(Many of the book descriptions come from

K-12 Education Web Directory from the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Physics, Astronomy, Cosmology, History of Science

Cohen, I. Bernard.  The Birth of a New Physics -In this fresh account of the scientific ferment following the Renaissance, Dr. Cohen tells, through the lives of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton, the story of the serach for a new physics - a physics to describe the dynamics of a moving universe. 

Conant,James. Science and Common Sense -

Einstein, Albert and Infeld, Leopold.  The Evolution of Physics -   With remarkable clarity and simplicity Einstein and his collaborator trace the ideas behind Relativity.... A masterly exposition of physics thought.  To have presented a clear, penetrating account of the main stages in the evolution of modern physics without the use of mathematics is an extraordinary feat. 

Feynman, Richard, Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman. -  In this phenomenal bestseller, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard P. Feynman recounts his adventures trading ideas on atomic physics with Einstein and Bohr and ideas on gambling with Nick the Greek, painting a naked female toreador, accompanying a ballet on his bongodrums--and much else of an eyebrow-raising and hilarious nature.

Feynman, Richard, The Character of Physical Law - In these Messenger Lectures, originally delivered at Cornell University and recorded for television by the BBC, Richard Feynman offers an overview of selected physical laws and gathers their common features into one broad principle of invariance. He maintains at the outset that the importance of a physical law is not "how clever we are to have found it out, but . . . how clever nature is to pay attention to it," and tends his discussions toward a final exposition of the elegance and simplicity of all scientific laws. Rather than an essay on the most significant achievements in modern science, The Character of Physical Law is a statement of what is most remarkable in nature. Feynman's enlightened approach, his wit, and his enthusiasm make this a memorable exposition of the scientist's craft.

Feynman, Richard. Feynam Lectures in Physics (Particularily Vol.1) - For well grounded high school students. A breezy, insightful, yet quantiatively accurate intro to physics that doesn't bore a smart student like so many of the "standard" texts.  This is a three volume set. The set explains just about every subject in physics. What makes this set so good is its emphasis on the physical comcepts rather than on heavy mathematics derivation. The explanations are original and the examples are practical in both pure researches and applications. If you like physics, this set is priceless.  Please note that the other books, especially the last one, demands an extensive understanding of calculus

Feynman, Richard. Six Easy Pieces - From 1961-1963, Feynman, at the California Institute of Technology, delivered a series of lectures that revolutionized the teaching ofphysics arond the world.  This book, taken from these famous Lectures on Physics, reprsents the most accessible material from this series.  

Gamow, George, Mr. Tompkins in PaperbackGamow was a Russian physicist who once tried to escape from Russia by rowboat across the Black Sea. He later got out via a more conventional route, and ended up at the University of Colorado. The book is a humorous and very good account of relativity and quantum physics.   First appearing over 50 years ago, George Gamow's Mr. Tompkins became known and loved by thousands of readers as the bank clerk whose fantastic adventures lead him into a world inside the atom. A new Foreword by Roger Penrose introduces Mr. Tompkins to a new generation of readers and reviews his adventures in light of current developments in physics.

Gamow, George 1-2-3 Infinity - The book that introduced me  to the wonders of science. I read this book long long ago (30 years) in a place far far away (in Chenappady, India where I was born and raised). I was in high school and Prof. Gamow introduced me to the wonders of science - everything from Fermat's last theorem to the theory of relativity to the stars and galaxies and atoms and electrons. This book influenced my career choices; it taught me to look up and wonder, to sit down and think, and to appreciate the wonders of science and the greatness of the minds of the scientists who explored and invented and dreamed up science and math. I read the book from cover to cover again recently, and I still loved it! Thank you Prof.Gamow.

Gamow, George Thirty Years That Shook Physics  - The years between 1900 and 1930 brought a drastic change in people's view of the universe.   It was a period of breath-taking progress in theoretical physics.  Here is an eminent theoretical physicist's retrospective view of these crucial developments, together with his recollections, both personal and professional of Planck, Bohr, de Broglie, Schrodinger, Heisenberg, Dirac, and other scientific giants. 

