Top Scientists Recommend their Favorite Science books

Project initiated by Ronald LaPorte


We are collecting the names of your favorite science books from Scientists like you to share information about science materials we are most passionate about with young scientists and including these into the Research Methods Library of Alexandria

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Jacob Bronowski  "The Ascent of Man", book and Television series(recommended by Ron LaPorte). Dr. Bronowski’s work had a profound effect upon me and my scientific career.  His writings instilled a passion, and love of science.  His thoughts will last 1000 years.

Paul de Kruif: Microbe Hunters (recommended by Vinton Cerf and Gilbert Omenn) and  “CAZADORES DE MICROBIOS" (recommended by Oscar Diaz Díaz)

George Gamow: One, Two, Three, Infinity... (recommended by Vinton Cerf)

L. H. Tiffany, C.G.Simpson, C.S. Pittendrigh “Life: An Introduction to Biology” (recommended by Gilbert Omenn). The statement rings true all these decades later that “Two themes encompass the learning of biology:  (1) the capture, storage, and utilization of energy; and (2) the reproduction and evolution of the individual and the species.

Erwin Schroedinger "What is life?" and Lester S. King "Medical thinking, a historical perspective" (recommended by Hong Kyu Lee). To understand diabetes and obesity, I dig down to the bottom; "What is life?" and "what is disease?". The best answer for the first question to me was in the first book and for second question - second book. To understand further, I read books on thermodynamics, metabolic scaling, genetics,  mitochondria, and evolution. For the second part, I studied semiotics and some philosophies. 

Gerald van Belle "Statistical Rules of Thumb" (recommended by Fritz Scheuren)

Berton Roueche “Eleven Blue Men and other Tales of Medical Detection” (recommended by Goldstein, Bernard D and Lowell Sever)

Stafford Beer "The brain of the firm" (recommended by Francois Sauer)

R. Buckminster Fuller "Critical Path" (recommended by Daniel Ari Friedman). "Critical Path" is a book that opens the mind and soul. Fuller's unique spirit and prodigious scope of work is well-conveyed by this comprehensive yet comprehensible book. Further reflections on "Critical Path" can be found at:

Denis Noble "The Music of Life" (recommended by Charles Auffray)

Marcus Aurelius "Meditations" and the complete case book of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (recommended by Musa Kana)

Geoffrey Rose "The Strategy of Preventive Medicine" and Archie Cochrane "Effectiveness and Efficiency: Random Reflections on Health Services" (recommended by Trevor Orchard)

Karl Popper "The Logic of Scientific Discovery" (recommended by Richard Heller).
An obvious choice and I am sure made by many others. The notion of attempting to falsify an hypothesis rather than trying to defend your pet ideas, and the rigour of the science that is required in the attempt should be important for any scientist.

Thomas S. Kuhn "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" (recommended by Turner T.Isoun).
A must read for getting young people excited about the process of scientific discovery.

Stephen Hawking "A Brief History of Time" and Simon Singh "Big Bang" (recommended by Brian Tarran)

Books that Pulin B Nayak passionate about:
1     A Treatise on Probability: John Maynard Keynes, London, Macmillan & Co., 1921.
2     Games and Decisions: R Duncan Luce and Howard Raiffa, New York, John Wiley & Sons, 1957.
3     Risk, Uncertainty and Profit: Frank Knight, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1921.

Richard Royall "Statistical Evidence" (recommended by Timothy Gregoire). Royall makes a very convincing case why likelihood alone makes a basis for assessing the strength of statistical evidence in favor of one proposition over another. He carefully examines the decision-theoretic basis of Neyman-Pearson hypothesis testing, as well as Fisher’s promotion of p-values, and explains why neither of these approaches provides what we really need, that is, a measure of the strength of evidence favoring proposition A over a competing proposition B, without assuming that either proposition is necessarily true.

Books that
Vasiliy Leonov recommend and already translated into Russian:
1. How To Report Statistics un Medicine: Annotated Guidelines for Authors, Editors, and Reviewers. Thomas A. Lamg, Michelle Seic.
2. Medical Statistics at a Glance. Aviva Petrie, Caroline Sabin.
3. Medical statistics made clear: an introduction to basic concepts. Banerjee A. Ashis
4. How to Read a Paper. The basics of evidence-based medicine. Trisha Greenhalgh

Daniel Keyes “Flowers for Algernon” (recommended by Luiza Gharibyan).
This book touches many different humanistic, ethical, and moral themes regarding cognitive impairment and degradation.

Carol Buck "The Challenge of Epidemiology: Issues and Selected Readings", Ashley Montagu "Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race" and Edward R. Tufte "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" (recommended by Raj BHOPAL)

A. Conan Doyle "The Lost World" (recommended by Faina Linkov). The Lost World impacted me as a young child by introducing me to the field of paleontology, something that I have not been exposed to in school. This book deepened my interest in biology and paleontology, as well as history and geography. 


