This is a highly personal list. Well, I guess most book lists are highly personal. I have yet to see a book list that actually claims to be objectively best in any topic. My advice is this: read what you like and disregard the rest. Life’s too short to spend it with bad books.
“Bad Science” is what got me interested in statistics and good science in general. Ben Goldacre is a british medical doctor, researcher, academic and science writer.
He writes on a variety of topics like pseudoscience that is deliberately marketed to the masses in order to sell supplements. Furthermore, in this book you’ll read about statistics, fishoil and multivitamins among other more scandalous pseudoscientific trends in society.
It’s funny, when I studied computer science or chemistry it never occoured to me to ask myself “what is science?” Because in computer science and chemistry it’s quite self-evident if something doesn’t work.
You don’t need to ask yourself if what you’re doing is science because you simply test it. I was curious about what science was beyond the four step process of how to think like a scientist.
So I read this book and in summary it’s mostly about having realistic expectations about scientists, yourself as a researcher and Wilson’s own journey as a scientist from his childhood to modern day.
I have a tendency to read from a variety of disciplines. In 2020, I chose 3 books from history as my summer reading. In Defence of History by Richard J. Evans was almost exactly what I wanted.
It didn’t propose a grand unified theory of history but rather a meta analysis of history as discipline and whether it was scientific or not.It confirmed for me that science isn’t just one scientific method. There are more ways than one to skin a cat.
Although philosophy of science has evolved past Popper’s falsification, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing, there’s still wisdom and insight for a curious mind in this masterpiece. My favorite idea from Popper is this:
‘Our advantage is that we can let our ideas die in our stead.’
A great online resource if you want to get into physics. The text is written extremely well so even a layman can understand. If you want to get your own physical copy then I suggest you get an older version than a new set.
Errata needs to be addressed but you can find a list here.
This is a fairly short read, but it’s very tense on substance while still easy to understand. It gives a bird’s-eye view of science and scientists.
Particularly useful for someone who’s new to science, particularly someone who may have some naive thoughts about the scientific enterprise. But even for an experienced scientist there will be things to learn.