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The Best Books of 2023: Popular Science

Posted on 18th October 2023 by Mark Skinner

The best popular science books of 2023 have taken readers from the outer reaches of the solar system to deep under the planet's surface, via medicine, nuclear physics, mathematics, biology and more. Scientifically proven to be sensational reads, discover the popular science books that we recommend this year. 

 

Blasting off into the publishing stratosphere this year, Tim Peake put the human story at the centre of space exploration whilst Carlo Rovelli conveyed grand astronomical concepts with his trademark enthusiasm and accessible style. Elsewhere, Lawrence M. Krauss and Giorgio Parisi brought physics to life and Mustafa Suleyman sounded a note of caution in humanity's rush to embrace A.I.

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From the first moon walk to the future of space travel, the astronaut and author of Limitless delivers a fascinating and highly readable history of the remarkable individuals who have taken space exploration to where it is today, as well as shedding light on what's coming next.
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Fizzing with the adventure and excitement of the unknown, the physicist and bestselling author of Helgoland takes readers on a thrilling and enlightening journey to the edge of theory and experiment.
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The acclaimed space scientist and TV presenter Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock celebrates the wonders of astronomy in this essential guide to stargazing and naked-eye observation.
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Following the interstellar fortunes of four private companies, the author of Elon Musk tracks the progress of the new space race run by mavericks and entrepreneurs and asks searching questions about where it could all lead.
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A vivid and eye-opening account of one of the least understood yet most important tools in contemporary science, Pontzen’s highly engaging book guides the reader through the history of cosmic simulations.
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Turning the limelight on cosmology's greatest unknowns, this mesmerising book from the author of The Greatest Story Ever Told...So Far introduces the reader to the topics that will shape the state of science for the next few decades.
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The bestselling author of In Search Of Schrodinger's Cat delivers a truly illuminating volume that reveals the fascinating explanations to some very simple questions.
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A love letter to the cultural value of science and its role in society, this enthralling book from physics Nobelist Giorgio Parisi explores the network of experiences, ideas and principles that connects different disciplines from biology to finance and beyond.
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From fleeing the Nazis to cheering up his parrot Bibo, Graydon's masterly biography of Albert Einstein focuses on the maverick physicist's extraordinary life story as much as his scientific genius.
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Authoritative yet accessible, this addition to Susskind's superlative physics series tackles Einstein's theory of relativity with cogent description and a new collaborator.
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The co-founder of DeepMind reveals his thoughts and concerns about the inexorable rise of Artificial Intelligence in this urgent and provocative volume that calls for better preparedness for the imminent technological onslaught.
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The author of the hilarious Mr Gum children's books takes on ChatGPT in a side-splitting quest to discover whether A.I. really does sound the death knell for creative industries.
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Exposing the dangers of processed food and the global food system respectively, Chris van Tulleken and Henry Dimbleby delivered shocking slices of investigative writing this year, whilst Cat Bohannon and Lewis Dartnell revealed just how completely humanity is shaped by its biology and Jonathan Kennedy and Tom Ireland probed the consequences of infectious disease and viruses.  

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Passionate and eye-opening, Van Tulleken's authoritative account of the damage that ultra-processed food is doing to our bodies, our health and the planet makes for essential reading.
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The co-founder of the Leon restaurant chain and author of the National Food Strategy reveals the shocking truth behind the global food system, including extensive damage to both human health and the environment, in this vitally important volume.
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As witty and accessible as it is illuminating and deeply researched, Cat Bohannon's revisionist work reveals the specific science behind the development of the female sex and its crucial role in the evolutionary success of our species.
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A treasure trove of information, surprising discoveries and personal reflections from explorer and expert archaeologist Ludovic Slimak, The Naked Neanderthal is a captivating, bracing introduction to our prehistoric ancestors.
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From the bestselling author of Origins, Being Human is an absorbing investigation into the various ways our biology has shaped our societies, economies, relationships and progress throughout history.
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The fascinating story of the microbiome laid out in eye-opening, accessible detail by scientist and surgeon Kinross, Dark Matter conveys the importance of this genetic universe inside of us and how it is under threat from our globalised lifestyles and the ongoing environmental crisis.
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From the dawn of humanity to the Industrial Revolution and beyond, Kennedy's authoritative and revelatory account of how infectious diseases have fundamentally altered the course of human history makes for jaw-dropping reading.
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Seeking to counter the bad press viruses have received over the past few years, Ireland's engrossing volume spotlights phages and the fine work these viruses do infecting and destroying harmful bacteria.
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Drawing on hundreds of interviews with experts, patients and activists, MacPhail's definitive investigation into the inexorable rise of allergies also seeks remedies both medical and social for an ever-growing problem.
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Interrogating the dramatic yet largely undocumented changes that women undergo during pregnancy and motherhood, Jones' fascinating study reveals why we must devote more time to examining the effects of 'matrescence.'
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On the 75th anniversary of the NHS, Whitaker reflects on how political, medical and sociological factors have changed both the roles of the GP and the patient in this clear-headed yet passionate and highly informed inquiry.
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A bold, brave account of living with chronic illness, Some of Us Just Fall documents the years of medical misdiagnosis Atkin endured as well as exploring the chimera of the 'nature cure.'
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A meticulously researched account of one of the biggest medical cover-ups of the twentieth century, Vanderbes' volume dissects the American Thalidomide scandal in shocking detail.
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From tracking the seismic changes that have taken place beneath humanity's feet with Christopher Somerville and Clive Oppenheimer to urgent enquiries about the current state of the planet from Johns Vaillant and Vidal, get more acquainted with the awesome properties of Earth with our pick of the year's best books below.   

