School of Science


1 Mar 2018

Loughborough scientists name their favourite books for World Book Day 2018

World Book Day is the yearly celebration of books, authors and reading and for this year's World Book Day we asked our Loughborough University scientists to nominate their favourite and most inspiring reads in the hope that our students might be inspired to seek them out in the Pilkington Library.

Here are a few of the titles they recommended:

"Sapiens" by Yuval Noah Harari

Subtitled "A Brief History of Humankind", Harari's thought-provoking survey of the history of humankind from evolution up to the 21st century was first published in the author's native Hebrew but has since been translated into 45 languages and, as of 2017, has sold one million copies worldwide. 

Loughborough chemist Dr Simon Kondrat says: "Although 'Sapiens' is not formally about science, it does discuss the philosophy of science in a clear and engaging way. It discusses the concept of science being built around our ability to admit that unknown knowledge exists and that our current understanding may be incorrect. It's an inspirational message and also a warning to scientists."

"Homo Deus" by Yuval Noah Harari

Loughborough University mathematician Dr Dalia Chakrabarty also gives a (cautious) recommendation for Harari, this time for his follow-up to "Sapiens". "Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow" explores the achievements of humankind and attempts to predict where we, as a species, may be heading next.

Dr Chakrabarty explains: "Yuval Harari's non-fiction 'Homo Deus', while a good read, is difficult for me personally as a Bayesian statistician to agree with in some parts." She suggests, however, that it has the potential to trigger debate amongst students.

"The Name of the Rose" by Umberto Eco

Dr Chakrabarty also took time to recommend Italian author Umberto Eco's 1980 novel "The Name of the Rose". Eco's debut novel is an historical murder mystery set in a 12th century monastery and, as Dr Chakrabarty says, serves as "a scintillating opener to epistemology contexualised within a fascinating whodunit".

"Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman!" and "The Feynman Lectures on Physics" 

Dr John Samson suggested Richard Feynman's collected lectures as "a masterpiece, covering undergraduate physics as a unified whole". For those seeking a less weighty tome, why not try the late theoretical physicist's collected reminiscences "Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman" (suggested by Dr Emiliano Renzi who says the book "inspires curiosity and imagination").

"Logicomix" by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou

This graphic novel about the foundational quest in mathematics and the development of symbolic logic is narrated by Bertrand Russell. It was recommended by Dr Dominik Freydenberger as "a surprisingly gripping tale about triumph, tragedy, frustration, and friendship".

"Mendeleyev's Dream: The Quest For the Elements" by Paul Strathern

Dr Paul Roach recommends this book that details the history of chemistry through the quest for the elements, framed by the life story of Russian scientist Dmitri Mendeleyev. He considers it ideal reading for anyone who ever wondered "how science became a thing".

"Stiff" by Mary Roach

Recommended by Dr Eugenie Hunsicker as "the funniest and most educational book you will ever read about human cadavers". Popular science author Roach covers various aspects of life, erm, post-mortem such as body-snatching, the use of cadavers in testing, and human head transplants.

"Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid" by Douglas Hofstadter

Written by Pulitzer prize winning professor of cognitive science, Douglas Hofstadter, this book expounds concepts fundamental to mathematics, symmetry and intelligence. Loughborough mathematician Dr Anthony Kay describes it thus: "An enormously long-winded exploration of mathematical logic and its outworkings in music and art, and worth every one of its 700+ whimsical pages."

"The Force of Symmetry" by Vincent Icke

Finally, Dr Mark Everitt recommends Vincent Icke's introduction to the interplay between the three great themes of contemporary physics: quantum behaviour, relativity and symmetry.

We hope you enjoy discovering these works (or, if you've already read them, rediscovering) and, to help you have included links to the Pilkington Library listings where available.

Happy World Book Day 2018!