Books that Dr. Linus Munishi recommend

The Blind Watchmaker - By Richard Dawkins
Guns, Germs and Steel - By Jared Diamond
A Brief History of Time - By Stephen Hawkins

William L. Hays "Statistics" 
Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1963. (recommended by John Kmetz).  I used this book to study for my comps, and it never let me down.  It was one of the best, for its time or the present, at explaining why statistical significance is not the best test to use for experimental results, and promoted omega-squared for a test of strength of association. I also recommend book other than statistics, Robert M. Pirsig
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance",  William Morrow, 1974.  It is an amazing story.

Charles Darwin: The Origin of Species (recommended by Allan Stewart-Oaten) At first,  more a hard slog than inspiring.  But then we become amazed at the mountain of organized evidence describing many environments, species and physiological features.  Most of these are illustrations showing how widely evolution, by natural selection from traits resulting from both inheritance and variability, is observable.  These might be thought "cherry-picking" in some contexts - but there are so many cherries!  Some of his evidence involves features that seem counter-examples at first but turn out to fit the pattern on closer study.  This may be the most convincing observational study ever done, even though Darwin, a renowned experimentalist, was in poor health and had none of the electronic information sources available to us now.

Books that Dr. Kellie J. Archer recommend

The Theory That Would Not Die: How Bayes' Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy - by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne

 Arrowsmith - by Sinclair Lewis


Books that Fred W. Girshick recommend

Nature of the Chemical Bond” by Linus Pauling

“Physics” by Resnick and Halliday

“Experimental Statistics” by Natrella

“The Signal and the Noise” by Nate Silver


Emanuel Parzen "Modern Probability Theory and Applications" and Maurice Kendall "Rank Correlation Methods" (recommended by Jean Dickinson Gibbons) I taught a course on probability theory to mathematics majors at the University of Pennsylvania for nine years using Emanuel Parzen's book "Modern Probability Theory with Applications".  The book was written in a very clear, concise and readable fashion, but primarily I liked the book for its very ample problem sets that were extremely challenging.  Its major competitor at the time was Feller,  which I found highly abstruse. The book "Rank Correlation Methods" is a slim volume that does not waste a word and has clear examples. It is too short for a semester  course but is a wonderful supplement and reference book for nonparametric methods based on ranks.

Jean D. Gibbons "Nonparametric Statistics: An Introduction" (recommended by Sam Litwin)
This book is a model of clarity and rigor. All you have to do is study it. I love it.

Darrell Huff  "How to Lie with Statistic" (recommended by Raymond N. Greenwell) When I read this book as a high school student, it opened my eyes to the way statistics can be distorted to make the point that the manipulator wants. Years later, as a professor of mathematics and statistics, I discussed these ideas with my students and recommended that they read the book. I still frequently see abuses of statistics such as those exposed by Darrell Huff many years ago.

Roland Ennos "Statistical and Data Handling Skills in Biology" (recommended by Dave Groves) I am not a Biologist but this book has clear explanations plus lots of interesting examples and exercises. It’s not advanced but still covers most of the methods that a scientist might need.


Books that Ed Goodall recommend

Statistical Methods for Research Workers. R.A.Fisher
This book lays the foundation stone for the design and analysis of experiments. Also, it develops the important theory of analysis of variance.
Introduction to Bayesian Inference and Decision. R.L.Winkler
This book provides a sound introduction to modern Bayesian methods. Earlier on, a good example is given to assess if you have a medical condition if you test positive. So relevant today with the pandemic crisis.Sensitivity and Specificity of a test is made clear along with the concepts of positive and negative predictive values.


Introduction to Categorical Data Analysis. A.Agresti  This book is a really groundbreaking introduction to the methods and importance of categorical data analysis. Very readable.
Survival Analysis. D.G.Kleinbaum and M.Klein This book Dedicated to Rosa Parks. Very useful for the analysis of Cancer Trials with much practical advice. I used this book to teach tertiary level students.It was the one that they actually purchased and used to good effect.

N.I.Fisher "Statistical analysis of circular data". It is really user friendly. Forman S Acton "Numerical methods that work"(recommended by Duncan W Reed) This book changed my view of the relationship between mathematics and applications ... and also taught me how to write to connect with applied scientists.

David W. Hosmer, Stanley Lemeshow "Applied Logistic Regression" (recommended by Judith J. Lok)
I was really curious about seeing statistics work in practice, and to get a better feel for how to connect theory and practice. There is so much practical advice in the book for an applied statistician! And, the book sparked in me a curiosity to also get to know about the “why” of practical statistics, and I ended up doing a Ph.D. in statistics after reading the book. I love combining theory and practice.

Naguib Mahfouz books (Egyptian writer who won the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature) and some others (recommended by Ismail Serageldin in his talk at )


Robert S. Pindyck and Daniel Rubinfeld "Econometric Models and Economic Forecasts" (recommended by Thomas M. Fullerton, Jr.)

Hans Rosling "Factfulness" (recommended by Shiv Chandra Mathur)


Please contact us if you have a book that had the most impact on you as a scientist.

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