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The 4% Universe Richard Panek A useful and detailed history of the discovery of the existence of dark matter and dark energy, which make up 96% of the universe. Cosmology
10 Questions Science Can't Answer (Yet) Michael Hanlon A truly thought-provoking and fascinating exploration of areas of science that aren't fully understood, from dark matter to why so many people are fat. Overview
13 Things that don't make sense Michael Brooks A fun and informative read on 13 anomalies of science that surprises and delights in equal measures. Overview
17 Equations that Changed the World Ian Stewart Descriptions of 17 wonderful equations and how they came to being. Good historical context but the maths gets too obscure for the general reader. Maths
30 Second Theories Paul Parsons (Ed.) An attempt to cover all of science in 50 snippets. A curate's egg of a book that leaves you wanting more. Overview
50 Ideas you Really Need to Know: Universe Joanne Baker A childish approach and a number of errors make this summary of cosmology less than ideal. Cosmology
50 Physics Ideas you Really Need to Know Joanne Baker Quite a reasonable and approachable summary, despite a few errors, but not a great end-to-end read. Physics
1001 Inventions that changed the World Jack Challoner (Ed.) In essence a website on paper, this doesn't really work as a book. You can't read it end to end, nor is it a great reference. Technology
1089 and all that David Acheson Very entertaining and occasionally surreal take on maths, making the subject ridiculously appealing in a pocket-sized volume Maths
1491 [Ancient Americans] Charles C. Mann Superb revelation of the remarkable prehistoric cultures of the Americas - full of surprises and eminently readable Human science
The 21st Century Brain Steven Rose Rose gives us a detailed and powerful study of our brains and where they came from - it's just not awfully readable Human science
25 Big Ideas Robert Matthews Condensed book style makes this introduction to the key areas of modern science useful but a little dry Overview
A Certain Ambiguity Gaurav Suri & Hartosh Singh Bal Attempt to get across the joys of maths in a novel form. Wonderful idea, hence the bracketed five stars, but doesn't work very well as novel or popular maths. [] Mathematics
Abducted Susan A. Clancy Sensible scientific look at the reality of alien abduction - very engaging writing, but could have better structured Human science
After Dolly Ian Wilmut & Roger Highfield Excellent combination of a history of the development of the first animal clone, Dolly the sheep, with an exploration of the ethics and practicality of cloning by one of the team behind Dolly's birth. Biology
After the Ice Steven Mithen Huge history of humanity between 20,000 and 5,000 BC with neat "observer" style Human science
Afterglow of Creation Marcus Chown Intriguing detective story tracking back from the cosmic background radiation to the big bang. Cosmology
Against the Gods Peter Bernstein Good history of our attitude to risk and probability - a little too much finance and not enough physics, but good Maths
The Age of Empathy Frans de Waal Lessons from nature, and primates in particular, into the reasons for the existence of empathy and its value. Touching and based on de Waal's work Biology
The Age of Scurvy Stephen R. Bown Gripping story of the slow discovery of the cure for scurvy that brings alive the atmosphere of life on sailing ships Human science
Air: the excellent canopy Frank Fahy A slim but packed book on the nature of air, aerodynamics, sound, weather and more. Lots of content, but not very approachable. Physics
Alien Volcanoes Rosaly M. C. Lopes &  Michael W. Carroll Effective neither as a picture book or a really engaging book on volcanoes, the 'alien' part just makes what could be fascinating a touch wishy-washy. Earth science
Almost Human Lee Gutkind Fly on the wall documentary book of the personalities, achievements and disasters of the Carnegie Mellon roboticists. Technology
The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics James Kakalios Despite promising to be 'math free' this introduction to quantum mechanics peppered with examples from comic books is quite hard work for the reader, but rewards that work with more depth than is usual. Physics
The Ancestor's Tale Richard Dawkins Atypical Dawkins - less polished argument than coffee table gloss. Still excellent content in this trip into our biological past, but very bitty. Biology
Ancient Americans [1491] Charles C. Mann Superb revelation of the remarkable prehistoric cultures of the Americas - full of surprises and eminently readable Human science
