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Feb 27, 2007, 4:51pm Top

Hi there,

not really book related, but how many people here work in science? If you do, do you tend to read books on subjects close to your specialism or on completely different subjects? If you're a civillian, do you largely read books in the same area?

Personally I don't read anything that closely related to the area I work in (molecular simulation/chemical physics), apart from ones I read for work (very specialise, not light bedtime reading). Instead I tend to read stuff in slightly tangential areas like chaos/complexity theory.

Anyone else?

Feb 27, 2007, 11:57pm Top

I don't have much formal education in and certainly don't work in a science field. I read a little bit in many areas, though I suppose I'm mostly drawn to physics.

Feb 28, 2007, 8:55am Top

I'm a chemist working in biological Mass Spectrometry at the moment. I certainly wouldn't read any mass spec books, and don't own any. I do read odd bits of chemistry and am broadly interested in the whole why the world is the way it is, so I have a few generalised books in areas that aren't "my field".

Edited: Mar 5, 2007, 1:39pm Top

I am in IT, but have an academic background in philosophy, psychology, logic and computation. My reading habits are omnivorous, lately leaning most heavily toward biographies of scientists and mathematicians, biology (evolution, parasitism, evo-devo), mathematics (recreational, statistics), psychology (social, cognitive) and economics (behavioral economics, public choice).

Mar 1, 2007, 12:58pm Top

I'm a biologist, and the non-fiction books I read for fun (which are pretty few and far between, in truth) are mainly evolution and natural history, which are not exactly my specialty but not far from it, either.

Mar 1, 2007, 1:27pm Top

I'm a civilian :), but I've always loved science. I like almost anything except computer manuals. I especially love cosmology, nature, and biographies.

Mar 5, 2007, 10:54am Top

I am a microbiologist and I do read the occasional microbiology book for pleasure, but most of my non-fiction reading is history or the other sciences; particularly astronomy.

Mar 8, 2007, 4:50pm Top

I am now a librarian, but my background is in geology and I taught intro-geology to college students for 4 years.

I read a lot about the history of science and the history of geology in particular. I think I read more science now that I'm not actively involved in it.

Mar 8, 2007, 9:17pm Top

Im an ecology grad student, and I do read a bunch of general ecology/environment books, but also a bunch of history and other for fun.

Mar 10, 2007, 4:09pm Top

I am a microbiolologist technician in a National Institute of Health research lab.

The stuff I read relating to the research I do, are generally scientific papers and stay at work, although I do have a few books that were written as 'popular works' that I have read and enjoyed.

I enjoy reading about science outside my field. Always happy to get more reading recommendations!

Mar 11, 2007, 8:51pm Top

I spent most of my working life in IT and I wrote computer manuals! but now as far as science goes, I am most interested in cosmology and quantum physics - the kind of physics we didn't study in college in the 40's. I am interested in Philosophy of Science as in the arrow of time. Black holes. cosmology, the uncertainty principle, dark matter, the future of the universe, quarks and antiquarks and all such stuff, especially string theory are subjects I attempt to understand as well as a layman can. the necessary math is way beyond me, but i audited a course at Columbia on the Direction of Time in 1998 and it was fascinating. I couldn't finish the course due to a broken ankle, a new romance and a wedding but what i did learn was fascinating if incomprhensible.

Mar 15, 2007, 9:00pm Top

I'm a biostatistician working in psychiatric research and neuroradiology. Most of my recreational science reading is in math and cognitive science - peripherally related to my specialty on both counts. I'd definitely be willing to read good popular works in statistics, if I knew of any! The only really great ones that spring to mind are Edward Tufte's books.

Mar 16, 2007, 5:20am Top

There's Darrell Huff's How to lie with statistics which is/was quite famous though a bit dated now. However this probably a bit more popularist than you'd find helpful for scientific research. Its great fro looking at newspaper figures and promotional campaigns though.

Edited: Mar 16, 2007, 2:04pm Top


I can't resist making some recommendations for you:


*The Emergence of Probability: A Philosophical Study of Early Ideas About Probability, Induction and Statistical Inference, Ian Hacking: Probability from the Renaissance to David Hume.
*The Taming of Chance, Ian Hacking: Probability from the 1800's to Peirce.
*Philosophical Theories of Probability (Philosophical Issues in Science), Donald Gillies: Contemporary philosophical theories of probability, including frequentism, subjective Bayesianism, objective confirmation theory, and propensity theory.
*The Lady Tasting Tea: How Statistics Revolutionized Science in the Twentieth Century, David Salsburg: "Men of Mathematics" for statisticians.