Green, Brian   The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory - There is an ill-concealed skeleton in the closet of physics: "As they are currently formulated, general relativity and quantum mechanics cannot both be right." Each is exceedingly accurate in its field: general relativity explains the behavior of the universe at large scales, while quantum mechanicsdescribes the behavior of subatomic particles. Yet the theories collide horribly under extreme conditions such as black holes or times close to the big bang. Brian Greene, a specialist in quantum field theory, believes that the two pillars of physics can be reconciled in superstring theory, a theory of everything. Superstring theory has been called "a part of 21st-century physics that fell by chance into the 20th century." In other words, it isn't all worked out yet. Despite the uncertainties--"string theorists work to find approximate solutions to approximate equations"--Greene gives a tour of string theory solid enough to satisfy the scientifically literate. Though Ed Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study is in many ways the human hero of The Elegant Universe, it is not a human-side-of-physics story. Greene's focus throughout is the science, and he gives the nonspecialist at least an illusion of understanding--or the sense of knowing what it is that you don't know. And that is traditionally the first step on the road to knowledge

Gleick, James, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard FeynmanGleick gives us a major biography of one of science's most endearing figures (except to snobs & frauds). Feynman's brilliance, independence, humanity are readably displayed. His contributions to physics are interpreted for the lay reader. More Feynman Sties.

Hawking, Stephen, A Brief History of Time - An account of relativity and its relation to astronomy and cosmology.

Koestler, Arthur, The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe -   Bringing the history of cosmology--from the Babylonians to Newton--to life in a masterly synthesis, Koestler shows how the modern world-view replaced the medieval world-view in the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century.

Pagels, Heinz, The Cosmic Code:  Quantum Physics as the Language of Nature - It is a shame that this book is out of print. Pagels' lucid explanations of the quantum world are the best within lay science publishing.

Sagan, Carl, Cosmos - Based on Sagan's 13 part television series, "Cosmos" is about science in its broadest human context, and how science and civilization grew up together.

Shamos, Morris Herbert, Great Experiments in Physics: First Hand Accounts from Galileo to Einstein - Strongly recommend this book for everyone interested in physics. Professor Shamos did a fantastic job in collecting in one single book the experiments and original works of the main geniuses of the history of physics. It's so much more interesting and easy to understand the principles when you visualize the context in which they were developed. Such literature must be obligatory for every student of physics !!.

Shu, Frank H. The Physical Universe : An Introduction to Astronomy - The best non-major astro book ever written.    The problems range from very simple (algebraic) to those using calculus, but all are elegant and chosen to illustrate important ideas. This book will give you a back-of-the-envelope acquaintance with a very broad sweep of research areas in astronomy. This book also convinced me that Frank Shu is not only a great researcher, but a great teacher as well. I bought a new copy recently -- my old one wore out. I use it to introduce physics majors and colleagues interested in interdisciplinary work to astronomy. I have also used it to teach extra-bright (TAG accelerated college entrance program) 11-to-14-year-olds some fundamentals of astronomy and physics, and they loved it, too. Good for bright, interested people of any age who are not afraid to try.

Sobel, Dava.   Longitude:  The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time - The thorniest scientific problem of the eighteenth century was how to determine longitude. Many thousands of lives had been lost at sea over the centuries due to the inability to determine an east-west position. This is the engrossing story of the clockmaker, John "Longitude" Harrison, who solved the problem that Newton and Galileo had failed to conquer, yet claimed only half the promised rich reward.

Sobel, Dava. Galileo's Daughter:  A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love - Inspired by her long fascination with Galileo, and by the remarkable surviving letters of his daughter, which Sobel has translated into English for the first time, Galileo's Daughter is a book of great originality and power, a biography unlike any ever written on Galileo. Sobel, the author of the bestseller Longitude, brings Galileo to life as never before-boldly compelled to explain the truths he discovered, human in his frailties and faith, devoted to family, especially to his eldest daughter. The voices of Galileo and his daughter, Suor Maria Celeste, echo down the centuries through letters and writings, which Sobel masterfully weaves into her narrative, building toward the crescendo of history's most dramatic collision between science and religion. In the process, she illuminates an entire era, when the flamboyant Medici grand dukes became Galileo's patrons, when the bubonic plague wreaked its terrible devastation and prayer was the most effective medicine, when the Thirty Years' War tipped fortunes across Europe, and when one man fought, through his trial and betrayal by his former friend, Pope Urban VIII, to reconcile the Heaven he revered as a good Catholic with the heavens he revealed thorough his telescope. An unforgettable story, Galileo's Daughter is a stunning achievement. With forty black-and-white illustrations.

Trimble, Virgina. Visit to a Small Universe - Writing gracefully for the serious lay reader, Trimble, a physicist and science writer, begins in the Fertile Crescent, telling of the debates associated with such phenomena and physical structures as Cheops' pyramid and the Star of Bethlehem. Going out into space, she looks at the formation of galaxies, the life and death of stars, and dark matter; and returning to Earth, she discusses obstacles in the path of scientific research today and gives brief portraits of 20th-century astronomers.