Animal David Burnie (Ed.) Wonderful illustrated reference guide to the animal kingdom - not popular science really, hence only Biology
Anthill E. O. Wilson A novel that sandwiches a section about the life of an anthill between two describing a naturalist who wants to save it. Doesn't work very well. Biology
Antimatter Frank Close Intriguing guide to antimatter: what it is, how it's made and how it's unlikely to be a serious component of a weapon. Physics
The Apple and the Atom Sebastien Balibar Enjoyable and very personal views on a series of scientific topics from a French low temperature physicist. Overview
The Archimedes Codex Reviel Netz & William Noel Fascinating combination of the story of the uncovering of a hidden manuscript copy of Archimedes' books and an explanation of what's special about the content. Maths
Are Angels OK? Bill Manhire & Paul Callaghan (Eds.) Mix of science, science fiction and lab lit from New Zealand. Mixed content, but explores well how science and literature sit alongside each other. Overview
Armageddon Science Brian Clegg The science behind the many ways that humanity can destroy itself (with a bit of destructive nature thrown in). Mad scientists may be scary, but it's a strangely enjoyable cocktail. Overview
Art & Science Siân Ede Flawed examination of the interplay between art and science. Worth reading, though, to see what the problem is Overview
The Art of the Infinite Robert & Ellen Kaplan Good idea of explaining why mathematics is worthy of passion that singularly fails to deliver Maths
The Artful Universe Expanded John D. Barrow Attempt to link the arts and the science of the universe that allowed them to emerge - good idea, but sinks in pomposity Overview
As Far As We Know Paul Callaghan & Kim Hill Transcripts of entertaining radio conversations covering a wide range of scientific issues from human gender to thermodynamics. Overview
Aspirin: The Remarkable Story of a Wonder Drug Dairmuid Jeffreys The story of aspirin from quinine substitute to heart medicine. Excellent background; truly fascinating  Chemistry, human science
Atom Piers Bizony A good mix of biography and science as we follow the trail of just what atoms are. Could do with a bit more depth in the human interest side, but well-written. Physics
Atomic: the first war of physics Jim Baggott Riveting and detailed history of the development of nuclear weapons in Germany, the UK, the US and Russia. Fascinating in its depth and the lost possibilities for alternatives to nuclear proliferation. Overview
The Autobiography Charles Darwin Not at all stuffy - short book is a fascinating insight into Darwin as a human being Biography, biology
The Autobiography Patrick Moore A remarkable combination of stories from life an opinions on the world from the UK's best known astronomer and TV eccentric Biography, astronomy
Avoid Boring People James D. Watson Dull autobiography that has none of the style and panache of the much younger Watson's The Double Helix. Biography
Backroom Boys Francis Spufford Wonderful history of six quirky UK technology breakthroughs including Concorde and the game Elite Technology
Bad Astronomy Philip Plait Misapprehensions and the even more fascinating facts in astronomy Astronomy, sceptics
Bad Science Ben Goldacre Funny and devastatingly accurate exposure of the way bad science is used to sell products and fool the press. Overview
Bang! The Complete History of the Universe Patrick Moore, Brian May, Chris Lintott A superbly illustrated introduction to the basics of cosmology, for all ages, though we think it works best for younger readers. Astronomy, cosmology
Bang!!! A Curriculum Vitae of the Universe Siegfried Eckleben Interesting attempt to trace where we come from, from big bang to human evolution, let down by poor editing and odd narration. Overview
Bats Sing, Mice Giggle Karen Shanor & Jagmeet Kanwal A whole pile of surprising and fascinating facts about the inner lives of animals, though could have been less of a long list. Biology
A Beautiful Math Tom Siegfried Although it sounds like a follow up the biography of John Nash (A Beautiful Mind), it's actually a flawed but interesting attempt to show that game theory could be the real psychohistory. Maths
The Beautiful Invisible Giovanni Vignale A unique look at the importance of imagination and beauty in physical theories, exploring the difference between fact and representation. Physics
Before the Big Bang Brian Clegg The latest ideas on how the universe began, the limitations of the Big Bang theory and more in excellent popular history of how humans understand the universe. Cosmology
Before the Fall-out: From Marie Curie to Hiroshima Diana Preston Moving and human account of the discoveries that would lead to the nuclear bomb, and of those involved in its first use. Physics
