Fun Popular Science Books
May 12, 2017 8:34 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for light and ideally funny popular science books to read on an upcoming vacation: something along the lines of the work of Mary Roach, or Olivia Judson's Dr Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation. I have a strong preference for books on animals or plant life but am open to anything that will teach me new facts in an entertaining way.
posted by darchildre to Science & Nature (10 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I thought Spillover by David Quammen was morbidly fascinating. It goes into the gory details of some really terrible diseases that spillover from animals to humans, and the science behind it. He covers the (really interesting and scary!) spillover events, the actual biology behind the diseases, and even the detective work scientists had to do to backtrack where these diseases came from and how they (sometimes) found ways to fight them. It can get a bit more technical beyond "light reading" at a few points, but I just skimmed over those sections when I wasn't feeling it.
posted by blueberrypuffin at 8:55 AM on May 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

The Soul of an Octopus

Wicked Plants

I enjoyed both of these, especially learning about the delightful hearts and souls of octopodes.
posted by maya at 9:01 AM on May 12, 2017

I really enjoyed the Disappearing Spoon, on the discovery of different elements. Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction was eminently readable, though it deals with conservation, climate change, and mass extinction. I loved Ed Yong's I Contain Multitudes, on the microbiome. I'd second both Spillover and The Soul of An Octopus - you might also like Monster of God, on big cats, by David Quammen.

If you haven't read A Primate's Memoir by Robert Sapolsky, that's my very favorite!
posted by ChuraChura at 9:05 AM on May 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

The XKCD guy's Thing Explainer? It's fun to read and look at. Also good to brush up on your general knowledge - maybe Every Goy's Guide to Common Jewish Expressions?
posted by turkeybrain at 9:54 AM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Came here to recommend Spillover, The Sixth Extinction, and A Primate's Memoir, so instead I'll second all those!
posted by skycrashesdown at 12:57 PM on May 12, 2017

Maybe not hilarious, but King Solomon's Ring by Konrad Lorenz is light and informative. Almost anything by Oliver Sacks is good. I like Sue Hubbell, especially A Book of Bees. A little more on the serious side (but not heavy) are Jane Goodall's In the Shadow of Man and Temple Grandin's Thinking in Pictures.
posted by zompist at 9:46 PM on May 12, 2017

The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific by J. Maarten Troost
posted by scorpia22 at 11:01 PM on May 12, 2017

The Violinist's Thumb
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
A Short History of Nearly Everything
More medicine than science, but very good and thought provoking: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
posted by Crystal Fox at 12:20 PM on May 13, 2017

Two more that just came to mind:
Rat Island: Predators in Paradise and the World's Greatest Wildlife Rescue is wry and super interesting.
Sheepish: Two Women, Fifty Sheep & Enough Wool to Save the Planet isn't pop science but definitely is informative about sheep. And it's hilarious.
posted by spamandkimchi at 4:20 PM on May 13, 2017

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