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The Best Books of 2021: Popular Science

Posted on 3rd November 2021 by Mark Skinner

Whether it's building the perfect science library with Richard Dawkins, journeying through our immune system with Philipp Dettmer or getting into the minds of violent criminals with Gwen Adshead, 2021 has been scientifically proven to be a fantastic year for popular science books. Ranging across medicine, astronomy, philosophy and more, check out our pick of the best from the last twelve months.

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Perfect reading for fans of A Short History of Nearly Everything, this entertaining and informative volume from two bestselling authors drops trivia and busts myths about how the world came into existence and how it really works.
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In this witty, enthusiastic love letter to science, the comedian and podcast host discusses everything from constellations to climate with astronauts, neuroscientists and fellow comics in a bid to demonstrate that science is both accessible and exciting.
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Collating Dawkins’s pieces on great science writers and the theories that they espouse, Books Do Furnish a Life is a masterful compendium of lightly-worn learning and confirmation of the author’s remarkable insight.

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Inspired by Green’s phenomenally popular podcast of the same name, this eclectic collection of beautifully crafted essays touches on everything from spherical bacteria to Taco Bell breakfast menus – all linked by their relevance to this current, Anthropocene age.

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The culmination of an awe-inspiring visual project, Atlas of the Invisible renders vast amounts of data - from global anxiety levels to the effects of climate change - accessible and understandable through incredibly detailed and beautifully designed cartography.
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Utilising scientific analysis to determine the root causes of modern socio-economic and political problems, Heying and Weinstein's engrossing volume ranges from dietary woes to sleep deprivation and toxic parenting.

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An antidote to the gloomier forecasts of impending climate disaster, Bill Gates's sprightly and infectiously proactive book offers practicable, sustainable solutions to reversing global climate change.
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Putting the current climate emergency in its proper historical context for the first time, Bell salutes marginalised warning voices from the past and chronicles our ever-changing energy systems in this definitive volume.
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In a series of enlightening interviews, the legendary naturalist and conservationist offers sage advice on tackling the climate crisis, emphasising that time has not yet run out to save the planet.

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Examining the past, present and future of food through edibles that are at the risk of vanishing forever, Eating to Extinction is an urgent, eye-opening book that invites us to reflect on the people, places and stories behind the food we consume.

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Tracing the vexed history of attitudes to women’s health from witch trials and Hysteria to the present day, Cleghorn’s volume demystifies a wealth of misdiagnoses from male physicians and psychiatrists.

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A gripping, inspirational account of the race to create a functioning vaccine to combat the spread of Covid-19, Vaxxers is the story of two scientists who have accomplished something truly remarkable at a pace that few people ever thought possible.
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In this major study of the scientific mission to combat the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, leading scientist Farrar gives a compelling insight into the challenges of responding to an unprecedented medical emergency and how governments around the world reacted.

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In characteristically riveting prose, the author of The Big Short tells the eye-opening, shocking story of the group of maverick scientists who foretold the coronavirus pandemic.

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Marshalling a wealth of data to show the effects of coronavirus in objective terms, Covid By Numbers is the ultimate guide for understanding the pandemic and its ever-unfurling consequences.
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From the creator of Youtube phenomenon Kurzgesagt – in a Nutshell comes a stunningly produced, full-colour voyage into the myriad wonders of the human immune system which brings the drama and conflict taking place into the human body to enthralling life.
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One of the most indispensable – yet also most neglected – substances in the world, slime gets the wide-ranging and enthralling history it deserves in Wedlich's addictive, witty volume.
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The forensic pathologist and bestselling author of Unnatural Causes dissects twenty-four of his most fascinating autopsies from across the seven ages of human existence, revealing as much about the ways we all live as the manners in which we die.
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Unflinching, courageous and devastatingly honest, Life on a Knife’s Edge documents the intense pressure, impossible decisions and inspirational patients that make up the lot of a top brain surgeon.
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The author of How to Change Your Mind turns his attention to a trio of psychoactive plants that humans have used to change consciousness in this entertaining and illuminating volume on a seldom explored topic.

