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Just Five Excellent Science Books You Should Read

Put these on your nightstand.

Popular Science

Read when you’ve got time to spare.

a book with cool lights in the background

Fans of nonfiction enjoy diving into the infinite, intricate worlds that exist on our planet and beyond. A good science book, in particular, can provide a new framework to better understand life—not to mention bring you ample conversation topics for your next party. Below, five science book recommendations for smart people with a range of interests.

I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life

Just one of the mind-blowing facts from this book: “It’s estimated that every human contains 100 trillion microbes, most of which live in our guts. By comparison, the Milky Way contains between 100 million and 400 million stars.” Ed Yong makes it easy to understand the complexities of our bodies, perhaps muddling your definition of self in the process.

Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan

The late astronomer Carl Sagan delivers a poetic and powerful follow up to his bestselling book on evolution, Cosmos. In Pale Blue Dot, he covers the ground on all the progress humankind has made since, and speculates how space exploration will impact humanity’s future. It’s the kind of book that gives you perspective on the planet we call home. Though it may be jolting to realize how vast and meaningless life can be, the book manages to provide some solace and hope.

Where Buddhism Meets Neuroscience by The Dalai Lama

Experts in the fields of consciousness, dreams, memory, psychiatric illness, meditation and more summarize the latest research and then engage in a dialogue with the Dalai Lama. For those who swing on the spiritual side, this ‘contemplative science’ offers a bridge between the rational realm and the unknown.

She Has Her Mother’s Laugh by Carl Zimmer

This lengthy, meaty read provides a new framework for thinking about what we inherit from our parents and ancestors, DNA, genes, race, inheritance, and the moral and ethical questions surrounding new procreation technologies. It’s an accessible compilation of the history and current scientific research, delving into a wide range of topics from eugenics to in vitro fertilization to cancer to evolution, all told in an engaging narrative with a magnetic writing style, filled with personal anecdotes.

Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer

Join writer and co-founder of Atlas Obscura Joshua Foer on his thoroughly entertaining yearlong quest to improve his memory under the tutelage of top “mental athletes,” and discover the bizarre, niche world of the United States Memory Championships. In an era when we rely so heavily on our devices and computers to store information for us, this book—that provides the occasional laugh—provides useful memory techniques and also a framework for thinking about how to best use memory with technology today.

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This post originally appeared on Popular Science and was published December 27, 2019. This article is republished here with permission.

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