*Error and the growth of experimental knowledge, Deborah Mayo A philosophical justification of the Neyman/Pearson error-statistical philosophy.
*Scientific Reasoning: The Bayesian Approach, Colin Howson & Peter Urbach: One long argument for the Bayesian approach to scientific inference.


*Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk, Peter L. Bernstein: Risk management ideas and techniques through history.
*Fortune's Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall Street, William Poundstone: The story of gangsters, scientists, financiers and the mathematics of betting methods, centering on Kelly's criterion for maximizing the long-term growth rate of repeated plays in a gambling/investing "game".


*Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, Michael Lewis: Well written account of the use of statistics by the Oakland A's to mitigate their team's limited resources.


*Statistics Hacks: Tips & Tools for Measuring the World and Beating the Odds, Bruce Frey: Fun survey of statistical ideas and methods.

I hope that you find a few enjoyable books in this list.

Edited: Mar 16, 2007, 3:41pm Top

Thanks, johnnylogic - great list! I know / have read a few of these, but some are new and I'll definitely check them out.

And thanks for the Huff recommendation, reading_fox. I agree that How to Lie with Statistics is a bit dated, but it's still an enjoyable quick read.

16inkncarrots First Message
Mar 19, 2007, 4:13pm Top

I am a chemist by training, but I am currently working in physics. Although I love chemistry like no other science, I mostly read about physics and evolution. The only time I end up reading chemistry-related books is when there is an overlap with physics (quantum mechanics for example).

Mar 20, 2007, 1:24am Top

I am a geology undergrad, and most of my reading is either science or history related.

I live in small, sad world...

Mar 20, 2007, 8:16am Top

johnascott: I used to always see those books by Tufte advertised in the NY Times Book Review and they looked fascinating ... how technical are they? Can you recommend them for a layman who loves science/statistics but hates actual math? (For example, I can understand the concept of something like "standard deviations" but have 0 interest in what goes into calculating them.)

Mar 20, 2007, 9:14am Top

KT, I can unequivocally recommend Tufte's books to anyone with an interest in science, statistics, communication, or just about anything else. In addition to being fascinating, each book is truly a work of art from a graphic design perspective. They are not at all technical. There is some use of basic statistical ideas and terminology (standard deviations, regression lines), but no formulas - don't worry. I'd recommend starting with The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Happy reading!

Mar 20, 2007, 9:34am Top

Thanks, Johnascott!

Mar 20, 2007, 9:48am Top

johnascott (#19) Agree with that. I 've also got his other book Envisioning Information and both are beautifully produced as well as being informative. I think a user needs to be a little more creative than I am to get the most benefit.

Mar 24, 2007, 9:01am Top

I seem to be a little different to most members of this group in that I enjoy reading the books that are necessary for me to do my job. I am an industrial electronics engineer working with machine vision systems, a subject that I find fascinating.

I have read science books for as long as I can remember because I want to learn as much as possible about how the world works in the short time we have to live.

It is one of the tragedies of being mortal that I will die before the greatest mysteries are solved.

Mar 24, 2007, 7:35pm Top

I am in total agreement. I am trained and work as a biologist, and biology and related sciences are >75% of the books I own and read. I am fortunate that I work within several realms of biology, chemistry and physics (I work as a plant biologist), and I try to read and learn about everything that comes up in my occupation that I find interesting.

I believe if I found myself reading more books/journals about topics that are not related to my occupation, excepting fiction, I would seriously consider changing careers.

Mar 27, 2007, 6:58pm Top

#22 & 23

After reading your posts I realized my previous answer was misleading. The majority of non-fiction that I read is in my field (environmental microbiology), but it is almost all journal articles. I rarely read books from my field because such books are fairly rare and I usually don't get much from them that I didn't already know.

Apr 3, 2007, 10:40pm Top

Biochemist/molecular biologist here, employed in biophysics. Most of my "free" reading isn't science-related, but when it is, I tend to choose expert texts--how could one resist a huge university library at one's disposal (privately collecting these books would take a fortune several orders of magnitude vaster than mine)?

What a few others mentioned--once you become terminally specialised, it is difficult if not impossible to come across a tome pertaining to the field that would be a pleasure to leaf in bed.

