Books trends seem to pop up all the time. They often follow what’s happening in the broader world: For instance, right now there’s a mini-trend going on for Alexander Hamilton-related books. Also, for the next few months, you can count on a healthy supply of books to tell you what a terrible person Trump or Hillary is.
Sometimes it’s more difficult to say why a particular type of book is trending. Coloring books have become huge. Kids books are becoming more and more popular. So are books that teach you how to clean up after yourself.
A few years ago, we started seeing a number of novels set during the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. It made sense for that conversation to start, but why it happened then and not sooner (or later) can be debated. The high point of the Iraq/Afghanistan war trend was probably Phil Klay winning the National Book Award. That trend led to some of the best literature produced in the past few years.
So what trend have we noticed lately? The Amazon editors have sensed an uptick in books related to science.
If I were to speculate, it could be because our lives are inundated by technology (like the tech that you’re reading this on), and there’s that nagging feeling that we are probably destroying the world for our grandchildren. But that’s just me. Whatever it is, it’s clear people are searching for some answers. Here are some recent science-related books that have captured readers’ imaginations (including a couple early trendsetters that I couldn’t leave out):
- The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert – This book, which posits that we are currently experiencing the 6th mass extinction in the world’s history, was published in early 2014 and just kept building momentum. It went on to be nominated for the National Book Critic’s Circle Award and won the Pulitzer Prize.
- What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe – This book came out in late 2014 and sat for an impressively long time atop our best seller list. Based on the xkcd webcomic, What If? provides hilarious and informative answers to important questions you probably never thought to ask.
- Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach – Mary Roach seems to always hit the best seller list, but it merits mentioning in this post. Grunt was published this month, and we selected it as a Best Book of June.
- The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee – This was our spotlight pick for the Best Books of May. It went on to become a big best-seller and remains one at the time of this posting.
- Lab Girl by Hope Jahren – This was our debut spotlight in April, a memoir about a life in science, as well as a fresh look at the world of plants.
- Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Sean Carroll – Written by an Italian theoretical physicist living in France, this book surprised a lot of people when it became a best seller. In this slim book, Rovelli captures the elements of modern physics in essays that are elegant and at times even poetic.
- The Big Picture by Sean Carroll – Here’s a book by a Caltech professor specializing in dark energy and general relativity. It published in May… and yes, it was also a best seller.
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari – This book, which was one of our Best of the Month picks back in February, recently resurfaced on the best seller list when Bill Gates made a positive mention of it. The book is about 70,000 years of human evolution. And it’s a best seller. Go figure.
- Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Franz de Waal – This book, by the eminent Dutch primatologist, is worth mentioning. The book was published in late April and takes a look at the human mind, the animal mind, and how we may not know what we’re talking about when it comes to animal intelligence.
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