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Uniting the acclaimed authors of Thinking Fast and Slow and Nudge, Noise is a deeply fascinating dive into the world of decision making and how to successfully separate the distracting hubbub of others from the core action at hand.
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This fascinating book from an award-winning neurologist explores some of the most mysterious psychosomatic illnesses that have broken out in specific communities around the world, testing the boundaries of scientific understanding.
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Bracingly revisionist and deeply fascinating, Seth's rigorous new analysis of human consciousness is a game-changing volume for our understanding of the interrelationship between perception and reality.

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An engrossing mélange of case studies, insights from literature and fairy tales and cutting edge scientific research, O’Keane examines the inter-relationship of memory and experience and how both become fractured by the ravages of mental illness.
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The neuropsychologist who discovered the brain’s mechanism for dreaming returns with a jaw-dropping insight into human consciousness that reframes everything we know about the workings of the mind.

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One of Britain’s leading forensic psychiatrists shares the eye-opening insights that she has gained providing therapy to countless violent criminals and calls for greater compassion and shared humanity in the face of complex and emotive psychological issues.

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In the sequel to his bestselling 12 Rules for Life, Peterson interprets the wisdom of ancient philosophers and draws from his personal experience and psychology to formulate more guidelines for a meaningful life.
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The revered thinker tackles the subject of rationality, asking how supreme human achievement can co-exist with wilful belief of outlandish conspiracy theories and fake news and expounding on the intellectual tools required to make modern life more rational.

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Exploring three great frontiers of knowledge – science, history and psychology – bestselling author and philosopher A.C. Grayling constructs a compelling narrative of humanity’s projects of discovery and the exciting areas of understanding that are only just opening up.

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In this eye-opening and highly entertaining volume, the bestselling author of The Creativity Code explores the history and applications of mathematical shortcuts and shares clever strategies to make complex dilemmas in our daily life less complex.
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Profound and captivating, What’s the Use? is an ode to mathematics, exploring the myriad of ways in which its applications are hard at work behind the scenes of our everyday life, from politics to food deliveries to kidney transplants.
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In Helgoland, one of the greatest communicators of modern theoretical physics celebrates the rebellious spirit of the early quantum physicists and presents his own fascinating theory of how our world fundamentally exists through relations and events.
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The celebrated author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Frankissstein delivers a dozen characteristically astute essays concerning the uses and abuses of Artificial Intelligence.
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The acclaimed biographer of Steve Jobs describes the world-changing gene-editing invention CRISPR and its remarkable creator, and asks whether the benefits of controlling our DNA outweigh the potential alarming consequences of its misuse.
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An indispensable guide to the gap emerging between human and technological capabilities, Azhar's piercing analysis provides practical solutions to a range of concerning problems.

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The authors of The Planets take readers on a spectacular journey through the outer reaches of our universe charting its remarkable history and the forces that will ultimately destroy it.
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Marking the sixtieth anniversary of the first manned space flight, Beyond chronicles the legendary astronaut Yuri Gagarin's historic journey as the first human to leave the planet in the Vostok 1 spacecraft with the pace and exhilaration of a thriller.
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From surprising details on space travel to explaining why the dinosaurs faced extinction, astronomer Florian Freistetter explores the history of the cosmos and our place in it through a fascinating account of one hundred stars.

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Approaching the creation of the universe from a fresh and fascinating angle, CERN physicist Tonelli traces seven cosmological epochs and the development of competing historical theories about how everything first began.
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In ten brilliant, bite-sized essays about one of the most fundamental aspects of our existence, Colin Stuart explores the nature of time and draws from physics, history, philosophy, geology and more to offer the reader a delightful journey of discovery.
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Painting a mesmerising, deeply informative picture of our nearest planetary neighbour, Dr Simon Morden guides the reader through the astonishing natural history of Mars from the planet’s origins 4.5 billion years ago to its fascinating present.
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