My two current science-related reading trends: I've started going over textbooks of late (not in bed though) because I'm getting melancholy over all the stuff I've forgotten; and, I'm indulging again an old interest in history of science--especially classic texts, primary publications etc.

Apr 9, 2007, 5:35am Top

(I don't work in science ...)

I can get monomaniacal about a subject, but I don't like mixing work subjects with freetime reading. A few people have been able to dive into a subject and spend all their time on it, e.g. Paul Erdos.

Apr 24, 2007, 3:39pm Top

I am a neuroscientist and most books that I read are fiction. The majority of non-fiction books that I own are not related to my work. Books I read that are about neurobiology are usually not about the narrow field I am working in. The information I need for my work I get from journal articles.

Feb 14, 2008, 2:55am Top

I'm a grad student in Public Health and my (first) undergrad degree was in Microbiology.

And I mostly read fluff. That is, in addition to school books and journal articles and whatnot, the stuff I choose to read for recreation is generally the written equivalent of cotton candy. Though lately I have gotten into some history of medicine related work, and there are definitely some classics that I love.

However, if I have the luxury of an afternoon to myself where I just get to read, frankly I tend to pick something that requires no intellectual work. Gotta save up those brainwaves, you know? ;)

Feb 27, 2008, 1:00am Top

I work in medical informatics, but my training is in mathematics and chemistry. I read mostly fiction, a fair amount of history, but often and always I need to read some science. It isn't always the hard sciences, I like botany other natural history subjects, as well. Lately I have begun to read popular medicine, including Gawande and lots of journal articles on epidemiology.

Feb 29, 2008, 12:04pm Top

Toxicologist with primary interests in reproductive and developmental toxicology. I read fiction and non-fiction in approximately equal measure. For science-related books I particularly enjoy natural history, medicine, studies of the impacts of disease on history and societies, and almost anything to do with animals and animal behavior. I also read to keep up with developments in my field, like many here mostly journal articles--but that I consider work.

Mar 1, 2008, 7:02pm Top

Physicist with a specialty in high energy neutron detection now working as a system engineer putting together spacecraft. So I've drifted from where I started, but in a related area. I still keep up with some areas in physics, but the longer I stay away, the harder it is to keep up.

Apr 7, 2008, 1:09pm Top

hi bfertig!!!!

I am a lover of nature!!! As you are student of ecology, I recommend you to check mi blog (I made it with some mexican friends)


Apr 28, 2008, 8:04am Top

Although for the last ten years, I would best be described as a person with no discipline (pun intended), an administrator, i.e. someone who goes to meetings and answers email, all of my degrees are in pure mathematics. I was on the faculty of a department of mathematics for 13 years. However, both as an undergraduate and a graduate student, I had a tremendous interest in the history, philosophy, and politics of science. Those are the areas in which I do most of my non-fiction reading, focusing on twentieth century physics and the evolution vs. whatever debates. Currently, I am working my way through the myriad Oppenheimer biographies.

May 3, 2008, 11:35pm Top

I received my degree in English/Psychology. It was during my psychology track that I discovered the works of Michael Shermer. Shermer's books have let me to Dawkins, Feyman, Greene, and others. Though I have absolutely no science background, I find I have a growing interest in evolutionary biology, physics, cosmology, paleontology, and anthropology. I think that reading about science makes us more aware of our amazing universe, and greater awareness is always a positive thing.

May 4, 2008, 1:23pm Top

I was actually an English major, but somehow I ended up in a job where I do a lot of science writing -- I'm a writer for a science & research university. So while I don't DO a lot of science, I am kind of immersed in it.

Most of the science I read though is popular biology, evolution, etc. I usually don't come across that kind of stuff day to day...

May 6, 2008, 7:41pm Top

I'm an industrial hygienist. No, that's got nothing to do with cleaning toilets in factories. It deals with anticipating, recognizing, evaluating and controlling workplace health hazards.

May 7, 2008, 9:06pm Top

I have a science degree (natural resources and biology), but I'm working as a web mistress for an enviro group, and there's nothing scientific about my work. Most of the science reading I do is evolutionary biology.

