SB’s Top 10 Booklists of 2013 (and 10 Books They Loved)

The best-books lists have spoken. Here, we go meta with a listing of our favorite lists­—plus another list, of books represented on those lists.

list_iconIf every book has its reader, it also seems that every media outlet has its end-of-the-year best-books list. Rather than toss more book picks on the pile, we’ve compiled a few of our favorite best-books-of-2013 lists that cover science and science and technology in history and society.

The general-interest lists are always tough for any author to make, and this seems to go double for writers of science books. Easily the most literary of these lists was Writers and Critics on the Best Books of 2013 compiled by The Guardian. Science, nature and math titles landed on the personal-favorite lists of Tom Stoppard, Bill Bryson, Jonathan Franzen and Jim Crace.

Only a handful of science-medicine-technology books made the nonfiction half of The New York Times Sunday Book Review 100 Notable Books of 2013. If a science title can make it here, it can make it anywhere.

Another tough-to-make general list—or nonlist, as its creators would have it—was National Public Radio’s Guide to 2013’s Great Reads. Suffering from list fatigue, NPR chose to display their favorites with a “book concierge.”

Other generalists where science had a presence included Goodreads Choice Awards 2013: Best Nonfiction; Publishers Weekly Best Books 2013: Nonfiction; Booklist Top 10 Science & Health Books 2013; and Kirkus Reviews: Best Books of 2013 on Nature and the Environment.

Not least, there were a few booklists by science enthusiasts worth noting: NBC News Science Editor Alan Boyle’s Holiday Gift Guide: Science Books for All Sorts of Tables (Plus Tablets); and, for the physics aficionados, Andrew Zimmerman Jones’ Great Science Books of 2013 and Scientific American blogger Jennifer Ouellette’s Baker’s Dozen: Best 2013 Books for the Physics Fan.

And now­—drum roll and page riffle, please—a sampling of 10 titles noted on the preceding lists, alphabetical by title.

Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, Eric Schlosser (Penguin)
Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air, Richard Holmes (Pantheon)
Gulp: The Adventures of the Alimentary Canal, Mary Roach (Norton)
Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality, Edward Frenkel (Basic Books)
Nature’s Oracle: The Life and Work of W.D. Hamilton, Ullica Segerstrale (Oxford)
The Compatibility Gene, Daniel M. Davis (Oxford)
The New York Times Book of Mathematics, Gina Kolata (ed.) (Sterling)
The Universe Within, Neil Shubin (Pantheon)
To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism, Evgeny Morozov (PublicAffairs)

Bill Cannon is the editor of Scientists' Bookshelf. His writing has appeared in Nature, Smithsonian, The New York Times Magazine and American Scientist magazine.