[Book Recommendations]: Books suggested by You!

Well, we asked our readers and friends to tell us about their favourite books related to Science and here’s a list of the most popular ones!

Physics and Philosophy by Werner Heisenberg

This classic account by Heisenberg explains the core ideas of the quantum revolution and his well-known Uncertainty Principle. ‘The theme of Heisenberg’s interpretation is that words and concepts familiar in daily life can lose their meaning in the world of relativity and quantum physics!’

“Dealing with Material science and Mysticism, it’s a perfect combination of two different dimension of knowledge.” – Satyajit Medha.

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The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

The selfish gene is one of the most fundamental books ever written. It has no single theme but a medley of themes. It largely explores the ideas of altruistic behaviour, competition and cooperation, nature of gene versus organisms, replicators of the life on earth, and ultimately the selfish gene. It combinedly leads us to think about the concepts of genetics and evolutionary biology. In a nutshell, the book is an account of evolution from the perspective of genes and how they struggle mindlessly to survive. The book is an exception by being both capable of changing science and reaching the public at the same time.

“Personally, I like the way the book is intriguing, witty and well written. It gives you an idea that shapes your analytical thinking throughout the entire read. The best part is the examples, you’ll find plenty of them. Anyone who loves ethology would find this book an absolute package. It’s really revolutionary.” – Priyadarshini Singh.

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Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynmann by Richard Feynmann

“Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman” is an autobiography by anecdote, a book full of fascinating stories and adventures. This book communicates a clear voice and a mischievous sense of humour of the author. Reading it is like listening to Feynman tell funny stories and tall tales about his life. The stories of his childhood, going to MIT, his teaching career, The Manhattan Project, his participation in Challenger disaster, participating with people who share different interests(e.g., Biology & Philosophy), his ventures into art and ‘samba’ music, and his curiosity about the things that range far more extensive than his expertise.
 
The main reason why I like this book is Feynman’s natural storytelling method. The stories are brief, compellingly entertaining, and communicates the experimental, investigative outlook on the world that I think is the hardest thing to capture. Feynman both tells excellent stories and, in the process, shows some of his analytically thinking.” – Saswata Sarkar.

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The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean

The book narrates the story of the Periodic table and its elements, particularly the rare ones: uniquely through stories. The stories not just amalgamate history and anecdotes but put into perspective the novel applications: everything in a manner that can excite a layman without a science background. Each chapter weaves together different elements with distinct themes like politics, war, health, art, and others. Stories of different elements merge seamlessly into one another. For example, initial travels of the author to a Scottish village Ytterby (which gave 4 elements!) to the presence of Ruthenium and Gold in trademarks Parker fountain pens used by him.
 
“The basic theme: Increasing the enthusiasm of a diverse target audience towards science and more importantly towards fundamental science. The writing style is involving yet jargon-free but doesn’t bypass the important scientific concepts. The book shows a path through which society can easily connect to fundamental science, appreciate applied science and keep the fire of curiosity burning bright within!” – Aditya Dixit.

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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The novel talks about a monstrous creature that was accidentally created by a scientist when one of his experiments went wrong. How his own invention leads the scientist to his doom forms the basis of the story. It deals with the themes of the obsessive pursuit of science, isolation and its consequences, human guilt and finally the need to check one’s actions.

“The story tells us how ruthless the protagonist is in his pursuit of scientific knowledge and how he alienates himself from human society which ultimately leads him to his doom. It certainly resonates with our modern society where we have lost the value of human relationships in our quest to build a scientifically advanced world.” – Atri Bhattacharya.

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How The Laser Happened – Adventures of a scientist by Charles H. Townes

It’s a historical take on the groundbreaking development of LASERs by none other than the great Charles Townes himself where he describes the conception of optical resonators leading to photon amplification in theory to the implementation of it in an actual experimental setup.

Townes writes about how his interest in the fundamentals of microwave spectroscopy lead to the invention of MASERs. The idea of which was then advanced into the optical regime to get optical MASERs which are called LASERs.

“The book in my opinion is one of the best examples of how fundamental, curiosity-driven research can potentially change the face of science over a period of several years. Something I think even Townes hadn’t anticipated fully. In the modern world, we use LASERs everywhere from studying ultrafast processes to LASER machining to bio-medical applications to then pointers we use for presentations and toys used by children. They are everywhere! But we should all take time to sit and realize how none of this would have been possible if Townes hadn’t kept his curiosity in fundamental microwave spectroscopy alive!” – Chirag Arora.

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What if? by Randall Monroe

This book contains answers Munroe gave to absurd and hypothetical questions on various scientific topics. The questions tend to be rather weird, assuming a scenario that is extremely unlikely and inquiring a logical conclusion to the situation!

“Because of the absorbing and remarkably hilarious way in which the author has put up scientific arguments and answers to equally hilarious and wierd scientific questions. Strongly recommended for everyone!” – Parth Chandak.

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The man who mistook his wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

Suggested by Anangksuh, this book by neurologist Oliver Sacks discusses the case histories of some of his patients. The title interestingly is from the case study of Dr. P, a patient of his who suffers from visual agnosia.

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How Not To Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg

Well, I think the theme of the book has been quite nicely explained by Subhrangshu himself when he suggested it for this list!

This book shows how extensively mathematics pervades our lives. It provides us with a glimpse of how mathematics could help us make better choices in our daily lives. We are given the tools to sift through the mess of information bombarding us at every instant and make some sense out of all of it. It also promises to help us avoid common pitfalls. Besides, it offers some really interesting insights into things we don’t pay much attention to in the bustle of our daily lives. It is a book of the “simple, yet profound”.

“I like it because of its unique structure. The book is akin to a collection of stories, with some particular mathematical ideas being the protagonists. Each story in this collection is like a chronicle of the protagonists’ achievements, how they came to be used in different situations and in solving a diverse array of problems.”

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Endless Forms Most Beautiful by Sean B. Carroll

This book has won several awards for science communication and deals with the emerging field of Evo-Devo (Evolutionary Developmental Biology) and the role of Toolkit Genes!

“As a student of Biological Sciences this new field of Evo-Devo attracts me a lot. The illustrations presented in this book are just amazing and understandable, even for a person with no background knowledge of biology.” – Pinaki Chanda.

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The Theory of Everything by Stephen Hawking

How can a list of this sort be complete without mentioning this? This book is a compilation of lectures by Dr. Hawking and deals with a variety of topics- time, space, the cosmos, and what not! The language is very lucid and this is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the scientific ideas behind the theories about the universe!

Bishal Saha who suggested the book for the list said that him being a keen learner of astronomical events especially the black holes, Kuiper belts, Oort clouds, etc. made him love the book so much!

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The Emerging Mind by VS Ramachandran

The Emerging Mind’ is a compilation of Dr. V S Ramachandran’s lectures in the 2003 Reith Lecture series. The book walks us through the greatest revolution of all- understanding the human brain. While the chapters dwell into complex elements of neuropathology, the book is self-explanatory as it stops off to carefully explain the relevant neuroanatomy on the way. Also, it flicks through the engrossing concept of neuroaesthetics. Two other books of the genre are ‘Phantoms in the brain’ and ‘The tell-tale brain’.

“My all-time curiosity about the mysteries of our brain drove me to this book. Needless to say, I am a big fan of VSR because ” he will wake you up and dare you to think” as said by Iain McClure. This book is a nice blend of basic neuroscience and complex clinical aspects of neuropathology. And I felt is a good soup properly seasoned with the curiosity factor for science enthusiasts.” – Kalyani Ajayan.

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The title clearly states what the book is about! In case you are looking for highly impractical approaches to deal with problems, How To is the book to go for. From catching drones to powering up your house on Mars, this book has the answer to several such topics!
As Amlan, the one who suggested this, aptly puts it, “If you are tired of this boring life, then this book is for you to gain experiences that you will never forget.”
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So, how many on the list have you read? Do let us know what you feel about the list and suggest to us more books! Maybe we can do a part 2 of the same in the future!

P.S.: The Amazon links are attached to the book titles in case you would like to grab any of the books.
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Compiled by: Team The Qrius Rhino
Edited by : Raibat Sarker.
Cover Image designed by Diptatanu Das.
We would like to thank everyone who contributed: Satyajit Medha, Priyadarshini Singh, Aditya Dixit, Atri Bhattacharya, Chirag Arora, Amlan Datta, Kalyani Ajayan, Bishal Saha, Pinaki Chanda, Subhrangshu Ghosh,  Anangkush Chatterjee, Parth Chandak and Saswata Sarkar.

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