos. So Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in tasty chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day.

Pale Blue Dot (1994)

Carl Sagan

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Carl Sagan traces our exploration of space and suggests that our very survival may depend on the wise use of other worlds. This stirring book reveals how scientific discovery has altered our perception of who we are and where we stand, and challenges us to weigh what we will do with that knowledge. Photos, many in color.

The Lord of the Rings (1955)

J.R.R. Tolkien

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell by chance into the hands of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins.

From Sauron’s fastness in the Dark Tower of Mordor, his power spread far and wide. Sauron gathered all the Great Rings to him, but always he searched for the One Ring that would complete his dominion.

When Bilbo reached his eleventy-first birthday he disappeared, bequeathing to his young cousin Frodo the Ruling Ring and a perilous quest: to journey across Middle-earth, deep into the shadow of the Dark Lord, and destroy the Ring by casting it into the Cracks of Doom.

The Lord of the Rings tells of the great quest undertaken by Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring: Gandalf the Wizard; the hobbits Merry, Pippin, and Sam; Gimli the Dwarf; Legolas the Elf; Boromir of Gondor; and a tall, mysterious stranger called Strider.

The Selfish Gene (2006)

Richard Dawkins

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Carl Sagan traces our exploration of space and suggests that our very survival may depend on the wise use of other worlds. This stirring book reveals how scientific discovery has altered our perception of who we are and where we stand, and challenges us to weigh what we will do with that knowledge. Photos, many in color.

A Brief History of Timey (1988)

Stephan Hawking

In the ten years since its publication in 1988, Stephen Hawking’s classic work has become a landmark volume in scientific writing, with more than nine million copies in forty languages sold worldwide. That edition was on the cutting edge of what was then known about the origins and nature of the universe. But the intervening years have seen extraordinary advances in the technology of observing both the micro- and the macrocosmic worlds. These observations have confirmed many of Professor Hawking’s theoretical predictions in the first edition of his book, including the recent discoveries of the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite (COBE), which probed back in time to within 300,000 years of the universe’s beginning and revealed wrinkles in the fabric of space-time that he had projected. Eager to bring to his original text the new knowledge revealed by these observations, as well as his own recent research, Professor Hawking has prepared a new introduction to the book, written an entirely new chapter on wormholes and time travel, and updated the chapters throughout.

Letters From An Astrophysicist (2019)

Neil deGrasee Tyson

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has attracted one of the world’s largest online followings with his fascinating, widely accessible insights into science and our universe. Now, Tyson invites us to go behind the scenes of his public fame by unveiling his candid correspondence with people across the globe who have sought him out in search of answers. In this hand-picked collection of one hundred letters, Tyson draws upon cosmic perspectives to address a vast array of questions about science, faith, philosophy, life, and of course, Pluto. His succinct, opinionated, passionate, and often funny responses reflect his popularity and standing as a leading educator.

Tyson’s 2017 bestseller Astrophysics for People in a Hurry offered more than one million readers an insightful and accessible understanding of the universe. Now, revealing Tyson’s most candid and heartfelt writing yet, Letters from an Astrophysicistintroduces us to a newly personal dimension of Tyson’s quest to understand our place in the cosmos.

The Origin of Species (1859)

Charles Darwin

Darwin’s theory of natural selection issued a profound challenge to orthodox thought and belief: no being or species has been specifically created; all are locked into a pitiless struggle for existence, with extinction looming for those not fitted for the task.

Yet The Origin of Species (1859) is also a humane and inspirational vision of ecological interrelatedness, revealing the complex mutual interdependencies between animal and plant life, climate and physical environment, and—by implication—within the human world.

Written for the general reader, in a style which combines the rigour of science with the subtlety of literature, The Origin of Species remains one of the founding documents of the modern age.

Death by Black Hole (2006)

Neil deGrasee Tyson

Loyal readers of the monthly “Universe” essays in Natural Historymagazine have long recognized Neil deGrasse Tyson’s talent for guiding them through the mysteries of the cosmos with stunning clarity and almost childlike enthusiasm. Here, Tyson compiles his favorite essays across a myriad of cosmic topics.

The title essay introduces readers to the physics of black holes by explaining the gory details of what would happen to your body if you fell into one. “Holy Wars” examines the needless friction between science and religion in the context of historical conflicts. “The Search for Life in the Universe” explores astral life from the frontiers of astrobiology. And “Hollywood Nights” assails the movie industry’s feeble efforts to get its night skies right.

Known for his ability to blend content, accessibility, and humor, Tyson is a natural teacher who simplifies some of the most complex concepts in astrophysics while simultaneously sharing his infectious excitement about our universe.