The Best Science Books for Holiday Gifting

Looking for science-themed gifts this holiday season? Consider giving one of these wonderful new nonfiction books as a present. Whether the recipient is an aspiring young scientist or the head of their own lab, these books are sure to captivate and inspire. Perhaps one will even end up on your own wish list this year!

This list is organized by the suggested gift recipient, and there’s something here for everyone. But keep in mind, good science writing often transcends the reader’s interests or passions. Don’t be afraid to try giving someone something new – you might just inspire them to start a new passion.

Remember to shop local this year to support independent bookstores!

The Best Books to Give This Holiday Season

For the fossil collector or paleontology enthusiast:

The Dinosaur Artist: Obsession, Betrayal, and the Earth’s Ultimate Trophy Quest (Sept 2018) is a beautiful piece of narrative journalism by New Yorker writer Paige Williams. It follows the adventurous story of Eric Prokopi, who in 2012 tried to sell “a super Tyrannosaurus skeleton” from Mongolia. This book is all about the risky business of fossil collecting and smuggling. A riveting story about fossils.

For the climate change warrior:

This is the Way the World Ends: How Droughts and Die-offs, Heat Waves and Hurricanes Are Converging on America (Sept 2018) by environmental expert Jeff Nesbit persuades its reader to consider the consequences of climate change: how, if we continue on our current path, we will lose our home here on Earth. A powerful new look at climate change.

For the one interested in artificial intelligence and data:

Hello World: Being Human in the Age of Algorithms (Sept 2018) by mathematics lecturer  and computer scientist Hannah Fry is a fascinating – and at times, startling – book about the presence of algorithms in our everyday lives: how they make (and influence our own) decisions. Wonderful introductory explanation of data science (including how our online data is used), artificial intelligence, and the use and function of algorithms. Very introductory approach to complex subjects.

For those who love whales and their history:

Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth’s Most Awesome Creatures (June 2018) by paleobiologist Nick Pyenson is a fascinating look at the natural history of the whale. Pyenson, curator of the Smithsonian’s fossil whale collection, indulges readers with the details of life as a scientist in the field – discovering, digging up, and preserving fossils. Throughout the narrative, he shares the evolutionary history of whales – and makes predictions about what their future may entail. Wonderful and easy to read.

For the advocate (or skeptic) of gender equality in science:

Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong – and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story (March 2018) by science journalist Angela Saini is a captivating, in-depth look at why women have been viewed as inferior for centuries. Through careful examinations of the pseudoscience fueling misconceptions and sexist stereotypes – set alongside recent research illustrating Saini’s points – she makes a persuasive argument we should give up the whole notion of women being inferior, biologically or otherwise. Firm, touching, and earnest read you could give to your best friend or your worst enemy. Buy yourself a copy while you’re at it – and if you’re feeling particularly generous, make a donation to this GoFundMe and get Saini’s book put in schools and the hands of young woman across the world.

For those raising a teenager:

Inventing Ourselves: the Secret Life of the Teenage Brain (May 2018) by neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore is this year’s recipient of the Royal Society’s Science Book Prize. This book is particularly fascinating because Blakemore focuses on her own research, which specializes adolescents. This beautiful book educates the reader on how we form our identities and our selves throughout adolescence – and how we could be doing better at raising young adults. This is somewhat of a dense book, but full of interesting content and anecdotes from the author herself. Perfect for the educated and interested parent or curious adult individual. 

For the one who’s always saying, “Did you know…?”:

Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets to Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live (Nov 2018) by biologist and bestselling author Rob Dunn is best summarized as “A natural history of the wilderness in our homes, from the microbes in our showers to the crickets in our basements.” This captivating and educational book is sure to provide countless facts and figures to entertain and inform the know-it-all in your life. Great one to buy for yourself, too!

For the aspiring psychologist or lucid dreamer:

Why We Dream: The Transformative Power of Our Nightly Journey (Nov 2018) by science journalist Alice Robb takes a look at the fascinating things happening in our brain while we dream. Her book explores the concept of lucid dreaming and its likely purpose according to neuroscience. An interesting and friendly introduction to neuropsychology and the science of sleep. 

For those interested in the science of psychedelics:

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence (May 2018) by bestselling author and journalist Michael Pollan is a “brave adventure into the medical and scientific revolution taking place around psychedelic drugs”. This daring book is the perfect gift for an adventurous soul interested in challenging conventional thought and fascinated by the edge of science. 

That’s it for this year! If you feel a book deserves to be on this list, please leave a comment below sharing your recommendation and who you think it would make a great gift for. Help others find good science books!

Please note: All of these books were selected by myself independent of publisher influence or sponsorship. I received no compensation from the authors or their publishing houses for suggesting these titles. You know, just in case that might affect your gift-giving decisions somehow.

Published by Sarah Olson Michel

Science writer and professional bookworm. Wrangling horses and microbes in the Pacific Northwest. Aspiring old cat lady. Genderqueer (she/they).

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