Sunday, September 24, 2006

The main event

These blog things work bottom-up, so here's a reminder of of what started this one at the top, where people actually read stuff.

On October 19 there's an event at Imperial College London where we will vote for the "best science book ever" (see Royal Institution link in the sidebar).

OK, we don't expect the verdict on the night to go down in history. The point is to have the conversation. Examples of what is good, with arguments why, might add up to something. At least, we'll have a list of books to supplement Ian McEwan's science canon.

On the night, we will hear from Tim Radford, Maggie McDonald and Armand Leroi, who will explain why they chose their top three, and argue for their favourite.

They've read lots, but two of them have already got their list down to three titles - and their nominations will be highlighted here. I hope they may add some near misses, too.

Anyone else who wants to mention a particular title, please do - maybe with a few words about why it is worthy, or unworthy. The RI is also polling some of the scientifically inclined literati to see what they think, which ought to be fun.

If we get to 100 titles at some point, I might even feel a book proposal coming on (though nobody wanted to play last time I tried that one).

If we don't the list should certainly remind people about some writers who have fallen beneath the radar since the pop-science publishing boom took off in the '80s. Loren Eiseley, anyone?

8 Comments:

Blogger Alice said...

Uncle Albert and the Quantum Quest

(I know that's unoriginal, but I dont' care)

8:15 AM  
Blogger Martin Griffiths said...

For a bit of fun, I totted up the responses to the 'best 3 popular science books' question in the monthly "Shelf Life" column in Physics World magazine. So far there have been 24 participants - a mixture of physicists and popular science writers. Surprisingly, only 10 books have been chosen more than once. Of those, these 9 were chosen twice:

Bill Bryson - A Brief History of Nearly Everything
George Johnson - Strange Beauty
Brian Greene - Elegant Universe
Albert Einstein - Relativity
Rachel Carson - Silent Spring
Carl Sagan - Cosmic Connection
James Gleick - Chaos
Galileo Galilei - Dialogue
Richard Dawkins - Selfish Gene

But the runaway winner, with 5 mentions is Steven Weinberg's The First Three Minutes.

9:42 AM  
Blogger Jon Turney said...

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10:04 AM  
Blogger Jon Turney said...

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10:05 AM  
Blogger Jon Turney said...

while we're talking physics, an email correspondent also recommended Einstein and Infeld's Evolution of Physics. Has anyone read?

10:05 AM  
Blogger PD Smith said...

The Evolution of Physics has its moments...Such as this wonderful line describing the work of the theoretical physicist: "So he plays his violin, or lounges in his armchair enjoying a pipe, when suddenly, by Jove, he has it!"

But I'm not sure I'd put it on my list of pop-sci favourites...

By the way, are you counting science biographies as 'popular science'?

1:11 AM  
Blogger Jon Turney said...

Biographies? Absolutely. (Even yours, Peter!)

9:36 AM  
Blogger Nigel Jennings said...

For what it's worth I still think the first edition of Bill Bryson's A Brief History of Everything rates as a wonderful scamper through the scientific knowledge of mankind. It is a great refresher for people like myself who think they know a little about Everything ;-)

12:27 PM  

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