The Ten Best Science Books of 2020

New titles explore the mysterious lives of eels, the science of fear and our connections to the stars

This year's top ten titles explore the cosmos, fear and cleanliness alongside narratives about owls, fish and eels. (Illustration by Shaylyn Esposito)

When it came to science news this year, our feeds were filled with discoveries and studies, many of them about Covid-19. Those stories, often about potential vaccines and transmission rates, but also about space travel and forest fires, certainly demanded attention. But it’s important that this year’s longer works about science don’t get lost in the deluge of content. Compelling books came out on everything from researchers’ efforts to understand fear to the importance of astronomy to a concentrated mission to learn about a charismatic owl. These impressive and entertaining works, which we’ve rounded up here after online debates and votes via Zoom meetings, offer the best way to slow down and gain a deeper understanding of how science informs our world and makes it a better place.

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About Corryn Wetzel
Corryn Wetzel

Corryn Wetzel is an editorial intern at Smithsonian magazine. She is a graduate student at New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program and is a freelance science journalist based in Brooklyn, NY.

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About Joe Spring

Joe Spring is the associate digital science editor for Smithsonian magazine.

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About Rachael Lallensack
Rachael Lallensack

Rachael Lallensack is the assistant web editor for science and innovation at Smithsonian.

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