The 6 best science books of 2021

From human bias to the science of breathing, and the wonderful world of mushrooms here are six page-turners for science geeks

Every year, the Royal Society selects the best of popular science writing as part of its prestigious Science Book Prize. This year’s judging panel, led by immunologist Professor Luke O’Neill FRS, have just revealed the shortlist of six titles for the year, each providing fresh insight on global issues and illuminating little-known subjects.

The six books delve into a wonderfully wide range of topics, covering bias, mystery illnesses, breathing, astronomy, scientific negligence and even the magical world of mushrooms. Read on to find out why they’re six of the most interesting non-fiction books of the year!

The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy’s Vanishing Explorers by Emily Levesque

The Last Stargazers book cover

Astronomer Emily Levesque shares stories of modern-day stargazers in this fascinating new release, profiling people willing to traverse mountaintops and the most remote areas of the world, all in the name of science. There’s something for everyone in here, from the world’s most powerful telescopes to wild bears running loose in an observatory—recommended for anyone who enjoys gazing upward at the night sky.

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor

Breath book cover

How conscious are you of your own breathing? Reading this could change that forever, offering revelations on our breathing, and how even the smallest of changes can have profound health benefits. Nestor looks at athletic performance, snoring and even thousands of years of ancient wisdom on the topic of simply breathing in and out.

The End of Bias: How We Change Our Minds by Jessica Nordell

The End of Bias book cover

In this timely release, journalist and author Jessica Nordell looks at unconscious bias, weaving fascinating stories and offering real-life solutions to some of the problems in our own society. From issues within the police force to how we teach children under five, this book will leave you with a whole new outlook on how to tackle the issue of bias head on.

The Sleeping Beauties: And Other Stories of Mystery Illness by Suzanne O’Sullivan

The Sleeping Beauties book cover

Diagnostic mysteries are always going to make a thrilling read, and this is certainly no exception. Three cases look at children who fall asleep for years at a time, an apparent bout of contagious seizures, and multiple employees experiencing memory loss at the US Embassy in Cuba. O’Sullivan travels the world to get to the bottom of these bizarre incidents in this unforgettable investigative book.

Science Fictions: Exposing Fraud, Bias, Negligence and Hype in Science by Stuart Ritchie

Science Fictions book cover

If you want to face the disturbing flaws in today’s science, look no further. Ritchie manages in just one book to undermine our entire understanding of the world, looking at careless mistakes, bias and even outright forgery in the world of science. It’s not all doom and gloom, however, as the book also explores some vital remedies required to protect science from itself.

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake

Entangled Life book cover

You’ve probably never given much thought to mushrooms, but biologist Merlin Sheldrake makes this exploration into the world of fungi feel like reading a science fiction novel.

Mushrooms are only the start, as the book takes you on a literal deep dive under the Earth’s surface, within our own bodies and even into outer space to discover a massively diverse kingdom of organisms, which sustain nearly all living things. Get ready to know far more about psychedelics, yeast, lichens and everything in between.

All the titles in this article have been shortlisted for this year’s Royal Society Science Book Prize, sponsored by Insight Investment. The winner will be announced on November 29

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