These are our favorite science books of 2018

Science News writers and editors have chosen the must-reads of the year

collage of book covers

READ ON  Some of the best science books of the year tackled genetics, animals of the past and present, natural disasters and much more.

From tales about whales to enthralling scientific histories and the memoir of a frustrated astrophysicist, 2018 was a banner year for science books. Here are Science News’ picks for the titles that should be on any science lover’s bookshelf. Find detailed reviews of many of these books in the links below and in our Editor’s Pick: Favorite books of 2018.

The Truth About Animals
Lucy Cooke

A zoologist debunks myths about bats, pandas, Adélie penguins and many other misunderstood creatures, recounting surprising stories from the animal kingdom (SN: 4/14/18, p. 26). Basic Books, $28

Spying On Whales
Nick Pyenson

In this captivating look at whales, a paleontologist dives into the animals’ past, exploring how some of Earth’s most intelligent species came to be, and their uncertain future (SN: 7/7/18, p. 29). Viking, $27

Ben Goldfarb

Some people see beavers as pests. But a science writer explains how the dam-building rodents are actually vital ecosystem engineers that can create or expand habitats that benefit the entire wildlife community (SN: 8/4/18, p. 28). Chelsea Green Publishing, $24.95

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs
Steve Brusatte

In this memoir, a paleontologist blends experiences from his career with evolutionary science to take readers on an engrossing journey through time, from the beginnings of the dinosaurs to their ultimate extinction. William Morrow, $29.99

The Big Ones
Lucy Jones

A seismologist examines past catastrophic natural disasters, including volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and floods, and their impact on culture, politics and society (SN: 3/31/18, p. 26). With the past as a guide, the author warns readers to be prepared for when the next disaster strikes. Doubleday, $26.95

Losing the Nobel Prize
Brian Keating

An astrophysicist’s dream of winning a Nobel Prize turned to dust after a promising experiment failed to find the first definitive evidence of cosmic inflation. The experience revealed how the prize can hamper scientific progress (SN: 4/14/18, p. 27). W.W. Norton & Co., $27.95

The Poisoned City
Anna Clark

Weaving together history, science and reporting, a journalist explores the public health crisis that began in Flint, Mich., when lead started leaching into residents’ drinking water (SN: 7/21/18, p. 28). Metropolitan Books, $30

The Poison Squad
Deborah Blum

A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist tells the story of a government chemist at the turn of the 20th century and his mission to make food safe in the United States. Penguin Press, $28

Randi Hutter Epstein

The history of endocrinology makes for a strange and fascinating read, from the scientists who discovered the effects of hormones to the people whose lives have been irrevocably changed by these powerful substances (SN: 7/7/18, p. 28). W.W. Norton & Co., $26.95

Nine Pints
Rose George

Blood, the feared as well as revered substance that flows throughout the human body, has a rich historical and scientific past (SN: 10/27/18, p. 28). Metropolitan Books, $30

She Has Her Mother’s Laugh
Carl Zimmer

This comprehensive history recounts how researchers have come to understand genetic inheritance. Looking to the future, the author considers risks of gene manipulation (SN: 6/9/18, p. 29). Dutton, $30

Genetics in the Madhouse
Theodore M. Porter

Using archival records, a science historian traces the origins of the study of human heredity to insane asylums in the 1800s (SN: 7/7/18, p. 29). Princeton Univ., $35

The Tangled Tree
David Quammen

In chronicling the lives of researchers who made important advances in molecular biology and genetics, this book shows how recent findings shake up our understanding of evolution and the tree of life. Simon & Schuster, $30

These book reviews contain links to Science News is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Please see our FAQ for more details.

More Stories from Science News on Science & Society