Walker, Jearl, The Flying Circus of Physics - A great tool for the teacher...thought provoking!! I have utilized this book in my physics class, gifted and talented program and also in general classes. The book presents problems of a real nature and stimulates thought. This is the stuff that is missing in education today, it's the hook that gets students interested. This book is a collection of factoids that are explained in a straight foward manner by the author. I never new what "floaters" were prior to reading this book. Do you? I have seen them, little commas and dots that float in your field of vision, you look, you follow, move your eyes front and they are back. I usually see them at the beach. Need to know about firewalking or chimney collapse? Then you need this book. The old problems that often seem frivolous like "why is the sky blue" and where does the white go when snow melts, will often open discussion of spectrum analysis. I have utilized this resource to write thought provoking statements."

Weinberg, Stephen. Dreams of a Final Theory - An account of the current state of high energy physics, and its implications for philosophy and theology (and vice-versa). Weinberg won the Nobel Prize in Physics some years back, and he writes clearly.  Weinberg, the 1979 Nobel Prize-winner in physics, imagines the shape of a final theory and the effect its discovery would have on the human spirit. He gives a defense of reductionism--the impulse to trace explanations of natural phenomena to deeper and deeper levels--and examines the curious relevance of beauty and symmetry in scientific theories. Weinberg gives a personal account of the search for the laws of nature, and shares glimpses scientists have had from time to time that there is a deeper truth foreshadowing a final theory.

Whitney, Charles Allen. The Discovery of our Galaxy

Will, Clifford. Was Einstein Right? - A saga of modern science.  Everyone knows that Albert Einstein revolutionized the theory of gravity. But only experiment can tell whether he got it right. Will recounts in clear and nontechnical language the story of how Einstein's theory was put to the test in earth- and satellite-based experiments from the 1950's to the 1980's. He describes how it is actually possible to see space curve by making very accurate measurements in the solar system, and he explains how those measurements were made by the Mariner probe to Mars, by radar surveying of the planets, and by bouncing laser beams off the moon. From these highlights to the three naked Stanford professors whose experiment is still waiting to go up in the Shuttle, Will sets out every aspect of this fascinating story.

Biology and Chemistry

Curie, Eve. Madame Curie - Excellent work by a woman writer who is also the daughter of Madam Curie. I would recommend this book to all young women. It is an excellent account of a great woman who made a mark on history when (supposedly) women had little freedom or power. Ms. Curie (the writer) exhibits a great deal of love and devotion to her mother, yet remains objective.

Darwin, Charles.   Origin of the Species - It's hard to talk about The Origin of Species without making statements that seem overwrought and fulsome. But it's true: this is indeed one of the most important and influential books ever written, and it is one of the very few groundbreaking works of science that is truly readable. To a certain extent it suffers from the Hamlet problem--it's full of clichés! Or what are now clichés, but which Darwin was the first to pen. Natural selection, variation, the struggle for existence, survival of the fittest: it's all in here. Darwin's friend and "bulldog" T.H. Huxley said upon reading the Origin, "How extremely stupid of me not to have thought of that." Alfred Russel Wallace had thought of the same theory of evolution Darwin did, but it was Darwin who gathered the mass of supporting evidence--on domestic animals and plants, on variability, on sexual selection, on dispersal--that swept most scientists before it. It's hardly necessary to mention that the book is still controversial: Darwin's remark in his conclusion that "Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history" is surely the pinnacle of British understatement. --Mary Ellen Curtin

Davies, Paul, The Fifth Miracle : The Search for the Origin and Meaning of LifeHow did life begin? Did it start here, by blind chance or by necessity, or was Earth seeded by extraterrestrial visitors? (And, if so, how did they arise?) Physicist and science writer Paul Davies tackles these heavy questions and more in The Fifth Miracle: The Search for the Origin and Meaning of Life, a wide-ranging survey of the field of biogenesis. From the "Martian meteorite" ALH84001 to the hardy microorganisms living on--and under!--our sea beds, Davies looks for evidence pointing toward our first ancestor. His willingness to consider any possibility makes for a fun, fascinating journey through our solar system and beyond.  A detail book review.

Diamond, Jared . Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies - Life isn't fair--here's why: Since 1500, Europeans have, for better and worse, called the tune that the World has danced to. In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond explains the reasons why things worked out that way. It is an elemental question, and Diamond is not nearly the first to ask it. However, he performs a singular service by relying on scientific fact rather than specious theories of European genetic superiority. Diamond, a professor of physiology at UCLA, suggests that the geography of Eurasia was best suited to farming, the domestication of animals, and the free flow of information. The more populous cultures that developed as a result had more complex forms of government and communication--and increased resistance to disease. Finally, fragmented Europe harnessed the power of competitive innovation in ways that China did not. (For example, the Europeans used the Chinese invention of gunpowder to create guns and subjugate the New World.) Diamond's book is complex and a bit overwhelming. But the thesis he methodically puts forth--examining the "positive feedback loop" of farming, then domestication, then population density, then innovation, and on and on--makes sense. Written without favor, Guns, Germs, and Steel is good global historyA more detailed review

Faraday, Michael. The Chemical History of a CandleA course of lectures delivered before a juvenile audience at the Royal Institution. Edited, and with a pref. and notes,by William Crookes.

