15 STEM books to add to your family’s 2019 reading list

Nothing beats taking some time for yourself. Sitting in a cosy corner and cwtched up with a good book ready to learn something new. This year I have set myself the challenge to start reading more again, and to celebrate this year’s World Book Day, I wanted to build on last year’s book recommendation blog post and give you another heap of suggestions for you to add to your own reading list or your family’s STEM bookshelf.

So here are a bunch of suggestions that are on my reading list and ones I wish I had had when I was younger just for you! If any of you have read them and enjoyed them, let me know.

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1. Hello World by Hannah Fry

My current favourite popular science book and the first one that I ticked off my 2019 reading list – you can check out my review here. But why should you add this book to your reading list right now? We are living in a world where more and more of our everyday lives are being automated or have some aspect of artificial intelligence involved. It’s not a completely novel idea, so this book explores the pros and cons of how these algorithms have been used well, how they have been used badly, and how we are wanting to use them. But most importantly, it makes you question which side of the fence you are on when it comes to man vs machine. If you only take one thing away from this post – it is read this book!

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2. This is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay

We all know that our NHS here in the UK is in trouble, and there are less people training to become doctors, and given what I have read in this book, I am altogether not surprised – review on this book coming soon! Dedication to this career is a passion for most, but it comes at a price. One we as users of our healthcare service don’t really consider – which I guess is understandable as the only times you encounter doctors is at a stressful and anxious time of your life where you are more concerned about a loved one or yourself than how long they have been on their feet. But this book is eye-opening. It gives you a new appreciation of being a junior doctor and a realisation that something radical needs to be done.

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3. Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking

When we sadly lost Stephen Hawking last year, we lost a brilliant mind. A brilliant mind that could help us solve the biggest problems and questions we face. Hawking was a scientist that people would ask those ultimate questions to; like ‘is there a God?’ and ‘is time travel possible?’ and all in between. This book is his way of answering some of those big questions and I cannot wait to get stuck into this one next because who doesn’t want to know the answers to these questions.

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4. Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty

Over the past six months since I attended New Scientist Live and now in my new job working with a very passionate bioengineer turned communicator, the more I have become fascinated and inspired by the world of engineering and wish I had had books like these when I was younger so I could know that I could be an engineer if I wanted to be. Something I want all young girls and boys to know, so I want to get this book onto all family bookshelves! The rhyming verse and beautiful illustrations make it a familiar children’s book layout, but is a story about a girl who wants to become a great engineer. Plus I love that there is the design of graph paper on the pages – yes I’m a nerd!

Apologise to all my friends now but all your children and any future children are probably going to be getting this book from me for their birthdays, and the next three on this list too. That is just something you are going to have to get used to I’m afraid – haha!

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5. Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

Another in the series from author Andrea Beaty, but obviously this time a book about a girl called Ada who wants to become a scientist. Once again, this is a book I wish I had had when I was younger, and will be sharing with as many others as I can.

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6. ABCs of Engineering by Chris Ferrie

These next two books are just two of my favourites in an incredible series from Chris Ferrie. I love them because even I learnt something from them. Now at first sight you may think that they are a little advanced for babies, but these books have three different layers to them. The first is literally just the ABC level. While the words are not your typical ones you find in a baby book, what is the difference between your little one learning the word battery compared to banana. They will learn it eventually. But the next level builds on that with an explanation about what that is and so on. So I am all for exposing your children to all the options and possibilities when their brains can absorb anything!

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7. ABCs of Biology by Chris Ferrie & Cara Florance

Another in the ABCs series which features one of my favourite children’s science book authors Cara Florance who I interviewed here about writing a science book for kids. But this book is also one of my faves for obvious reasons as it’s all about biology. But check out the others in the series too, not just the ABC versions – books like rocket science for babies where you can learn how rockets can fly or maybe even quantum mechanics for babies which I am very intrigued by. Give them a go!

