A Book About STEM: Picks for the TPL Reading Challenge 2021

November 1, 2021 | Pauline

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I’ve never been great at the sciences, but that never stopped me from reading about STEM (science, technology, math and engineering). Especially since there are so many great non-fiction books about STEM that are written in an accessible narrative style.

Galaxy Girls

One of my favourite books so far this year was Galaxy Girls: 50 Amazing Stories of Women in Space by Libby Jackson. It is an inspiring book about women’s achievements in space accompanied by awesome illustrations. It was interesting to learn about their different backgrounds and career trajectories. The book only has a few paragraphs about each woman/group of women, focusing on their contributions to the field of space exploration. It serves as a good jumping-off point to set off and learn more about any individual that stands out. 

A is for Arsenic

A is For Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup is for book lovers and chemistry enthusiasts alike! There is no need to have read the discussed books beforehand, the author also gives fair warning before any spoilers are revealed. Each chapter is stand-alone which makes for easy reading. The book is organized alphabetically from a to v. The book doesn’t delve too deeply into the technical and it presents chemistry in a simple and easy-to-understand way. What are the effects of certain substances on the body and how are they used maliciously? Agatha Christie had worked as a nurse and studied to become a pharmacist, for the most part, her books were quite accurate. The range of topics under STEM is so vast, there is sure to be a book out there for everyone. 


Staff Recommendations

Here are some recommendations from TPL staff for "a book about STEM":

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

This story exposes the intersection of race, gender, and class. It describes cancer research in a way that is simultaneously heartbreaking and fascinating.

- Aaron, Librarian


The Body A Guide for Occupants

The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson

Only Bill Bryson can make the mundane functions of our bodies entertaining and instill in us a deeper appreciation and respect for our bodies.

- Carrie, Library Assistant


Project Hail Mary

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Like his novel, "The Martian", I enjoyed Andy Weir's recent "Hail Mary" very much. It's fascinating sci-fi, a lot of physics, science, and math discussed, and it's literally out-of-this-world astronomy.

Can also be used for:

  •  "a book published this year"

- Catherine, Librarian


Little Eyes

Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin

The technology in this novel is a "kentuki", it's a cute, mechanical creature, equipped with a camera, that you can talk to, but it cannot talk back. It's controlled by a dweller who has randomly connected to the server, and watches through the camera, listening, moving around its space, but cannot speak. Each kentuki can only hold one connection, when either the keeper of the physical kentuki or the dweller disconnects, the kentuki is rendered useless, it will no longer work as intended with a new connection. The novel is filled with vignettes of human connection mediated through these creatures, and as a result reflecting upon our own interactions mediated through technology.

You can argue that the kentuki are the main characters of this novel, in which case it would also fit into the category: "a book where the main character is not human."

- Marta, Librarian


Algorithms of Oppression

Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism by Safiya Umoja Noble

Behind The Screen

Behind The Screen: Content Moderation in the Shadows of Social Media by Sarah T. Roberts

Both books discuss the fallacy that technology is neutral and without real interrogation and challenges of current power structures. The authors address that any new technology introduced will only replicate existing inequalities and mistreatment.

- Hellen, Librarian


To be taught if fortunate

To Be Taught if Fortunate by Becky Chambers

A sci-fi novella written from the point of view of Ariadne, an astronaut who’s on a mission with three others to explore extraterrestrial life on four planets beyond our Solar System. Chambers uses futuristic technology and science in a believable way as the astronauts explore the environments and study the lifeforms within each planet. The mission the astronauts are on is publicly funded by international donations, so they are committed to benefiting humanity instead of a nation or corporation. The book is an appreciation of scientists- there are no antagonists, and the four astronauts are all positive characters with different views on how to help humanity. In the afterword, Chambers thanks the many scientists (including her mom) who advised and helped fact-check the book. 

Can also be used for:

  •  "a book set in the future"

-Rathees, Librarian


Recommendations from the Facebook Group

These are just some of the suggested titles from our Facebook TPL Reading Challenge 2021 discussion group. You can read all of the responses in the original post. You do not need a Facebook account to read the suggestions.


What would you recommend for "a book about STEM”? Add your suggestions in the comments section below. You can also watch a replay of our Reading Challenge Online Discussion when our hosts discussed their favourite books about STEM.