Reading is one of the greatest opportunities for boosting our knowledge during our lifetimes. Almost anybody can do it, and it plays a big role in opening up the mind. 2019 is getting off to a quick start, and the Science Non-Fiction genre is already promising interesting reads for this year. Here are the top 10 books we are looking forward to reading this year.
Ten Scientific Books to Have on Your Shelf in 2019
Remembering: What 50 Years of Research with Famous Amnesia Patient H.M. Can Teach Us about Memory and How It Works by Donald G. MacKay
The case of H.M. has contributed so much to the scientific fields that study memory. It is nearly automatic to refer to this iconic case of the twentieth century when discussing memory. As a patient who had his hippocampus destroyed after surgery, H.M’s case shed light on how memory operates in the brain and how memory disorders may may affect it. Now, Donald Mackay brings us his side of the story and what H.M.’s case did for the study of the mind and the brain. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker calls the book “an accessible and entertaining invitation to the science of memory through one of the most important case studies in the history of science.”
The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells
Climate Change is a slow-moving threat, but it is also the biggest threat of our generation. David Wallace-Wells sounds the alarm yet again in his 2019 book, The Uninhabitable Earth. Here’s what best selling author, Andrew Solomon wrote on the book:
“David Wallace-Wells has produced a willfully terrifying polemic that reads like a cross between Stephen King and Stephen Hawking. The Uninhabitable Earth hits you like a comet, with an overflow of insanely lyrical prose about our pending Armageddon. Written with verve and insight and an eerie gusto for its own horrors, it comes just when we need it; it could not be more urgent than it is at this moment. I hope everyone will read it and be afraid.”
W. Thomas Boyce is a well-known pediatrician whose work has helped many parents with raising their children. His new book explores how two types of children—the dandelion ((hardy, resilient, healthy), and the orchid (sensitive, susceptible, fragile)—can survive in this world. Here’s what UCSC psychiatry professor Nancy Alder wrote about this book:
“This book fills an important need. Tom Boyce’s elegantly simple characterization of dandelion and orchid children belies the complexity and rigor of the research that informs it. His book shows parents why the same conditions that may be good for one of their children will not be best for the other.”
Mama’s Last Hug: Animal and Human Emotions by Frans De Waal
In the mid-twentieth century, Harry Harlow had a huge breakthrough while studying primates in a Wisconsin Zoo. He gave us one of the biggest insides into the development and nurturing of children: love counts. This, of course, was shown through primates, who show huge similarities to humans. Now, in 2019, Frans De Waal‘s book, Mama’s Last Hug, explores what other things makes humans no different from other species, especially the chimpanzee that captivated many hearts, Mama. Here’s part of the description of De Waal’s work:
“De Waal discusses facial expressions, the emotions behind human politics, the illusion of free will, animal sentience, and, of course, Mama’s life and death. The message is one of continuity between us and other species, such as the radical proposal that emotions are like organs: we don’t have a single organ that other animals don’t have, and the same is true for our emotions.”
The Shape of a Life: One Mathematician’s Search for the Universe’s Hidden Geometry by Shing-Tung Yau & Steve Nadis
A memoir and a journey into the interesting mind of mathematician Shing-Tung Yau, this book could surprise many in 2019. Here’s a description of what you can expect:
“Harvard geometer and Fields medalist Shing-Tung Yau has provided a mathematical foundation for string theory, offered new insights into black holes, and mathematically demonstrated the stability of our universe. In this autobiography, Yau reflects on his improbable journey to becoming one of the world’s most distinguished mathematicians. Beginning with an impoverished childhood in China and Hong Kong, Yau takes readers through his doctoral studies at Berkeley during the height of the Vietnam War protests, his Fields Medal–winning proof of the Calabi conjecture, his return to China, and his pioneering work in geometric analysis.”
The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind: My Tale of Madness and Recovery by Barbara Lipska & Elaine McArdle
When people want to find out about how the human mind goes mad because of neurological irregularities, many readers turned to the great Oliver Sacks. His well-detailed tales on the brain and how it functions or doesn’t are always the go-to reads for many. But, there’s something more intriguing when the writer of the story is the receiver of such atypical function in the brain. Barbara Lipska‘s books follow the steps of Jill B. Taylor‘s My Stroke of Insight and Susannah Cahalan‘s groundbreaking Brain on Fire, by describing her neurological, clinical case. As the description of the book explains:
“At the height of her career, Barbara Lipska—a leading expert on the neuroscience of mental illness—was diagnosed with melanoma that had spread to her brain. Within months, her frontal lobe, the seat of cognition, began shutting down. She exhibited dementia and schizophrenia-like symptoms that terrified her family and coworkers.”
Skeleton Keys: The Secret Life of Bone by Brian Switek
Who knew that we needed a book for bones? Brian Switek‘s book is sure to give us a fun read about the culture, history, and science of bones. Carl Zimmer, who had a great year with one of the best science books of 2018, She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity wrote:
“Brian Switek writes with remarkable grace about the natural world. In Skeleton Keys, he looks inward, making us keenly aware of the marvels of the bones that give us the scaffolding we need to survive. Every chapter has some surprise, told in elegant tales, that you will repeat to your friends.”
Cosmos: Possible Worlds by Ann Druyan
Ann Druyan is hugely credited for bringing and producing the amazing show Cosmos. Moreover, her husband was none other than famed cosmologist and science educator, Carl Sagan. Her 2019 book—with the same name as the show and the 1980s book written by her late husband—is described as a sequel to his book that inspired many to dream about the cosmos. With a foreword by everybody’s favorite astrophysicist, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and her keen eye for exporting the strange happenings in the universe, Druyan’s work is sure to satisfy our hunger for the unknown.
In 2017, Matthew Walker‘s book, Why We Sleep, became a massive hit. Finally, a neuroscientist and expert on the research of sleep gave us a complete rundown of how sleep works. Now, another neuroscientist, Guy Leschziner, dives in into the mysterious world of sleep, and it will likely blow us away. This time around, more obscure phenomena like nightmares, insomnia, night apnea and sleep paralysis will take center stage. Meir Kryger, a professor at Yale University wrote about the work:
“The Nocturnal Brain combines two of my favorite things―humanity and medical science. Dr. Leschziner weaves wonderful stories that highlight how sleep disorders affect the lives and health of patients and their families. Along the way we are guided into the fantastic science of sleep. What a wonderful journey!”
Everything in Its Place: First Loves and Last Tales by Oliver Sacks
Arguably the most awaited book in 2019 is the final book of the iconic neurologist and medicine’s poet laureate, Oliver Sacks. The British born doctor was a superb storyteller when it comes to the brain. His books like The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Hallucinations, and Awakenings are essential to any person who’s curious about the nervous system. Awakenings was turned into a filmed starring the legendary Robin Williams, who played Sacks in the movie with Robert DeNiro.
After his death, Sacks’ collection of essays, Gratitude, became an elegant and beautiful celebration of life and the feeling of not existing anymore. Later, in 2017, another collection of essays, A River of Consciousness, was published. In that book, Sacks’ innate creativity and relentless curiousness drove readers to explore different scientific fields. Now, this year, Sacks’ final work will surely give us the the greatest last farewell that he could give us through his writing. Everything in Its Place has the following description:
“Oliver Sacks, scientist and storyteller, is beloved by readers for his neurological case histories and his fascination and familiarity with human behavior at its most unexpected and unfamiliar. Everything in Its Place is a celebration of Sacks’ myriad interests, told with his characteristic compassion and erudition, and in his luminous prose.”
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