Five books

Ed Yong picks five great science books on the natural world

The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen

An absolute classic. The world is changing, fragmenting, dwindling, and David Quammen – easily one of science writing's most skilled and affable narrators – is here to tell you why. It's a testament to his peerless prose that the sections about scholarly brouhahas are just as compelling as the adventurous passages where he tracks birds of paradise and Komodo dragons.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

Some might argue that this memoir is not a science book, but they're wrong. Science is more than a cold series of experiments and published findings – it's also about the world around us, how it moves us, how it stirs emotion, and how we connect with it. Macdonald's book covers all of that, with lyricism and compassion.


The Forest Unseen by David George Haskell

Haskell traipses into the same patch of forest throughout a year, and describes the changing life within a circular mandala. With a keen eye and effervescent writing, he makes the tiniest of moments – a scurrying salamander, a shoot, the rustling of feathers – a window into a wondrous world. If you've never wept at the glory of nature, it's because you haven't read David George Haskell yet.


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Its place on the bestseller charts is seemingly as ever-lasting as the immortal cells it writes about – and you can see why. Science is not just about awe-inspiring discoveries and life-saving advances. It also has a dark side, full of ethical lapses and human costs. Few books grapple with the latter as well as Skloot's masterwork.


War of the Whales by Josh Horowitz

A group of whales mysteriously die on a Pacific beach, setting the scene for a fierce battle over the harms inflicted of marine sonar, and an impressive feat of narrative journalism. There's a sequence in the middle, told almost from the point of view of a dying whale, that will haunt me for years.


Find out more about the author

I Contain Multitudes

Ed Yong

'Super-interesting … He just keeps imparting one surprising, fascinating insight after the next. I Contain Multitudes is science journalism at its best’ BILL GATES


Selected as a Science Book of the Year by The Economist, The Times and Observer

Your body is teeming with tens of trillions of microbes. It’s an entire world, a colony full of life.

In other words, you contain multitudes.

These microscopic companions sculpt our organs, protect us from diseases, guide our behaviour, and bombard us with their genes. They also hold the key to understanding all life on earth.

In I Contain Multitudes, Ed Yong opens our eyes and invites us to marvel at ourselves and other animals in a new light, less as individuals and more as thriving ecosystems.

We learn the invisible and wondrous science behind the corals that construct mighty reefs and the squid that create their own light shows. We see how bacteria can alter our response to cancer-fighting drugs, tune our immune system, influence our evolution, and even modify our genetic make-up. And we meet the scientists who are manipulating these microscopic partners to our advantage.

In a million tiny ways, I Contain Multitudes will radically change how you think about the natural world, and how you see yourself.

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