May 9, 2008, 3:29am Top

I love science and science fiction. The two have been the main driving forces in my life. When people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up I would tell them, “I either want to be studying something scientifically or writing about is science fictionally.” I know it is not perfect English, but it describes me perfectly. I had worked in High Tech for over 20 years but because of massive cuts in the Massachusetts technology field I was “down sized.” I have a degree in General Studies and another one in Computer Science. I also have a certificate in Webpage Design and another one in Wastewater Technology. Today I own a small publishing company called Pear Tree Publishing. I have not yet published a science book but I am hoping…

May 10, 2008, 1:30pm Top

I'm a graduate student, getting my PhD in developmental biology (soon, hopefully!) While I do read a lot (a lot a lot) of science, its mostly journal articles related to my thesis project. Book-wise, I prefer to read fiction, but when I read science books, they tend to be physics or evolutionary biology. You know, science I don't actually do!

May 10, 2008, 3:06pm Top

I'm an engineering undergrad student, and not much I read really reflects that. Most of the stuff I read deals with anthropology, politics, and history. I kind of feel that the natural sciences are something you need to learn in a school setting (unless you're some kind of child genius), whereas many of the social sciences are less rigorous, and a lot of the knowledge may be gained from reading on your own time.

I hope I don't step on anyone's toes with that...really, I'm not trying to insult anyone's field of interest. That's just my opinion.

I don't have my full library up, yet. I just add a few books every few days, so I'll eventually get there.

May 11, 2008, 10:26am Top

I started my career as an anthropologist doing research in bioarchaeology, then went on to NIH-funded research. I made the "mistake" a few years back of writing a grant to build a collaborative research network for our institution and now find myself overseeing the management of it with a staff of six. I now do work as a software architect and develop programs in bioinformatics. It has been an interesting journey.

Jul 11, 2008, 8:16pm Top

I have a Master's in Radiological Physics, but worked as a cellphone engineer for most of my career. I love to read clearly-written works in almost any field of science/engineering:
Math: Journey through Genius
Biology: Social Evolution by Robt. Trivers
Geography: Guns, Germs, and Steel
Physics: The Feynman Lectures

Oct 3, 2008, 5:07pm Top

Physics professor with interests in Soft Condensed Matter, Nanophysics and Biophysics.

Oct 3, 2008, 10:04pm Top

"Soft Condensed Matter"? Jell-O? :)

Oct 5, 2008, 8:18pm Top

i am a medical student. about to start a residency. i did a b.s. psych and zoo undergrad. M.P.H. international epi. and one test away from M.D. i want to read/do something non medically related. turned to knitting recently.

Oct 6, 2008, 10:20am Top

European history major with an emphasis on interactions among the emrgent social sciences and evolutionary theory in the late 19th century, especially in England (Darwin, Thomas Huxley, Julian Huxley New Wine for Old Bottles, Aldous Huxley, the social darwinists, Nietzsche). Minored in biology with an empasis on vertebrate evolution & New England terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Later did master's work in natural resources policy, economics & management. In between I did staff work at MIT in computer systems management and in community health at a medical school. I am not sure where this leaves me profiled as a science reader, except that (to the extent I can avoid the reptition of information) I tend to evenly divide environmental science reading time between "professional/practitioner" specialty works (i.e. Island Press, academic presses) and more literary generalist attempts to convey the magic and imminent relevance of environmental sciences (think John McPhee).

Oct 6, 2008, 10:43am Top

#44 Well, yeah, that would qualify. Good idea, it would make for an edible research subject ;D.

Actually, in my case, more liquids in nanosized spaces. But soft condensed matter typically includes polymers, liquid crystals, colloids etc. These things can have some really interesting, crazy types of behaviors (think corn starch +water for an every day example) and generate new physical/theoretical ideas. Also, these things have applications to biology (lots of soft matter there), so there is quite a bit of interest.

Oct 6, 2008, 12:44pm Top

these things have applications to biology (lots of soft matter there), so there is quite a bit of interest.

Absolutely! I pushed a student to absorb quite a bit more gel and colloidal chemistry than he liked when we were designing our ultrasound phantoms (to mimic various tissues).

Edited: Aug 28, 2009, 8:06pm Top

I'm a geologist, I normally stick with what I know which is geology and water related stuff.

I do like to branch out and read the occasional Biology book on evolution or natural history (I guess when you think about it, that's not really branching out)

Feb 6, 2009, 2:50pm Top

I am a researcher in relativistic astrophysics, but I read almost everything, with some preference to philosophy, history and cifrematica (derived from the merging of linguistics and psychoanalysis). I read also adventure and science fiction novels.

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