Monday, January 16, 2012

Culture Lab - Ten books to look out for in 2012

Whether you want to know about black holes, the brain, genes or imagination, there's one for you in our list of books we can't wait to read this year
(Image: Regine Mahaux/Digital Vision/Getty)

Ignorance: How it drives science
by Stuart Firestein, Oxford University Press. In this provocatively titled book, Stuart Firestein, chair of biological sciences at Columbia University in New York City, promises to disabuse readers of the myth that the scientific quest for truth is propelled by understanding. Instead, he emphasises, it is the very fact of not knowing that spurs scientists on - groping for scraps of insight and grappling with befuddling mysteries.

Imagine: How creativity works
by Jonah Lehrer, Canongate/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Science writer Jonah Lehrer's last book, The Decisive Moment, examined when we should let instinct run the show and when we should allow reason to take over, with exceptional results. Our hopes are high for Imagine, in which Lehrer sets out to understand human creativity, and dispenses with oversimplifications about creative "types".

17 Equations that Changed the World
by Ian Stewart, Profile Books/Basic Books. We had a sneak peek at Ian Stewart's latest offering and found his shortlist of the most influential equations so compelling we have asked him to tell yo

The Violinist's Thumb: And other lost tales of love, war, and genius, as written by our genetic code
by Sam Kean, Little, Brown & Co. His debut book, The Disappearing Spoon, toured through the periodic table with wit and humour. So we eagerly anticipate science writer Sam Kean's new offering, in which he aims to unravel the mysteries of our own human building blocks: DNA.

Tubes: A journey to the center of the internet
by Andrew Blum, Viking/Ecco. Though it may be commonplace to conceptualise the internet as a vast but invisible network channelling through the ether, Wired magazine contributing editor Andrew Blum is on a mission to unveil the real cords and cables that link us across the globe.

Connectome: How the brain's wiring makes us who we are
by Sebastian Seung, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Professor of computational neuroscience Sebastian Seung is convinced that it's not our genes that shape us as individuals, but our connectome - the "totality of connections between neurons in a nervous system". By understanding what distinguishes our individual connectomes, Seung hopes to shed light on what constitutes identity.

The Spark of Life: The electrifying force that illuminates everything
by Frances Ashcroft, Allen Lane. Electricity isn't just for charging phones. It is also the force that enables thought and movement, something that Frances Ashcroft, a professor of physiology at the University of Oxford, promises to demonstrate in her new book.

Subliminal: How your unconscious mind rules your behaviour
by Leonard Mlodinow, Allen Lane/Pantheon. Physicist, science writer and Hollywood screenwriter Leonard Mlodinow is out to explore how important the unconscious is in shaping the way we process the world.

Gravity's Engines: How bubble-blowing black holes rule galaxies, stars, and life in the cosmos
by Caleb Scharf, Scientific American/Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Director of astrobiology at Columbia University in New York City, Caleb Scharf knows a thing or two about black holes. In this book, he aims to explain how these cosmic crunchers are also hubs of explosive activity.

The Social Conquest of Earth
by Edward O. Wilson, W. W. Norton. Sociobiologist and emeritus professor of entomology at Harvard University, Edward O. Wilson has penned more than 25 books over the course of his career. This latest work, tackling the origin of the human condition, may be his most ambitious yet.

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