Book Recommendations By Top Scientists

List of books that scientists read themselves.

popular book recommendation by scientists favorite books by physicists

Renowned astronomer and former NASA advisor Carl Sagan had once famously said, "One glance at a book and you are inside the mind of another person; perhaps someone dead for thousand of years. To read, therefore, is to voyage through time."

Maybe this is why we read and why in moments of darkness we return to books; so to find out what we do not already know; and the more we learn the more places we can go! In this post, let us look at which specific books scientists like to gorge themselves on.


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Neil deGrasse Tyson

He is an American astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium and host of Cosmos: a spacetime odyssey on National Geographic. In a Reddit ask-me-anything Tyson said one of his favorite books was The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin.


He explained, "This book will help you learn our kinship with all other life on Earth. It is a seminal work of scientific literature considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology." Included in the book is evidence to support his theory which Darwin had collected on the Beagle expedition in the 1830s.


Michio Kaku

He is an American theoretical physicist, one of the founders of string field theory and science communicator. In an interview Kaku revealed his obsession with science fiction especially with Star Trek TV and books by Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke.


He claimed, and perhaps, rightly so: "Science fiction helps to get young people interested in science. That is why I don't mind talking about science fiction. It has a real role to play: to seize the imagination."


Carl Sagan

As mentioned before, he was an American astronomer, former advisor to NASA and Pulitzer Prize winning author. One of his favorite books was The Republic written by ancient Greek philosopher Plato.


It has proven to be one of the world's most influential works of philosophy and political theory; both intellectually and historically. It is also the reason why Carl declared, in his disarming fashion, "Books break the shackles of Time!"


H.C. Verma

He is an Indian experimental physicist and a professor emeritus of the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur since 1994. His field of research is nuclear physics.

He has authored graduate, undergraduate and school level textbooks. When a student asked him which book was his go-to in his own early years, Professor Verma replied, "Fundamentals of physics."


This 1000-page textbook was named the most outstanding introductory physics work of the 20th century by the American Physical Society.


Brian Cox

He is an English particle physicist, author and professor at the University of Manchester. Professor Cox has been the author or co-author of over 950 scientific publications. When asked what brought him closer to science, he said: "Cosmos by Carl Sagan."


The book is an elaborate story of cosmic evolution, science and civilization. It spent a whopping 70 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List. The TV show of the same name was produced first by Sagan then by Tyson in 1980 and 2014 respectively.


Jim Al-Khalili

He is a British theoretical physicist, author and professor at the University of Surrey. Jim is also a regular host of various science documentaries for BBC.

He recommends Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman in his list of favorite science books. The book covers a variety of instances in Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman's life.


The name of the book derives from a woman's response at Princeton University when, after she asked the newly arrived Feynman if he wanted cream or lemon in his tea, he absentmindedly requested both.


Philip Ball

He is a British chemist and physicist who has been the editor of Nature journal for over twenty years. Ball has also written for Chemistry World and New Scientist.

His favorite books include Hawking's A Brief History of Time and Rovelli's The Order of Time even more so.


He says, "Carlo Rovelli has emerged as physics’ current poet, and for good reason: he has a light, humble touch, an elegant style, and a genuine regard for and understanding of art and philosophy."

His own most popular book Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads to Another was winner of the 2005 Aventis Prize for Science Books.


Carlo Rovelli

He is an Italian theoretical physicist and best-selling author known for his pioneering work in loop quantum gravity. His most favorite science textbook is The Feynman Lectures on Physics.


Because of his books, Richard Feynman has often been called The Great Explainer by many fellow physicists. It is one of the most recommended books for physics undergraduates.


Brian Greene

He is an American theoretical physicist and mathematician whose work is in string theory. Greene is a professor at University of Columbia and founder of World Science Festival. He recommends The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins.


Brian is grateful that such books have helped to fill the knowledge gap that many physicists share in biology. "In the book," he adds, "Dawkins lays out the case for natural selection at the level of genes." In 2017, The Royal Society listed The Selfish Gene as the most influential science book of all time.


Francis Close

He is a British particle physicist and Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford. His favorite popular science book is QED: The strange theory of light and matter. Frank says you are left with a profound recognition of the beauty of the universe.


The book has just enough quantum-mechanical mathematics to allow the solving of basic problems in quantum electrodynamics by an educated lay person.

According to Feynman, to learn quantum electrodynamics you have two choices: you can go through seven years of physics education or read this book.


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