Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American

Best Summer Books: SA`s Picks and Yours


reading in the parkAll year long Scientific American editors, bloggers and contributors mull over and write about recently published science books worth reading. These works cover everything from ancient quantum computing to surviving a mass extinction. The "Recommended" page in our magazine offers monthly reviews; we have a "Books" section on our Web site that features our eBooks and our imprint with Farrar, Strauss & Giroux; and many of our bloggers focus on fiction and non-fiction (for instance, Literally Psyched) or even write them (see Becky Crew's Zombie Tits, Astronaut Fish and Other Weird Animals (University of South Wales Press, 2013), Scott Barry Kaufman’s Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined (Basic Books, 2013), Maria Konnikova's Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes (Viking, 2013) and Katherine Harmon Courage’s upcoming Octopus! The Most Mysterious Creature in the Sea (Current Hardcover, 2013). When summertime arrives, it often affords sweet time to dive more deeply into one’s stacks of books. Below is a list of many of our writers' top selections for this summer, all of which have been published between January 1, 2013, and August 1, 2013.

The list is incomplete and subjective, of course. Which notable 2013 science titles have we left out or overlooked? Please let us know by leaving a comment below or by tweeting your suggested titles at @sciam with the hashtag #sabooks.

Soon, we will publish a poll on to determine readers' choices for the best 2013 summer science books and which authors you’d like to meet during an upcoming online chat or Google Hangout.


Adrenaline, by Brian B. Hoffman (Harvard University Press, 2013)

All Natural*: *A Skeptic’s Quest to Discover If the Natural Approach to Diet, Childbirth, Healing, and the Environment Really Keeps Us Healthier and Happier, by Nathanael Johnson (Rodale Books, 2013) recommended by John Matson

Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures, by Virginia Morell (Crown, 2013) recommended by Julie Hecht

Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent, By Gabrielle Walker (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013) recommended by Michael Moyer

The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum, by Temple Grandin and Richard Panek (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013) recommended by Maria Konnikova

Bad Moves: How Decision Making Goes Wrong, and the Ethics of Smart Drugs, by Barbara Sahakian and Jamie Nicole LaBuzetta (Oxford University Press, 2013)

Beautiful Whale, by Bryant Austin (Abrams, 2013)

Blackett's War: The Men Who Defeated the Nazi U-Boats and Brought Science to the Art of Warfare, by Stephen Budiansky (Knopf, 2013)

The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism among the Primates, by Frans de Waal (W. W. Norton, 2013)

The Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21st Century Bestiary, by Caspar Henderson (University of Chicago Press, 2013)

Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience, by Sally Satel and Scott O. Lilienfeld (Basic Books, 2013) recommended by Gary Stix

Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein: Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe, by Mario Livio (Simon & Schuster, 2013)

The Citizen Patient: Reforming Health Care for the Sake of the Patient, Not the System, by Nortin M. Hadler (The University of North Carolina Press, 2013) recommended by Bora Zivkovic

Extinction: A Thriller, by Mark Alpert (Thomas Dunne Books, 2013) recommended by Ricki L. Rusting

Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts, by Emily Anthes (Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux) recommended by Julie Hecht

Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot, by Peter Crane (Yale University Press, 2013) recommended by David Biello

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, by Mary Roach (W. W. Norton, 2013) recommended by Michael Moyer

High Price: A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society, by Carl Hart (Harper, 2013)

How We Do It: The Evolution and Future of Human Reproduction, by Robert Martin (Basic Books, 2013)

Kingdom of Rarities, by Eric Dinerstein (Island Press, 2013) recommended by John R. Platt

Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, by Maria Konnikova (Viking Adult, 2013)

The Measure of Manhattan: The Tumultuous Career and Surprising Legacy of John Randel, Jr., Cartographer, Surveyor, Inventor, by Marguerite Holloway (W.W. Norton, 2013)

The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business, by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen (Knopf, 2013)

Odd Couples: Extraordinary Differences between the Sexes in the Animal Kingdom, by Daphne J. Fairbairn (Princeton University Press, 2013)

The Physics of Wall Street: A Brief History of Predicting the Unpredictable, by James Owen Weatherall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013) recommended by Michael Battaglia and Michael Moyer

The Plateau Effect: Getting from Stuck to Success, by Bob Sullivan and Hugh Thompson (Dutton Adult, 2013) recommended by Larry Greenemeier

The Power Surge: Energy, Opportunity, and the Battle for America's Future, by Michael Levi (Oxford University Press, 2013)

Probably Approximately Correct: Nature's Algorithms for Learning and Prospering in a Complex World, by Leslie Valiant (Basic Books, 2013)

Quantum Computing Since Democritus, by Scott Aaronson (Cambridge University Press, 2013) recommended by Michael Moyer

Red Rover: Inside the Story of Robotic Space Exploration, from Genesis to the Mars Rover Curiosity, by Roger Wiens (Basic Books, 2013)

Robert Oppenheimer: A Life Inside the Center, by Ray Monk (Doubleday, 2013) recommended by John Matson

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, by Michael Moss (Random House, 2013)

To Save Everything Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism, by Evgeny Morozov (PublicAffairs, 2013)

Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction, by Annalee Newitz (Doubleday, 2013) recommended by David Biello

The Secret World of Red Wolves: The Fight to Save North America’s Other Wolf, by T. DeLene Beeland (The University of North Carolina Press, 2013) recommended by Bora Zivkovic

Should We Eat Meat? Evolution and Consequences of Modern Carnivory, by Vaclav Smil (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013) recommended by David Biello

Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet (Infrastructures), by Finn Brunton (The MIT Press, 2013) recommended by Gary Stix

Storm Kings: The Untold History of America's First Tornado Chasers, by Lee Sandlin (Pantheon, 2013)

Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking, by Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander (Basic Books, 2013) recommended by Michael Moyer

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age, by W. Bernard Carlson (Princeton University Press, 2013) recommended by Bora Zivkovic

Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe, by Lee Smolin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013) recommended by Michael Battaglia and Michael Moyer

Tom’s River: A Story of Science and Salvation, by Dan Fagin (Bantam, 2013) recommended by John R. Platt and Michael Moyer

Weird Life: The Search for Life That Is Very, Very Different from Our Own, by David Toomey (W.W. Norton, 2013)

Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, by Scott Barry Kaufman (Basic Books, 2013)

The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People, by Neil Shubin (Pantheon, 2013) recommended by Kalliope Monoyios

What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, by Daniel Bergner (Ecco, 2013) recommended by Bora Zivkovic

Zombie Tits, Astronaut Fish and Other Weird Animals, by Becky Crew (University of New South Wales Press, 2013)

Photo Credit: Flickr/ pedrosimoes7


The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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