It’s World Book Day! And in celebration of this fact, I thought I would share with you all the books that inspired me to get interested in science and what is so great about them and why you should check them out. I wanted to focus on children’s books as that is what World Book Day is all about. That’s what I wanted to do. Then I realised, I didn’t really get into reading about science until quite far into my teens. I was more about that chemistry sets and the microscopes, the doing of it more than the reading about it.
So, in a change of plans, I thought I would extend this to include books for a more mature audience as well. But first and foremost, this is about the kids, so you should go and check the website and here is a run-down of great science books for little ones (and big ones).
20000 Leagues Under the Sea – Jules Verne
Ok, so this isn’t a science book. Also, it’s not for very little kids, probably more like tween level. BUT! It is one of the books (as are other Vernes, such as From the Earth to the Moon and Journey to the Centre of the Earth) that really inspired me to explore the wonders of the natural world and opened my mind to the crazy possibilities that science could afford. This is, for me, one of the primary purposes of science-fiction. It ask us “What if?” and then we grow up and we say “Hey, yeah. What if? Let’s make it happen!” and thus a scientist is born.
I’ve highlighted this book as it is easily my favourite of his. The characters, the ideas, the prose are all just exceptional and it is so much fun at the same time. A true adventure novel from when the world wasn’t quite so jaded and ripping yarns were easier to come by. I recommend this to anyone and everyone.
This stands for Let Me Google That For You. Honestly, there are hundreds of science books for children out there and a quick internet search will give you so many hits you won’t know what to do with them. Most of them are great, that’s why they were published. If I had to recommend any it would be the ‘Horrible’ series which also does other subject, such as history or geography. But if I have to tell you about these books then you’ve probably never been in a book store before. They were popular when I was kid, I loved them all, they’re amazing, and they are just as popular today because of this. I cannot recommend these books enough.
Asimov – black holes
Isaac Asimov is another great science-fiction writer whose work I can whole-heartedly recommend, but he also wrote science fact books on the subject of cosmology. His writing style is fantastic, and it’s definitely these books which prompted me to take my degree in Physics and Astronomy. I’ve moved away from this subject now and into physical chemistry, which just goes to show how things never turn out how we quite expect. These ones are getting more maths-y than the others and is definitely for people a little further on in their education than primary school kids. Also, some of the science might now be out of date. But for anyone with a keen interest in the universe these books are a great place to start.
Feynman Feynman Feynman
Read anything he wrote. Read his lectures, read his letters, read his life. This guy is the superstar of physics. Charming, charismatic, brilliant, very few can delivery science as expertly and effortlessly as he could. The famous ones are the Feynman lectures which are worth more than their weight in gold. I have recently been made aware of “Surely you’re joking, Mr Feynman”, a series of transcribed conversations between the great man and his friend Ralph Leighton, which I can’t believe I didn’t know about and has immediately jumped to the top of my to-read list. Who knows, I may review it on this very blog.
- Venkataraman – The Quantum Revolution
Finally, we come to G. Venkataraman’s short series of very short books on the quantum mechanics. They chart the history of this great breakthrough in physics and outline some of the key principles involved. We are now getting to some hard-core stuff. A lot of maths is involved and only the truly devoted should follow this path. However, and I feel this is very important, this great author has written these books in such a way that the general idea can be followed quite easily without fully understanding the mathematics of it. His style is very accessible, informative and entertaining. These were the first true quantum mechanics books I read, and I loved them. I still do. But be warned – here be equations.
So there it is, a very brief tour through my journey towards being a scientist in books. I really hope that some of you pick up some of these and enjoy them as much as I did. If you only enjoy them half as much I am still sure you will love them dearly. And if not these, then please, pick up other books, all books, books are great. There really is no better, more precise or effective way to get an idea across than by a book!