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8. Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

Ahhhh sleep. My favourite thing and my current read! I love to sleep so naturally I would love to learn more about the science behind why we sleep – an elusive question that has boggled the minds of scientists for hundreds of years. This book will take you on a tour of what sleep is and how it has evolved in all creatures to why we sleep – or at least why we think we sleep. Full of incredible facts about sleep that you couldn’t even dream of especially about sleeping dolphins and whales! But it has an ominous side too that I haven’t got to yet about the astonishing health issues that come from a lack of sleep and how we can never fully ‘catch up on lost sleep’. I’m intrigued but anxious to learn about what I have subjected my body and mind to, and something you should realise to to help you prioritise your sleep for your own health and well-being.

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9. Endurance by Scott Kelly

I think most of us at some point have wondered about what it would be like to go to space or live in space, right? Well, there are a handful of people that have done exactly that and can share their experiences with us, including astronaut Scott Kelly. This book will tell us about what it is like to live on the International Space Station for a year – the pros, the cons, the things you miss and the things you look forward to and all in between. Scott Kelly’s mission was to provide insights into the effects of prolonged space time on the human body – an experiment that was possible as Kelly has a twin brother. So, I m fascinated by that aspect as well as an opportunity to learn about life beyond the Earth’s atmosphere as I am pretty sure I will never experience that.

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10. Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong by Angela Saini

A book that I have heard so much about – recommendations from fellow scientists, news coverage and even campaigns to get this book into all schools across the UK and Canada at least. But a book that I haven’t read yet, but need to get onto with the next book from Angela Saini being released imminently. So, what is Inferior about? It is all about the gender war, bias in science and how science has got women wrong. I clearly haven’t read this one yet, but for a great review of this check out this post by the wonderful Heidi Gardner or this amazing summary from Alice Gray.

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11. Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore

The brain. Another thing that I am fascinated and amazed by and wish I had studied more. But I am most fascinated by the changes in your brain at key stages of your life – one being adolescence. Teenagers often get a bad rap, but could it be that they can’t biologically help it. This book will give you a completely new understanding of your children, family members, friends or former selves. A multi-award winning book that anyone can read if they are interested in how young people’s brains develop and how they are affected by environment and the body. Just another book that I can’t wait to get my teeth stuck into.

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12. Humble Pi by Matt Parker

Yes – there are maths books out there that aren’t textbooks and are fun to read. A lot of us are guilty of just learning the maths in school and never realising how it applies to our everyday life. We only ever realise when things go wrong. This book explores what happens when exactly that happens – when maths goes wrong in the real world and shows how much maths is working behind the scenes in our every day lives.

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13. Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology by Jim Al-Khalili & Johnjoe McFadden

Quantum mechanics. Quantum theory. Anything with the word quantum in it has always gone straight over my head, but something I have always wanted to understand. So, I thought I would give this book a go and see if I can understand it when it is related to something I can understand – biology. This book was recommended to me as a good starting place as I step foot into the quantum biology world. This book gives an example of one of life’s puzzles such as ‘how do migrating birds know where to go?’ and ‘how do we really smell the scent of a rose?’ and then reveals how quantum mechanics can give us an answer. Quantum biology is an exciting new field with potential revolutionary applications so I am ready to test myself with this book.

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14. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

Another account of life as an astronaut from Chris Hadfield. He shares his experiences of training, life on the space station and space exploration. But this book will share the lessons he learnt in space that we can all incorporate into our daily lives here on Earth. Learning to think like an astronaut might be the closest many of us get to space exploration and I am keen to learn more and listen to many mesmerising stories.

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15. Built: The Hidden Stories behind Our Structures by Roma Agrawal

Another recommendation from me as I explore the world of engineering some more. This book, as the title suggests, explores the stories behind our structures and how construction has evolved from mud huts to skyscrapers. it explores how engineering and the feats engineers have accomplished have created the things we take for granted everyday like cars and bridges and roads. Engineers often hold people’s safety in the palm of their hands and this book explores that from an engineer’s point of view.

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There are so many awesome science books out there that aren’t boring old textbooks that can teach you something new or challenge your understanding for all age groups. Remember to check out my World Book Day post from last year for even more recommendations.

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What are your favourite STEM books? What is on your reading list and which books do you wish you had on your bookshelf when you were growing up? Let me know your science book club recommendations.

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