The official “science” audiobooks list on Audible is a bit disappointing.
It seems like they compiled it based on the amount of reviews. Meaning the list consists of the books with the most reviews and the word science is used a bit liberally.
So less so about being the best science book and more about just great marketing. Here’s a list of great science audiobiooks that I’ve personally read or listened to.
The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
Warning! This book may potentially make you a bit depressed. In fact, later in the audiobook Richard discusses this and attempts to give a more positive way to look at it. Personally, he failed. But maybe his perspective will work for you. How about you find out? Whether it is or isn’t however, is irrelevant. This book is made Dawkings famous in scientific circles in the first place before he became a well known public persona. and I think it had a profound impact on my life.
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
I first read The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat in my first year of psychology. There is this philosophical question about whether a human body and the human spirit are separate things. In fact people have tried weighing the human body before and after death just to see if the escaping soul has weight. Descartes believed in dualism that in the brain there was a “spirit”. Oliver Sacks, a psychiatrist, gives us plenty of examples of how our personalities and abilities change dramatically after brain injury. Thus giving us some evidence that what a person is, is in part at least his material physical brain.
The Martian by Andy Weir
This book is more like science-fiction than science but it’s worth it. I promise. The narration is great and the source material even better. Not as heavy on the science than other books in this list but plenty of it and according to aerospace experts highly accurate. It’s funny, witty and you can come away from listening this epic knowing more about science than you did going in. Satisfaction guaranteed.
P.S. The movie is great but the book is slightly better.
Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
Love this book. I used to build laboratories and some of that work was rather menial. But I enjoyed it because I could listen to audiobooks like Think Like a Freak. This book is much like any of the books you’d read by Malcolm Gladwell except at least one of the authors is actually a scientist and I think it’s much more actionable. Instead of interesting speculation you go away from this book with tools to think a bit differently about the world. It says “Think like a freak” but it should be “Think like a scientist”.
Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
Great book. Makes you rethink everything you consider possible with your memory. This books is more about the applied science of memory than it is about the theory behind it but it’s on this list because you can’t argue with results. Josua Foer was just a journalist, who in the process of writing an article on memory championships becomes a memory champion himself.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
I think Yuval is a great science communicator. I personally didn’t get too much from the book because of my pre-existing interest in the subject but he even-handedly covers the various theories and hypothesis that exist about our origins and does it using language that everyone can understand. No wonder that he’s so popular.
Factfulness by Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund
Recently at a party I asked a girl what got her interested in statistics. She said she had read “Factfulness”. Although maybe not the best reason to go into a field if you have no other reason. I can’t blame her. It’s a good book. I can’t tell you the times that I’ve had friends or acquiantances talk or quote parts of the book to me. Unlike some other books it’s interesting on every page. It’s dense on substance.
The Bottom Line
As always the trick to reading more books or listening to more books is trying a lot of them. If you open something and it’s boring then don’t finish it. Pick up multiple books and toss away the ones that don’t catch your interest. Use the Audible samples to cauge your interest before you commit.
The best science audiobook isn’t an objective measure. It’s highly variable due to your personal preferences. So I find that it helps to flirt with a book before committing.