Happy Holidays, nerds: Books for science fanatics

At the MIT Press, we know nerdy

Our authors, loyal readers, and staff are all unapologetically enthusiastic about their niche interests. If that makes us nerds, we’ll wear the honorific proudly. 

We’ve put together book recommendations for every type of nerd, from the peer-reviewers and scholars to the armchair intellectuals and budding aficionados. Explore books for the science fanatics in your life below. Happy holidays and happy reading.

Use code NERD20 online and in person at the MIT Press Bookstore for 20% off the below books until January 31, 2024. Terms and conditions apply.

Writing for Their Lives: America’s Pioneering Female Science Journalists by Marcel Chotkowski LaFollette

Writing for Their Lives tells the stories of women who pioneered the nascent profession of science journalism from the 1920s through the 1950s. Like the “hidden figures” of science, such as Dorothy Vaughan and Katherine Johnson, these women journalists, Marcel Chotkowski LaFollette writes, were also overlooked in traditional histories of science and journalism. But, at a time when science, medicine, and the mass media were expanding dramatically, Emma Reh, Jane Stafford, Marjorie Van de Water, and many others were explaining theories, discoveries, and medical advances to millions of readers via syndicated news stories, weekly columns, weekend features, and books—and they deserve the recognition they have long been denied.

“[An] important history…. Writing for Their Lives gives long-overlooked science journalists the attention they richly deserve.” —Booklist

Seeing the Mind: Spectacular Images from Neuroscience, and What They Reveal about Our Neuronal Selves by Stanislas Dehaene

Who are we? To this age-old question, contemporary neuroscience gives a simple answer: we are exquisite neuronal machines. Each of our dreams, thoughts, and feelings arises from a pattern of activity in our brain. In Stanislas Dehaene’s Seeing the Mind, we learn not only that the mind maps onto the brain, but that it is just a complex electrical motif on the tapestry of our neurons. In this richly illustrated and highly accessible book, Dehaene uses the power of brain images to tell the story of centuries-old efforts to understand who we are, and how it is possible that our thoughts emerge from just three pounds of flesh.

Seeing the Mind is a celebration of human creation and imagination.” —Elizabeth S. Spelke, Harvard University; author of What Babies Know

Sharing Our Science: How to Write and Speak STEM by Brandon R. Brown

In Sharing Our Science, scientist-turned-writing teacher Brandon Brown offers an eminently useful guidebook for STEM practitioners looking to communicate their technical work to either a technical or a broader audience. Professionals are increasingly required to communicate their work through blogs, podcasts, and newsletters and to submit to traditional media. After seeing his colleagues struggle to find a writing guide that tackled the unique challenges of writing and speaking about scientific topics, Brown set out to write the definitive handbook to assist STEM students, scientists, engineers, and tech workers alike.

“It should be required reading for scientists at any stage of their career.” —Nature Physics

Fascination of Science: 60 Encounters with Pioneering Researchers of Our Time by Herlinde Koelbl

What makes a brilliant scientist? Who are the people behind the greatest discoveries of our time? Connecting art and science, photographer Herlinde Koelbl seeks the answers in this English translation of the German book Fascination of Science, an indelible collection of portraits of and interviews with sixty pioneering scientists of the twenty-first century. Koelbl’s approach is intimate and accessible, and her highly personal interviews with her subjects reveal the forces (as well as the personal quirks) that motivate the scientists’ work; for example, one wakes up at 3 am because her mind is calm then, another says his best ideas come to him in the shower. These glimpses into the scientists’ lives and thinking add untold texture in this up-to-the-minute survey of the activities and progress that are currently taking place in the broad field of the natural sciences.

“Herlinde Koelbl’s insightful questions and the candid responses of her subjects offer a matchless window into the personal histories and thinking of some of the world’s most successful scientists.” —John P. Holdren, Harvard University; President Obama’s Science Advisor, January 2009 to January 2017

A Theory of Everyone: The New Science of Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We’re Going by Michael Muthukrishna

Playing on the phrase ‘a theory of everything’ from physics, Michael Muthukrishna’s ambitious, original, and deeply hopeful book A Theory of Everyone draws on the most recent research from across the sciences, humanities, and the emerging field of cultural evolution to paint a panoramic picture of who we are and what exactly makes human beings different from all other forms of life on the planet. Casting a bold and wide net, Muthukrishna’s book is a must-read for anyone interested in a better future for ourselves and for generations to come.

“Mind expanding – this book will change your view of the world forever. Michael Muthukrishna is one of our greatest and most creative thinkers.” —Matthew Syed, author of Rebel Ideas

Explore more books for every type of nerd