The author, most recently, of “The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge” mostly reads nonfiction. “Fiction, unless it is truly great, feels too much like playing tennis without the net.”
From the New York Times:
What books are currently on your night stand?
“The Weather Experiment,” by Peter Moore, about the people who first invented weather forecasting in the 19th century, which I am listening to on my iPad as I fall asleep. (I’ve discovered that talking books are a far better cure for anxiety-induced insomnia than any number of pills, therapies, diets or new-age claptrap. You have to keep going back to where you dropped off, of course.) As for the book I read before I turn the light out, currently it’s “Dynasty,” by Tom Holland, about the Caesars. It has Holland’s usual novelistic ability to bring a narrative alive, together with his extraordinary command of ancient sources. It’s the sequel to his outstanding “Rubicon.” It’s fascinating on how, inch by inch, Augustus and his successors surreptitiously turned a republic into an autocracy.
And what’s the best book you’ve read so far this year?
Among serious books, it’s “The Vital Question,” by Nick Lane, which is a brilliant new analysis of the origin of life, by the man who has himself done more than anybody to crack the problem. The book is full of startling, fresh insights about energy and genetics, but it’s really hard going in places, so you have to take it slowly. For something easier, it was probably “The Martian,” by Andy Weir. I loved the fact that the hero never once implies that it’s courage, spirit and faith that saves him — as so many modern books and films would do — just lots of practical tinkering and problem-solving: Science the crap out of it. Ditto for humanity as a whole, I think.