The Black Swan

The Impact of the Highly Improbable By Nassim Nicholas Taleb Find it on Bookshop Summary In The Black Swan, Nassim Taleb presents a well-constructed argument for why you need to be careful making predictions or generalizations about the world based only on your personal experiences. The world may work one way most of the time, … Read more

The Craft of Science Writing

If you’re curious about becoming a science writer, this book is a must-read. Whether you are a scientist, a non-science writer, or something else entirely, Siri Carpenter has gathered the basics of how to improve your science writing, and bundled them into an essential collection.

The Craft of Science Writing is a series of short essays and articles, each by a different science writer. These pieces are all available on the website The Open Notebook for free, but the book has curated and organized them into a directed journey through the details of the craft.

The Ocean Cleanup Is Not a Solution To Plastic

It is an undeniable fact that there is a lot of plastic in the ocean (an estimated 7,000 to 35,000 tons in 2014). The world produced 381 million tons of plastic in 2015.  Hakai magazine likened the problem to a garbage truck dumping an entire load into the ocean every minute. This plastic waste clogs our waterways, strangles marine life, and blemishes our beaches. It is very obviously a problem, but less obvious how we should go about fixing it.

What an Earthquake Feels Like From Underwater

I had the incredibly unique experience recently of an earthquake happening nearby while I was scuba diving in the ocean. We found out on surfacing that it had a magnitude of 4.8 and the epicenter was 37 miles away from us. I was “at work”— surveying fish on coral reefs around St. Thomas in the … Read more

A Mind for Numbers

Whether you’re a college student or a lifelong learner, this book is chock full of tips and tricks for learning new things, memorizing, productivity, self-improvement, and just life in general. It is geared towards people trying to improve their science and math skills (especially if you get anxious when you see numbers), but there’s something in here for everyone.

Dr. Oakley is a self-described language and art person. When she joined the military, she noticed that her most competent colleagues always had some technical skills, no matter what their primary responsibilities were. Their technical inclinations served them well in that environment. So she decided that she was going to go against her inclinations and learn more numerical skills. She never looked back.

This book represents the most useful lessons she has learned in how to use your brain to its full abilities. Anyone can do math when they put their mind to it. Dr. Oakley provides hacks to get you there a little more quickly and easily, illustrated by whimsical examples.


The Curious Science of Humans at War By Mary Roach Find it on Bookshop Summary Mary Roach is the queen of infectious curiosity. In Grunt, she explores the science of supporting humans at war. No, not the explosive technology you might expect, but the less glamorous aspects of war: diarrhea, ducks, heat, sleep. You’ll learn … Read more

Under a White Sky

Elizabeth Kolbert’s latest work asks how the “nature of the future” will look– ecosystems fundamentally different under a changing climate. The answer she unfolds shows entire regions overrun with invasive species, flooded cities, conservation-reliant species, and, the origin of the title, human interference with the atmosphere resulting in a sky that is not blue, but white.

Her talent with language creates vivid imagery of a present and future that makes the reader think twice about the natural world and our role in it. Some of our current solutions may be worse than the problems themselves. We can do better.

The End of Everything

I know from personal experience how hard it is for a scientist to forget everything we’ve learned about technical science writing in order to write for a more general audience. Dr. Katie Mack has managed this spectacularly, with grace and humor.

I imagine Dr. Mack and her editor constantly fighting about the tone of the book during its writing. There is a perfect balance of handling the seriousness of the subject with a lightheartedness that makes it all okay. Dr. Mack keeps it together (mostly) in the text, but the footnotes do not hold back, and I am here for them.
Most people probably imagine cosmologists as super smart, boring, and stuffy. Smart: yes. Boring and stuffy: no way. Dr. Mack is relatable: excitable, funny, and still impressed by the discoveries happening in her field. She doesn’t shy from blowing her own mind, and does a good job of communicating the strangeness to her reader, sprinkling some pop sci fi culture references along the way.


In Spillover, David Quammen (one of my favorite science writers) takes us through jungles, villages, and laboratories to study zoonoses: animal infections that can jump to humans. When a certain strain takes the leap and infects a human, scientists call that event “spillover”.

Quammen spends a chapter on each of nine zoonoses that caused outbreaks in humans. You will recognize at least a few: Ebola, malaria, SARS, Lyme, HIV. He digs into the stories contained in these outbreaks: how they started, the damage they did, and the scientists who studied them.