Fox Keller, Evelyn. A Feeling for the Organism:  The Life and Work of Barbara McClintockBarbara McClintock was one of the premier investigators in cytology and classical genetics, but her work was pushed out of the mainstream by the revolution in molecular biology in the middle of this century. Thirty years later, the simple truths sought by research scientists whose training was closer to physics than biology continued to prove elusive, and the discovery of transposons in bacteria marked the beginning of a revival of interest in her work. Keller's analysis of McClintock's difficulty in finding a place to work and her relations with other investigators is insightful and thought-provoking, not only about women in science, but about the role of dissent in the scientific community. A short autobiography.

Gould, Stephen JayEvolution & History of Life : A Science Masters Series Book (to be published in 9/99)

McPhee, John A., Annals of the Former World - "It's a real schlemazel," geologist Anita Harris said to McPhee as they examined geologic formations at a road cut along Interstate 80 near the Delaware Water Gap. "Not by accident is geology called geology. It's named for Gaea, the daughter of Chaos." The rocks are often chaotic, but the study of them is not in McPhee's pellucid presentation. His meaty book, adorned with 25 stunning landform maps, is the result of a 20-year project in which he set himself the goal of portraying geology and its practitioners in a way that would "arrest the attention of other people while achieving acceptability in the geologic community." He started with the intention of setting forth "a sort of cross section of North America at about the fortieth parallel" but wound up casting a much wider net. A measure of the scope of his tale is provided by the structure of Book 2: "In Suspect Terrain," which begins with a profile of Harris, examines the Delaware Water Gap as a fragment of the Appalachians, discusses the Appalachians and plate tectonics and presents the theory of continental glaciation. Book 2 and the four others fill out an absorbing picture of the former world--the North America of past geologic eras back to the beginning of the Mesozoic some 245 million years ago.

Thomas, Lewis, The Lives of a Cell - This book is excellent. It is thought provoking and reads well. In particular, it represents the some of the most interesting thought I have read on Man’s place in the world. Lewis Thomas impressed me with his ability to project, through short dialogs, many aspects of how we connect to the world and create a single concept of complete attachment with the planet. If we think a little more on how we are of the world, maybe our behavior will change for the better .

Watson, James. Double Helix: A personal account of the disicoveryi of the structure of DNA - James Watson's book, The Double Helix, gives the not-so-scientific public excellent insight into how the scientific process was put to work less than fifty years ago to make a discovery that changed everything we know about biology and medicine. In an age where science is becoming increasingly important yet even less understood, this book portrays science as the dectective story that it is while throwing a delightfully human light on the scientists whose passion it is to unravel the puzzell. A quick, enjoyable, and necessary read for anyone who is or ever has been interested in science, as well as anyone else who likes a good "detective" storyInfo. from the Nobel Foundation


Barrow, John D.. Pi In the sky - The book explores some interesting questions which lead to the origins, meaning and mystery of mathematics. He takes his readers from primitive counting to computability, from rituals of ancients to logic that govers our system, from Egyptian hieroglyphics to logical systems. He dwells into what exactly is mathematics, and why does it work.

Bell, Eric Temple, Men of mathematics - More of a casual book for those who love math, than a text on math history. Instead of focusing on the achievements and accomplishments, which could make the book very difficult to follow for those who are not math grad students, the book focuses on the personalities of the mathematicians. You do not need a high level of math background to enjoy this book... only an interest on math and math history.

Ekeland, Ivar. The broken dice, and other mathematical tales; and Mathematics and the Unexpected.

Gleick, James, ChaosThis book is a good if elementary account of chaos theory, which is important today in both physics and mathematics. James Gleick explains the theories behind the fascinating new science called chaos. Alongside relativity and quantum mechanics, it is being hailed as the twentieth century's third revolution.

Square, A (Edwin A. Abbott) Flatland; a romance of many dimensions. - Flatland is one of the very few novels about math and philosophy that can appeal to almost any layperson. Published in 1880, this short fantasy takes us to a completely flat world of two physical dimensions where all the inhabitants are geometric shapes, and who think the planar world of length and width that they know is all there is. But one inhabitant discovers the existence of a third physical dimension, enabling him to finally grasp the concept of a fourth dimension. Watching our Flatland narrator, we begin to get an idea of the limitations of our own assumptions about reality, and we start to learn how to think about the confusing problem of higher dimensions. The book is also quite a funny satire on society and class distinctions of Victorian England.


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