Best science books of 2019

Adrian Liang on December 30, 2019
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Biology, physics, astronomy, geology, cats, and eyeballs… The Amazon Books editors’ selections for the best science books of 2019 cover a lot of ground, but so does science itself. For those who want to delve deeper into the structure of a cell, gaze beyond the stars, or bend their brains around quantum mechanics, well, we have a book for you. Actually, 20 books.

Visit our Best science books of 2019 page to see all 20 titles, or read more about five of our favorites below.

Happy reading. (And good for you for getting smarter!)


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The First Cell by Azra Raza

There are few things people fear more than cancer as they get older, and for good reason. While cancer treatments have improved—and some have taken great leaps forward—for the most part the improvements can be measured in months, not years. A longtime cancer specialist who lost her own husband as well as many friends and patients to cancer, Raza questions why we continue to test drugs in ineffective ways and challenges experimental treatments that offer little upside, alerting reader to the vast amount of time and money wasted in cancer research. This might sound depressing—and in some ways Raza’s observations are. The rapaciousness and unpredictability of cancer is downright terrifying. But Raza’s recommendations for a new way to approach cancer offer not just realism but a potential better quality of life. Of all the science reads on our list, this one may be the most life-changing, which is why we named The First Cell the best science book of 2019.


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Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? by Caitlin Doughty

Caitlin Doughty, a mortician and author who has made a marvelous niche for herself in the nonfiction arena, answers the artless and often hilarious questions that children ask about death—including, of course, “Will my cat eat my eyeballs?” (I won’t give the answer away; nor will I reveal the answer to my favorite question about what happens if you eat popcorn kernels shortly before you die and then get cremated. POP?!). The answers are geared toward adults, not wee ones, and Doughty not only makes death seem unscary; she makes it fascinating.


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Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham

Sure, you could watch the Chernobyl docudrama on HBO (and perhaps you already have), but Adam Higginbotham’s nonfiction account of the nuclear plant’s meltdown offers plenty of drama as well as just the facts, ma’am. The crisis at Chernobyl, the heroic attempts to contain it, and the Soviet government’s cover-up of the extent of the disaster make this a page-turner that you’ll be recommending to science- or history-minded friends as soon as you’ve finished it.


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Underland by Robert Macfarlane

In Underland, Robert Macfarlane (literally) plumbs the depths of our understanding of the spaces under the earth, as well as humanity’s desire to explore them. Natural caves in the English countryside, human-made tunnels under the sea, and the land under Greenland’s ice are among the locations Macfarlane explores with his poet’s eye and nature-oriented heart, offering an immersive read that has been winning accolades not only from us but from the Smithsonian, the New York Times, NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and the Economist.


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The Body by Bill Bryson

Most of us now know how important gut bacteria is to our everyday health, but were you aware of how eyebrows help us identify each other’s faces faster? That, plus hundreds of other biological facts delivered with Bill Bryson’s signature style, will enthrall and delight readers. Soon you’ll not only be armed with new information to help you understand your physical shell a bit better; you’ll have a lot of fun anecdotes to relate to friends at your next dinner party.


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