- It must not be a text-book or overly technical treatment, it should be something intended for a more general audience, something you could find in a well stocked bookstore.
- At the same time, it can't be lame. I know that word can mean lots of things, but I want works that are "dense," not picture books or coffee table books.
- I'd prefer at least 2 of the 5 to be geology or earth science related, the other 3 could be any other branch of science.
- I'd like most of them to be relatively recent books, in other words, I don't want this to be a tour of the classic science texts of yesteryear.
- No biographies. As much as I like those, I want the main purpose of the book to be explaining or exposing some aspect of science.
- No wilderness manifestos. I love reading Ed Abbey, but it isn't what I am looking for right now.
So I have an idea of some books that fit this bill. I have already read them, but they may give you a good idea of what I mean.
- The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. This is one of the best books, let along science books, I have ever read. It is fat and intimidating, but impossible to put down.
- The Age of the Earth by Brent Dalrymple. This book grew out of material he had prepared for a court case, and therefore aimed at people with no background. Still, as a geochronologist, I found it complete and fascinating.
- A Beast the Color of Winter by Douglas Chadwick. This is a natural history of mountain goats. In college I was lucky enough to work on a field project in northern British Columbia. We spent a lot of time in remote camps, high in the coast ranges. I was, and still am amazed by Mountain Goats, and how stupid and timid they made me look trekking around in the mountains. This book was a surprising read for me, I originally bought it hoping for good goat pictures, but the way he describes the goats is just amazing. This book also begins with one of my favorite quotes :
"It is only a statement of physical fact to say: Mountains are as close as the surface of our planet reaches towards the heavens. The purest air, the purest water, and the purest light on earth are found among these great uplifted forms."
Excellent, let's see what kind of a list we can generate, pass this along to anyone you can think of, at the very least, even if no one else wants to join the challenge, it would be great for me to compile a list of books that we professional scientists consider to be among the best.
So here is where you come in. First, I solicit volunteers to join me, with a start date of March 1. Second, I need suggestions for books, I don't care what discipline, just let me know what you consider to be the best science writing around.