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A sweeping view of evolution across five extinctions, this jaw-dropping book accompanying the groundbreaking Netflix series of the same name depicts an epic battle for survival on Planet Earth.
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Globe-spanning and revelatory, Oppenheimer's immersive account of the story of volcanoes blends cultural history, science, myth and adventure into a lyrical and inspiring masterwork.
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Taking the reader on an immersive journey from the Outer Hebrides to the Thames Estuary and from ancient farming traditions to the current climate crisis, the acclaimed author of Ships of Heaven delivers a passionate and spellbinding exploration of how the land below our feet has affected human history.
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Full of fascinating science and written with gripping narrative flair, Big Meg unravels the mystery of the Megalodon - the legendary ferocious marine predator that has left an enduring mark on human imagination.
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Blending marine biology, history and climate change concerns with novelistic skill, Blue Machine is a spellbinding exploration of the ocean – its complex, interlinked system and the multitude of ways life on the rest of the planet depends on it.
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Through the story of the twenty-first century's most intense urban fire, Vaillant examines the devastating effect of climate change on the temperature of the planet and how deadly wildfires will only become more prevalent.
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Exposing the deadly links between environmental damage and the rise of global pandemics, Vidal's incisive book argues for a recalibration of our relationship with the natural world to preserve the health of both the planet and humanity.
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The Mayor of London - diagnosed with asthma at the age of 43 due to the appalling pollution in the capital - presents his seven-step plan for environmental activism and arguing against sceptics and Climate Change deniers.
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An invaluable guide to all the issues surrounding eco-anxiety, It's Not Just You argues for a reframing of the debate around the climate crisis and mental health to focus on associated injustices such as racism, sexism and capitalism.
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Tracing the remarkable workings of the human brain with page-turning flair, authors such as Andy Clark, Professor David Nutt and Richard Wingate produced mind-blowing volumes on neuroscience this year, whilst books on the application of mathematics by Marcus du Sautoy, Kate Kitagawa and Eugenia Cheng added up to highly informative and entertaining reading.   

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Offering radical new perspectives on the ways we communicate, neuroscientist Shane O'Mara's luminous volume explores what happens in our brain when we talk and the wide-reaching effects of this deeply human activity on individuals, groups and societies.
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Groundbreaking and revisionist, philosopher and cognitive scientist Clark's account of how the brain is an active agent in forging our experiences rather than a passive one makes for revelatory reading.
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Both witty and wise, Gregg's survey of human intelligence and its worth relative to the animal kingdom is playful, provocative and extremely eye-opening.
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Taking a radically revisionist look at the history and practice of psychedelics, leading neuropsychopharmacologist Nutt argues persuasively that such substances can have a game-changing effect on a wide variety of mental health conditions.
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Lyrically written and revelatory, Wingate's exploration of our brain draws out the differences between and purposes of these remarkable cells in exquisite detail.
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Written in pithy, insightful bite-sized chunks, Middleton's enlightening account of living with ADHD, autism and neurodivergence is a clarion call for inclusion and understanding in modern society.
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The acclaimed mathematician and author of The Ten Equations That Rule the World explains the quartet of easily applied approaches to the problems we all face on a daily basis.
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As entertaining as it is eye-opening, this stimulating volume from the author of The Maths of Life and Death explores the art of prediction and offers indispensable tips on how to recognise phony forecasts and make better ones yourself.
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A captivating gift for any game aficionado, this brilliant book from the mathematician and author of The Creativity Code explores the integral place games play in human culture around the world, as well as revealing how to use maths to up your chances of winning.
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Revisionist and inclusive, Kitagawa and Revell's lucid history of mathematics highlights the unsung trailblazers of the discipline's past, from the Arabic scholars of the House of Wisdom to the 'lady computers' who revolutionised astronomy.
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Passionate, eye-opening and accessible, Is Maths Real? is a love letter to the curious spirit of the discipline from mathematician and author of X+Y Eugenia Cheng.
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Christmas at Waterstones

Best Books of 2023

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