A Tale of Two Sciency Books

I quite enjoy sciency books – from the focused, like Seven Modern Plagues and Stuff Matters, to the kind that addresses all sorts of random topics, like What If.


I recently reviewed two very different science books on NetGalley and… I kind of didn’t fall in love with either one.

Know It All by New Scientist is basically a collection of some of their most interesting Last Word columns. If you’re unfamiliar, this is where readers submit questions and other readers answer them. They’re pretty much unGooglable and very hypothetical, like what would happen to your mass if you reached the center of the Earth.

The tagline is kind of telling: “…answers from amateur experts everywhere” – you know, those people who think they know a lot and are kind of a show-off about it. I’m sure I sound like an old hag, but they do annoy me.

Because it isn’t written by a single author, the style seems a little disjointed and hard to follow. In contrast, AsapSCIENCE (from the youtube channel by the same name) has a single author so the writing style is consistent – albeit consistent in its bad jokes.

Where Know It All has a rather pompous voice at times, AsapSCIENCE has a congenial tone that appeals to the layperson. I can see the merit in each but they both annoyed me.

I’m a big fan of illustrations in science books, and Know It All lacked that. It’s a pity, because the answers are very wordy and could have done with some space and illustrations. AsapSCIENCE just proves this by utilizing one other colour than black and white – blue – and making the whole reading experience fun with their hilarious illustrations.

They are both the kind of books that I would keep on a coffee table to page through and read at random, but for very different audiences. I think the ultimate question for authors of sciency books is, “Who is my target audience?” because one, like Know It All, is going to be enjoyed by sciency types, while the other, like AsapSCIENCE, is going to make science and its wonders more accessible to people who don’t traditionally consider themselves sciency. I am sure you can guess which would sell more, or get a greater audience in a high school library, though.

Ultimately, I hope people don’t stop writing books bringing science closer to the everyday people. Science is wonderful, and I want everyone to be able to enjoy it in their own little way. I’m tired of it being a thing for “geeks” or “nerds” – we certainly don’t own science, after all. 😉

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