If you’ve been looking to expand your horizons and pick up a thought-provoking new read, we think you should add a nonfiction science book to your TBR!
From the history of water to exploring the mysteries of human consciousness, these books will give you a better understanding of many different parts of our universe.
Whether you’re a casual nonfiction reader or an inquisitive intellectual, we know you’ll find a recommendation below that will fuel your curiosity and leave you with new scientific facts to share with your friends.
The Experience Machine by Andy Clark
“This thoroughly readable book will convince you that the brain and the world are partners in constructing our understanding.” —Sean Carroll, New York Times bestselling author of The Biggest Ideas in the Universe: Space, Time, and Motion
For as long as we’ve studied human cognition, we’ve believed that our senses give us direct access to the world. What we see is what’s really there—or so the thinking goes. But new discoveries in neuroscience and psychology have turned this assumption on its head. What if rather than perceiving reality passively, your mind actively predicts it?
Unveiling the extraordinary explanatory power of the predictive brain, The Experience Machine is a mesmerizing window onto one of the most significant developments in our understanding of the mind.
Water by Giulio Boccaletti
“Brimming with ideas and unexpected correlations, Water is far more than a biography of its nominal subject . . . The book stands as a compelling history of civilization itself.”—Gerard Helferich, Wall Street Journal Book Review
Spanning millennia and continents, Water is a stunningly revealing history of how the distribution of water has shaped human civilization. By shrewdly examining a combination of environmental and social history, author Giulio Boccaletti dives into water’s effects on our earliest societies, from the civilizations of sedentary farmers on the banks of the Nile, the Tigris, and the Euphrates Rivers, to ancient Greece and Rome.
Extraordinary for its monumental scope and piercing insightfulness, this illuminating book richly enlarges our understanding of our relationship to—and fundamental reliance on—the most elemental substance on earth.
Feeling & Knowing by Antonio Damasio
“One thrilling insight after another … Damasio has succeeded brilliantly in narrowing the gap between body and mind.” —The New York Times Book Review
From one of the world’s leading neuroscientists: a succinct, illuminating, wholly engaging investigation of how biology, neuroscience, psychology, and artificial intelligence have given us the tools to unlock the mysteries of human consciousness.
In the forty-eight brief chapters illuminating our intuitive sense of what feeling and experiencing are about, Antonio Damasio helps us understand why being conscious is not the same as sensing, why nervous systems are essential for the development of feelings, and why feeling opens the way to consciousness writ large. This is an indispensable guide to understanding how we experience the world within and around us and find our place in the universe.
Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine by Alan Lightman
“An elegant and moving paean to our spiritual quest for meaning in an age of science.” —The New York Times Book Review
As a physicist, Alan Lightman has always held a scientific view of the world. But one summer evening, while looking at the stars from a small boat at sea, Lightman was overcome by the overwhelming sensation that he was merging with something larger than himself—an eternal unity, something absolute and immaterial.
The result is an inspired, lyrical meditation in which Lightman draws on sources ranging from Saint Augustine’s conception of absolute truth to Einstein’s theory of relativity, and gives us a profound inquiry into the human desire for truth and meaning, and a journey along the different paths of religion and science that become part of that quest. This small but provocative book explores the tension between our yearning for certainty and permanence versus the modern scientific view that all things in the physical world are uncertain and impermanent.
Losing Eden by Lucy Jones
“Beautifully written, movingly told and meticulously researched. An elegy to the healing power of nature. A convincing plea for a wilder, richer world.” —Isabella Tree, author of Wilding
In this deeply personal book that builds a bridge between ecology and psychology, Lucy Jones interweaves her story of recovery from addiction and depression with her healing experience of discovering the natural world. She writes about the intersection of science, wellness, and the environment, and reveals that in the last decade, scientists have begun to formulate theories of why people feel better after a walk in the woods and an experience with the natural world.
Powerfully weaving memoir, scientific investigation, interviews, and history into a broad-ranging ecological portrait, Jones illuminates what makes nature so potent and why—and what all of this means for us and for our future.
The Oracle of Night by Sidarta Ribeiro, translated by Daniel Hahn
“You can’t help being awed and enchanted by the wonder with which Ribeiro approaches his subject, by the depth of his knowledge and passion.” —The New York Times
The Oracle of Night is a groundbreaking history of the human mind told through our experience of dreams—from the earliest accounts to current scientific findings—and their essential role in the formation of who we are and the world we have made.
An investigation on a grand scale, it encompasses literature, anthropology, religion, and science, articulating the essential place dreams occupy in human culture and how they functioned as the catalyst that compelled us to transform our earthly habitat into a human world. Accessible, authoritative, and fascinating, this book gives us a wholly new way to understand this most basic of human experiences.