Our roundup of the books you’ll want this Christmas

You’re no doubt looking forward to Christmas – a day where all bets are off when it comes to food, elaborate party games, and wearing a paper hat without fear of reprisal. But if, like me, you’d rather be tucking into a good book with a glass of homemade mulled wine (or if you’re hunting for last-minute gift ideas), here is our rundown of the top popular science books to help you escape the imminent Christmas chaos.


50 chemistry ideas you really need to know


by Hayley Birch

Hayley Birch’s new book captures an aspect of chemistry that makes it the connecting bridge between the sciences – its sheer breadth. From atoms and acids to 3D printing and nanotechnology, she has it covered with these 50 topics. In his review, Jonathan Fogg was clearly enamoured with the book and makes a convincing case for it as the quintessential stocking filler.

Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk


Thing explainer – complicated stuff in simple words


by Randall Munroe

Scientist’s esoteric language may be a bug-bear for some – and now I’m conscious of the fact I’ve used the word ‘esoteric’ in a sentence – but, in Thing explainer, Randall Monroe attempts to explain innovations, inventions and ideas using only the 1000 most common words in the English language. Famed for his internet cartoon series at xkcd.com, Monroe has crafted a beautifully illustrated encyclopaedia on everything from a sky boat with turning wings (helicopter) to a hole-making city boat (oil rig). Ironically, the book probably requires some existing knowledge to get in on the joke, but it certainly makes for an entertaining read nonetheless.

Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk


A is for arsenic – the poisons of Agatha Christie 

by Kathryn Harkup

After speaking to Kathryn Harkup on our inaugural book club podcast, it’s clear she has an unbridled passion for all things Agatha Christie. But it may surprise some readers that Christie used her chemistry expertise, gained when she was an apothecary assistant during the Great War, to bump off some of her fictional victims. In A is for arsenic, Harkup explores the chemistry behind Christie’s plots and peppers her prose with some real-life poisonings from the accidental to the macabre. Vicki Marshall found the book to be a must-read no matter whether you prefer chemistry or Christie.

Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk


Why does asparagus make your wee smell? And 57 other curious food and drink questions


by Andy Brunning

His popular blog Compound interest needs no introduction, but Andy Brunning has now translated his chemistry infographics into a book that seeks to answer some rather curious questions. Brunning’s signature style is backed up with concise explanations on a smorgasbord of culinary issues, such as whether carrots really do enhance your nocturnal vision and, the age-old debate, should you store chocolate in the fridge? We had nothing but praise for the book in the podcast and review, and I’m sure it’ll make a fine and unique addition to the burgeoning number of gifts under the Christmas tree.

Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk