Best Science Books of 2019 and a Best of Best of List

2019 was a big year for science books. Climate change, the anniversary of Apollo 11, the genomics revolution and a whole lot more captivated some of the best science writing minds in the world. Here’s a list of our favorite science books from 2019 along with a best of list of the best science science books from esteemed outlets around the Internet. 

Here we are about to bid good-bye to another decade. It’s crazy how time flies. We still remember the Y2K scare from 1999 and how all our computer systems were supposed to crash, leading to widespread havoc and (according to some overblown accounts) the end of the world. 

Oh well. There’s no armageddon this time around, which is a good thing because, well, aren’t we all just a little bit stressed out by climate change and all the other stuff going on? To keep ourselves sane, we here at California Science Weekly try to focus on science, particularly science in the great state of California. That said, we are always excited by end of year lists featuring science books, and decided to gather some of the best Best Science Books of 2019 lists for your reading pleasure. There’s a ton of overlap here, with several books occupying spots on nearly all the lists. That said, there’s a tremendous amount of diversity here, too, depending on your particular interests. Biology and the genomic revolution make a big splash, but so do books about unsung women scientists, like Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez and The Women of the Moon: Tales of Science, Love, Sorrow, and Courage by Daniel R. Altschuler and Fernando J. Ballesteros. There are also some fine adventure tales, like Alex Deghan’s The Snow Leopard Project: And Other Adventures in Warzone Conservation and Sam Kean’s The Bastard Brigade: The True Story of the Renegade Scientists and Spies who Sabotaged the Nazi Atomic Bomb. The latter is at the top of our current wish list.

Here are the top five books recommended by us, California Science Weekly. Only a few of them have a direct California connection (notably Nick Neely’s wonderful Alta California: From San Diego to San Francisco, A Journey on Foot to Rediscover the Golden State, but that’s ok. We immensely enjoyed them and thought 2019 was a superb year for science writing across the board, from books to Web sites and blogs. So, in addition to our own favorites below, we also offer a Best of Best of list of the other top recommendations from venerable publications around the internets.  

California Science Weekly top five books of 2019: 

  1. The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson
  2. One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon by Charles Fishman
  3. Liquid Rules: The Delightful and Dangerous Substances That Flow Through Our Lives by Mark Miodownik
  4. Alta California: From San Diego to San Francisco, A Journey on Foot to Rediscover the Golden State by Nick Neely
  5. Underland by Robert Macfarlane


Five BooksBarbara Kiser is the Books & Arts Editor at the respected science journal Nature. She lists her favorite five books for 2019 on London-based Five Books, commenting that, while 2018 was a banner year for science books, “We are back in embarrassment-of-riches territory in 2019.” 

Here are her choices: 

Science Friday The ever enjoyable and informative Science Friday radio show, hosted by Ira Flatow, offers up some reader favorites along with recommendations from Flatow and respected science writer Deborah Blum and Valerie Thompson. 

Ira Flatow

  1. The Bastard Brigade: The True Story of the Renegade Scientists and Spies who Sabotaged the Nazi Atomic Bomb by Sam Kean
  2. Volume Control: Hearing in a Deafening World by David Owen
  3. The Sakura Obsession: The Incredible Story of the Plant Hunter Who Saved Japan’s Cherry Blossoms by Naoko Abe
  4. Because Internet: Understanding The New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch
  5. Moths: A Complete Guide to Biology and Behavior by David Lees and Alberto Zilli
  6. Deep Medicine: How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Healthcare Human Again by Eric Topol

Deborah Blum

  1. Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom by Katherine Eban
  2. Superior: The Return of Race Science by Angela Saini
  3. Midnight at Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham
  4. The Ice at the End of the World by Jon Gertner
  5. The Optimist’s Telescope by Bina Venkataraman

Valerie Thompson

  1. Lost Feast: Culinary Extinction and the Future of Food by Lenore Newman
  2. Archaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past by Sarah Parcak
  3. Fables and Futures: Biotechnology, Disability, and the Stories We Tell Ourselves by George Estreich
  4. The Women of the Moon: Tales of Science, Love, Sorrow and Courage by Daniel Altschuler and Fernando Ballesteros
  5. Superheavy: Making and Breaking the Periodic Table by Kit Chapman
  6. The End of Forgetting: Growing Up with Social Media by Kate Eichhorn

The Guardian: Best Science, Nature and Ideas Books of 2019

  1. Choked by Beth Gardiner
  2. Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez
  3. Underland by Robert Macfarlane
  4. Superior: The Return of Race Science by Angela Saini
  5. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff


Amazon: Best science books of 2019

BBC Science FocusThe 10 best science books of 2019

Science News: Here are Science News’ Favorite Science Books of 2019

The Planets: 50 of The Best Science Books – 2019

Smithsonian: The Ten Best Science Books of 2019

Word Economic Forum: Are These the 6 Best Science Books of 2019?

Scientific American: Recommended Books, December 2019

Library Journal: Best Science & Technology Books 2019

That’s it! Time to get busy reading and preparing for what should be another blockbuster year of amazing science journalism in 2020.

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