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Best Science Books of 2008

037542447401_mzzzzzzz_ Last year around this time, Uncertain Principles noted with some despair that the New York Times hadn't picked a single science book among their 100 notable books for the year, and pointed to our Top 10 editors' picks in Science as proof that there were some. So it's with some embarrassment that I post on this year's Science Top 10, since none of them made our overall Top 100 for the year. What can I say? It was a quiet year for breakout science books: none made our Top 100 bestsellers either. But one benefit of doing our year-end category lists is that it makes us stop and look in the aisles that haven't gotten as much mainstream attention during the year. And, like always, there were many more good science books than we could squeeze into a list of ten. And like always, I find our customer reviews are an excellent guide to sorting through the year's books: reading the many, many customer reviews I do every day, I'm always impressed at the quality and volume of our science reviews, which often bring an expertise I could never match as a general reader.

One other benefit of putting these lists together is that you can get a snapshot of the ebb and flow of what kinds of books are popular that year. In popular science books, a few years back physics dominated, and then in the last couple of years neuroscience took over as the hot discipline. Well, if our lists this year are any indication, it's evolutionary biology that's the place to be right now. Here's our editors' top 10:

  1. Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin
  2. Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul by Kenneth R. Miller
  3. Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique by Michael S. Gazzaniga
  4. The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics by Leonard Susskind
  5. In Pursuit of the Gene: From Darwin to DNA by James Schwartz
  6. The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow
  7. Doubt Is Their Product: How Industry's Assault on Science Threatens Your Health by David Michaels
  8. 13 Things That Don't Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Time by Michael Brooks
  9. Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence--and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process by Irene Pepperberg
  10. Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life by Carl Zimmer

And here, for comparison, is our customers' list, our top 10 science bestsellers of 2008:

  1. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor
  2. The Drunkard's Walk (see above)
  3. Your Inner Fish
  4. Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach
  5. Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel by Michio Kaku
  6. Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians, and Misguided Policies That Hurt the Poor by Roy Spencer
  7. The Deniers: The World Renowned Scientists Who Stood Up Against Global Warming Hysteria, Political Persecution, and Fraud by Lawrence Solomon
  8. The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments by George Johnson
  9. The Black Hole War
  10. The Way We Work by David Macaulay

--Tom

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