Outside of my chemistry, physics and calculus textbooks, I really don’t own many books that are completely “science” oriented. I read for enjoyment and pleasure. So if I want to learn something new, I go to a textbook or wikipedia (which surprisingly has pretty good entries on the science subjects).
However, I do have a few books that are what I call “science-lite” which are written well and explain themselves without the use of page after page of equation derivations.
In Search of Schroedinger’s Cat – John Gribbin
Ever wanted to have the basics of quantum physics explained to you in a book and didn’t want to be seen reading “Quantum Mechanics for Dummies”? This is the book to buy.
Gribbin does a very good job in giving historical background of the players and the evolution of the fuzzy, probability laden world of quantum mechanics. Starting at the beginning with questions such as “What is Light?” and working up to the different possible Unification theories that are being debated currently (String Theory, M Theory, etc.).
What’s even better, is that he uses very little math and if there is any, he explains fully what the terms mean. So no page after page of derived equations, like you see in physics textbooks.
I found that this read like a novel, very easy to pick up and enjoyable to read.
Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character) – Richard P. Feynman
I’ll say one thing: Feynman was the shit.
From having curiosity about everything (and I mean everything), to cracking safes in the supposedly security-conscious Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project, playing bongo drums as accompaniment to a ballet and trying to be good at chasing skirt, Feynman pretty much did a lot of eccentric stuff that you wouldn’t normally associate with a physics professor and Nobel Prize winner.
Before I bought Tucker Max’s first book, this was the only book I owned where I actually laughed out loud while reading it. It is both a funny and interesting read into this strange but intelligent polymath.
The second book, “What Do You Care What Other People Think?” was also very good, but got technical with the second half of the book being about the investigation of the Challenger Explosion.
The Last Sorcerers: The Path from Alchemy to the Periodic Table – Richard Morris
I bought this on a whim during Grad school when at a Borders and didn’t go into it with any expectations about it.
Surprisingly the book was a well-written account of the beginnings of modern-day Chemistry. Starting with the Greeks with Paracelsus and leading up to the formation of the Periodic Table with Mendeleev.
What we now call chemistry was originally alchemy, the search for the way to turn base metals (copper, iron, lead) into gold. The alchemists in their quest for this goal discovered many of the elements we now know today (with the exception of the f-block elements).
Overall a pretty good read with history, science and some trivia thrown in about the places and people involved.