Your Summer Science Reading List 2018

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School is finally out! No more teachers! No more books! … Except the ones on our summer science reading list. From harvester ants to the ruts of ancient Rome, Annalee Newitz, tech culture editor for Ars Technica shares her picks written by scientists who really dig into their work. And Science Friday education director Ariel Zych sings the praises of a book about the stuff no one likes to talk about—human waste. So, act like a kid again and assign yourself a book or two from our summer science reading list.

Plus, check out the SciFri staff’s recommendations for summertime science beach reads. No book report required.

This is the strangest and most delightful history of the city of Pompeii that you’ll ever read. Archaeologist Poehler explores ancient Roman culture by studying the streets of Pompeii, and specifically how ruts and scrapes on the cobblestones reveal tremendous amounts of information about what kinds of vehicles the Romans drove. And that in turn reveals how people navigated this small tourist city at the base of a volcano that would eventually bury it.

We might pretend we don’t want to know what happens after we flush the toilet, but the truth is, everyone has, at one point or another, wondered about the toilet’s aftermath. George easily dives into the unsavory and familiar exercise of defecation in this book. What really sets apart The Big Necessity is how it draws our attention to the less familiar forms of sanitation (and lack thereof) around the world. George balances facts and science with highly-relatable human experiences from a variety of cultures. Using candor laced with humor, she instills in the reader a sense of urgency (pardon the pun) for what sanitation must accomplish for the wellbeing of society.

The original Mr. Tompkins was a seminal book that put me on the path to understanding relativity. Simple language, but deep thoughts. Gamow was magnificent.

Segment Guests

Annalee Newitz

Annalee Newitz is the tech culture editor for  and founding editor of She’s the author of  Autonomous (Tor, 2017). She’s based in San Francisco, California.

Ariel Zych

Ariel Zych is Science Friday’s education director. She is a former teacher and scientist who spends her free time making food, watching arthropods, and being outside.

Meet the Producer

About Katie Hiler

Katie Hiler is an assistant producer for Science Friday and the proud mother of two cats, Charleigh and Sadie.

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