Being Me Pete Moore A remarkable and very different book that looks into what it means to be human, using interviews to open up human characteristics. Science-based, but goes wider too. Human science
Being Virtual Davey Winder Glossy and very personal view on virtual worlds and the people who inhabit them. Technology
Beware Invisible Cows Andy Martin A totally subjective, Impressionist look at where the universe came from. Some might like it, but for us it doesn't work. Physics, cosmology
Beyond Coincidence Martin Plimmer & Brian King Great opportunity to explain apparently spooky coincidences that gives way to amazement Maths, sceptics
Beyond the Hoax Alan Sokal Hugely insightful look into the nature of science based on Sokal's hoax academic paper, but could have better put together. Overview
Beyond UFOs Jeffrey Bennett Warm and well-written book on the search for extra terrestrial life, but no real surprises. Astronomy
Big Bang Simon Singh The answer to the ultimate question of the universe - where did it come from? - beautifully put in context Cosmology
The Big Necessity Rose George The rarely visited world of human waste - great fun down the sewers, investigating Japanese high function toilets, and with the sociological and health issues involved. Human Science
The Big Questions: Physics Michael Brooks A strange notebook-like format for a book that summarizes particularly modern physics well, but lacks a popular science context. Physics
The Big Questions: The Universe Stuart Clark Useful summary of the basics of cosmology in a rather stylish package, but lacks much popular science context. Astronomy
Biohazard Ken Alibek and Stephen Handelman Gripping spy story of a history of a personal involvement in the Soviet biological weapons programme - but somewhat lightweight on the science. Overview
Black Bodies & Quantum Cats Jennifer Ouellette Extremely readable collection of articles on physics. Great fun, but sadly too many errors. Physics
Black Genesis Robert Bauval & Thomas Brophy Further thoughts on alignments of some newly discovered prehistoric structures in Egypt, plus a theory on the nature of the ancient Egyptians - but much less readable than the Egypt Code. Archaeology, astronomy
The Blind Spot William Byers Challenges the validity of our approach to science from a philosophical standpoint. Makes some interesting points, but rather impenetrable writing style. Overview
The Blind Watchmaker Richard Dawkins Superb explanation of how complexity emerges through evolution, slightly let down by writing style Biology
Blink Malcolm Gladwell Lightweight but delightfully told illustration of how we make ultra-quick decisions Human Science
Boffinology Justin Pollard Fun set of stories behind scientific discoveries and the scientists who made them. Very readable, often surprising and entertaining. Overview
Bones, Rocks and Stars Chris Turney An interesting look into the science behind dating, deciding how old things are and working out when things happened Overview
The Book of Numbers Peter J. Bentley Lavishly illustrated glossy book on the history and use of numbers. Looks good, but only skims the surface in content. Maths
A Book of Scientific Curiosities Cyril Aydon A jumble of short pieces on people in the history of science and scientific topics. Weak on modern physics but otherwise reasonable Overview
The Book of the Moon Rick Stroud Good compendium of information about the moon (if some slightly flaky topics), but not really a popular science book. Astronomy
The Book of Time Adam Hart-Davis Heavily illustrated book on the nature of time and its measurements that has enough in to interest adults but is presented in a way that will appeal to older children too. Physics
The Born-Einstein Letters Max Born & Albert Einstein Fascinating letters between two of the 20th century greats of physics. Biography, physics
Born to be Good Dacher Keltner A collection of quite interesting observations about human behaviour with respect to goodness, but with rather flaky new-age feel and lacking structure. Human science
Boyle: between God and Science Boyle: between God and ScienceMichael Hunter Detailed biography of Robert Boyle, superbly researched, which disappointingly has very little explanation of the science. Biography
The Brain Book Rita Carter Surprisingly good adult picture book on the brain and how it works. Human science
Brain Bugs Dean Buonomano Excellent look at the human brain's foibles and glitches, where it simply gets things wrong and where it's programmed for a prehistoric world. Human Science
Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control Kathleen Taylor That rarest of things, an academic book that is enjoyable to the general reader - excellent study of brainwashing Human science
Branches Philip Ball Part of Ball's wide-ranging study of form, this book looks at branching in nature, with a sideline in the concept of scientific models. Overview
Breaking the Time Barrier Jenny Randles Intriguing ride on the mind storms of inventors who think they've built time machines, and the real physics that hints at time travel, but more like TV popsci than popular science Physics
A Brief History of Infinity Brian Clegg The people and paradoxes in the quest to think the unthinkable Maths
A Brief History of Science Thomas Crump The history of science through the development of scientific tools and instruments Overview, technology
A Brief History of Time Stephen Hawking The one that started it all - and much more readable than you might think Cosmology, physics
A Briefer History of Time Stephen Hawking (with Leonard Mlodinow) Attempt to make Brief History more approachable - good content, but suffers from übergloss Cosmology, physics
Bright Earth: the invention of colour Philip Ball Wonderful subject of the history of artists' colours and the science behind them - sacrifices a little readability for comprehensiveness. Overview
Broken Genius Joel Shurkin Exceedingly well-told biography of William Shockley, physics Nobel prize winner and founder of Silicon Valley whose reputation was ruined by his social theories. Biography
Build Your Own Time Machine [How to Build a Time Machine] Brian Clegg A tantalising exploration of the physics of time travel and the different possibilities for making it happen, including the everyday time travel that special relativity already brings. Physics
Buy-ology Martin Lindstrom Interesting study of how people react to advertising by monitoring the brain, though some of the interpretation of the science is poorly presented. Human science
The Buzz about Bees Jürgen Tautz A delightful surprise when what appears to be a textbook proves to be a fascinating, beautifully illustrated exploration of these remarkable superorganisms. Biology
The Calculus Diaries Jennifer Ouellette Interesting idea to take a personal tour of the applications of calculus. But the bits the worked best were about probability and the calculus was often a trifle dull. Maths
The Canon Natalie Angier The basics of all science in an accessible and surprisingly full little book. Overview
Catastrophes! David Prothero Really takes the reader into the experience of living through natural disasters with personal accounts, plus good exploration of the science behind them. Earth science
Catastrophes and Lesser Calamities Tony Hallam A worth attempt to include all the options to explain prehistoric mass extinctions that's sadly rather dull Earth science
The Calendar David Ewing Duncan The struggle to establish a calendar that matches reality Astronomy, technology
The Cause of Mosquitoes' Sorrow Surendra Verma Chronological trip through scientific breakthroughs, beginnings and blunders providing quick tasters. Overview
Chance J P Marques de Sa Would make a good introductory textbook on probability for science students, but is much too complex and equation driven for popular science. Maths
Chaos James Gleick The remarkable development of chaos theory Maths
Chaos: A Very Short Introduction Leonard Smith One of the best entries in the Oxford series of pocket introductions, concentrating on the practical uses of chaos theory. Maths
Chariots of the Gods Erich von Daniken 1960s 'aliens have been here' blockbuster. Okay, it's tosh - but the premise isn't as ridiculous as you might think, it's just the reasoning that falls down. Technology
Chasing the Sun Richard Cohen A huge exploration of humanity's relationship with the sun. Overlong and sometimes a little vague on the science, but a fascinating read. Astronomy
Children of the Sun Alfred W. Crosby A sweeping and inspiring trip through humanity's relationship with energy, from simple agriculture to nuclear power. Style not to everyone's taste, but magnificent. Overview
The Chilling Stars Nigel Calder & Herik Svensmark Controversial but fascinating theory that much of the Earth's climate change through history has been caused by the impact of cosmic rays. Cosmology, Earth Science
Chloroform: the quest for oblivion Linda Stratmann Interesting history of the early anaesthetic chloroform and its rise and fall. Great period detail. Human science
Climate Change Begins at Home Dave Reay Why climate change is a problem and what we as individuals can do about it, without jargon or being preachy Earth science, technology
The Climate Files Fred Pearce Excellent analysis of the 'climategate' leaked emails, doubts about climate science, climate sceptics and the reality of global warming. Earth science
A Closer Look: Deceptions & Discoveries Marjorie E. Wieseman Brings out the remarkable technology used in analysing artworks, and has 16 potentially interesting stories of paintings - but all told in a very dull fashion. Technology
The Code Book Simon Singh The development of codes and ciphers through the ages Maths
Coincidences, Chaos and All that Math Jazz Edward B. Burger & Michael Starbird A high speed, highly enjoyable tour of many of the interesting bits of maths that doesn't patronize, but is never over-heavy. Maths
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive Jared Diamond A study of why societies fail catastrophically and how it's all too easy to go over the edge. Very good stuff, but overly academic. Human science
The Collapse of Chaos Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart Combines chaos theory and complexity theory to boggle the mind Maths
Collider: the search for the world's smallest particles Paul Halpern Useful introduction to the Large Hadron Collider, particular good on the history of accelerators and particle research. Physics
The Colossal Book of Mathematics Martin Gardiner Classic puzzles, paradoxes and problems Maths
Colossus B. Jack Copeland et al A series of essays on the wartime codebreaking at Bletchley Park, and the ground-breaking Colossus computers with newly declassified content Technology
The Comet Sweeper Claire Brock Interesting view of the life of Caroline Herschel, the first female professional astronomer, if a little tinted by the author's views. Biography
The Compassionate Instinct Dacher Keltner, Jason Marsh, Jeremy Adam Smith A spirited survey of the emerging science of trust, empathy, forgiveness and heroism - comprehensive but not as original as it appears. Human science
Complexity: a guided tour Melanie Mitchell Enjoyable and engaging exploration of complexity, genetic algorithms, networks and more. Overview
Computers Ltd David Harel Interesting meta-math exploration of the limits of computers. Four star for computing fans, otherwise Technology
Conflict in the Cosmos/Fred Hoyle: A Life in Science Simon Mitton Biography of brilliant astronomer and huge character, Fred Hoyle. Fascinating, but could have been better Biography, astronomy
Constant Touch John Agar Superb history of the mobile phone - technology, sociology, politics, the works! Technology
Conversations with a Mathematician Gregory Chaitin Compilation of lectures and interviews, best read as a follow-up to Meta Math!. Maths
Conversations on Consciousness Susan Blackmore 20 interesting interviews with experts on the nature of consciousness - but this isn't a helpful format for this topic Human science
Coral Steve Jones The parts of this far-ranging book about coral are good, but the asides take up far too much of it.. Biology
Cosmic Imagery: key images in the history of science John D. Barrow Barrow often tries to pull together art and science and here succeeds well in an exploration of archetypes of scientific imagery. Overview
The Cosmic Verses James Muirden Astonishingly effective history of our ideas on the universe, all in verse - certainly could have been much worse. Cosmology
Cosmology: a very short introduction Peter Coles Compact but surprisingly detailed introduction to cosmology. Could do with an update, but still good. Cosmology
Cosmic Numbers James D. Stein An introduction to physics through some of the essential constants of the universe. Nice enough concept, but the approach is too mathematical for the general reader. Physics
Cosmos Carl Sagan The book of the classic TV series on the universe from one of the best US science popularizers. Astronomy
The Cosmos: A Beginner's Guide Adam Hart-Davis & Paul Bader A beautifully illustrated book from a BBC TV series that's really more about the equipment we use to study it than the cosmos. Cosmology
Cows in the Maze Ian Stewart Mixed bag collection of recreational maths pieces, some great, others not so. Maths
The Creation E. O. Wilson A short and beautifully put together plea for better stewardship of the natural world, let down by lack of coherence. Biology
Critical Mass Philip Ball Overlong and inconclusive but still fascinating look at the statistical behaviour of humanity Overview
The Curies Denis Brian Interesting and in-depth biography of both the Curies and the Joliot-Curies, though could have been even better with judicious editing. Biography
Curious Minds John Brockman (Ed) 27 "why I turned to science" essays that is so much more interesting than it sounds. Really. Biography

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Last update 16 April 2011