Real Science Books

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In the taxonomy of categories that bookstores–online and physical–provide, the category of “science” is frequently far too broad. For one thing, it is often combined with other categories, as in “Science and technology.” When that happens, the science part seems to lose out.

Each Tuedsay, when new books are released, I head over to Audible to see if there are any new releases I might be interested in. I have a process that I follow. I don’t skim all of the new books. Instead, I skim certain categories. I usually start with “Biographies & Memoirs,” followed by “History” and then “Science & Engineering.” Lately, however, a lot of the books I’ve found listed under “Science & Engineering” are dubiously classified as such.

Growing Lavender for Profit: The Complete Guide to Building a Successful Lavender Business by Aaron Martinez is categorized under Science & Engineering. “Business & Careers” seems like a better category for this book.

Sweet Surprise: A Secret Weight Loss for Over 40, Hormone Balance, Stop Sugar & Refine Carb Cravings, 21 Days Sugar Detox for Your Best Beach Body by Triya Redberg is categorized under Science and Engineering. The only thing that remotely calls to mind “science” in this title is its length. Call me skeptical. This book seems better suited toward “Relationships, Parenting & Personal Development” because of the latter in this catchall category.

There are several survialist books that appear under “Science and Engineering.” I think this is sneaky. We all know that this is not what we mean by science or engineering.

Selling Cars: A Step-by-Step Car Selling Guide for Beginning Used Car Dealers and Entrepreneurs — from a Licensed Car Dealer’s Perspective by Dr. Ezekiel Fierce Zeke is categorized under “Science and Engineering.” Here, I take it that the taxonomers meant “social engineering.”

As far as I know, the authors of these books don’t categorize them themselves, and so they are not at fault for this. Indeed, they may be dismayed at having their books put into the Science and Engineering bucket in the first place. Surely “Self-Help” sells better than science.

Still, fully one third of the new science and engineering books released this week on Audible were not remotely close to what I think of as science and engineering. I feel like science and engineering is getting short shrift here. When I think of books of science, I think of the kind of books that Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov wrote. I think of books by Martin Gardner and Stephen Jay Gould and Neil deGrasse Tyson. I think of books by Katie Mack or Sy Montgomery. In short, I think of book that contain ample quantities of, and are mostly about the physical sciences, the scientific method, the history of science and related mathematical branches. Selling used cars, growing lavender for profit, and rapid weight loss are nowhere on this list.

We should be able to do better than this.

Written on March 16, 2022.

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  1. Don’t judge the book by the cover or even tittle ! You should read the book especially before putting things in word and show in public because now people who read the book can look back to you and raise their eyebrows!

    1. Triya, not judging a book by its cover or its title is good in theory but I have found it to be difficult in practice. Titles, especially for nonfiction, are important guides to the material within and it seems to me that one should be able to make some decisions based on the title. The same is true for how a book is categorized. Taxonomies are designed in part to make it easy to find things you are looking for. I use titles and categories to determine if I should look further into the book. I also use it to see if it fits a pattern I have in my head for what I am looking for — in this case, books on science and engineering.

      All that said, one important lesson I took from my high school and college science classes was that science is self-corrective. It identifies mistakes and scientists learn from them. I try to do this as well. I frequently make mistakes, and if this is one of them, then I will do my best to learn from it going forward.


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