I Probably Have Recommended This To You: Science Writing

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I’ve decided to do a series on the books, podcasts, and possibly movies that I find myself recommending frequently. I’ll update these as I think of them, because I’m sure that I’m forgetting things. First up: Science!

The Emperor of Scent by Chandler Burr — Did you know that scientists don’t really know how we smell? (That is, the mechanism for olfaction is poorly understood). This book tells the story of Luca Turin, who developed an unorthodox theory on the subject. Part of what I love about this, though, is that the book is the whole story of his life, and how one discovery or wacky experiment built on another, until it led him to this theory. Definitely worth a read.

What’s Going on in There?: How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life and Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow into Troublesome Gaps–and What We Can Do About It, by Lise Eliot–Eliot writes with such brilliance and clarity, I find her eminently readable and interesting. She explains the relevant science in lay terms, without dumbing it down. If you’re interested in interesting things, you should read them.

Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend by Barbara Oakley. This is a fascinating look at psychopaths and how they develop. How much is genetic? How much is environmental? How can you identify a psychopath? I read this at a time when I was recovering from working for one, and I found it helpful in processing that experience. Oakley weaves her research on psychopathy together with her own family’s story. I love the way she shares her journey of discovery with the reader, never getting ahead of us, but always letting us walk alongside.

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