These books will tickle your funny bone, and explain that bone’s mineral composition.
Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman
This book has it all: physics, lock-picking, hallucinations, and even a little nudity. Originally published in 1985, this spirited memoir from the Nobel prize winning physicist covers a lot of territory, not all of it scientific. Individual anecdotes include stories about Feynman’s work on the Manhattan project, while others discuss experiments with sensory deprivation and lucid dreaming. Overall, it’s a zippy and entertaining read.
The Martian may be fictional, but it makes the cut because of its dedication to accuracy. Both the book and movie speculate about how a person could survive on Mars with limited resources. The book also has a unique publication history, with author Andy Weir serializing it first on his website and publishing it as a Kindle book. Weir did extensive research to understand space flight and survival. On top of all that, both the book and movie are quite funny, with astronaut Mark Watney using humor as a way to cope with isolation.
The Clockwork Universe
This nonfiction book about the scientific revolution, and particularly Isaac Newton, is an accessible and entertaining read. Scientific discoveries are grounded in time and place, with engaging anecdotes about the men who made them. The book doesn’t cover new ground, but it’s a good read, and the author ably deploys his background in mathematics.
Any Mary Roach book could have made this list, but Stiff is a great place to start. She dives into the subject of cadavers with enthusiasm, interviewing experts and exploring both science and history. From crash test dummies to human composting, the book is a darkly funny romp through a place where we’re all headed: death.
This book, by the creator of the hit webtoon xkcd, pairs dumb questions with smart answers and author Randall Munroe’s signature cartoons. Questions like “What if I took a swim in a typical spent nuclear fuel pool?” are answered with detailed research. The writing is lively and the cartoons are great. And hint: you’d probably be okay in the pool, as long as you stay near the surface.
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