Recommended Reads for December: Science on the Brain

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Reading Lists
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Mary Lonsdale
Our recommended reads for December are all about science - check them out!

Science has well and truly been at the forefront of many minds this year – and perhaps even more so this week, due to Wednesday’s announcement that the UK government has now approved a COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use (the first government in the world to do so).

A love of science and reading don’t always go hand in hand: bookworms don’t always enjoy books that aren’t rooted in fiction, and keen science fans often prefer to be experimenting and calculating rather than reading lengthy tomes! However, our science-based December reading list has something for everyone – so grab a book, settle down with your children and prepare to delve into some incredible scientific discoveries!

Science on the Brain: Rise of the Rocket Girls (Nathalia Holt)

Did you love the film Hidden Figures? If so – or even if not! – you’ll really enjoy the fascinating book Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt. This insightful look at the real-life rise of ‘human computers’ in 1940s and 1950s America (who paved the way for the first American satellites and, later, the space explorations seen in Hidden Figures) doesn’t only shine the spotlight on the impressive female mathematicians of the day – it’s also an interesting exploration of contemporary social dynamics, and discusses some of the issues women faced during this era.

Blame My Brain (Nicola Morgan)

The ‘first book in the world to show teenagers what’s going on in their heads’, Blame My Brain: The Amazing Teenage Brain has been lauded for its ground-breaking introduction to adolescent brains – and how they evolve. For parents, the book provides reassurance about the changes their children are experiencing; for teenagers, the information provided helps them to navigate their evolution, as well as empowering them to make the most of this extraordinary biological period.

The author, Nicola Morgan, is able to break down complex neurological concepts and make these relatable and interesting to read about. There is also useful guidance on risk-taking, alcohol, self-harm and mental health. The Times Educational Supplement praised the book, deeming ita good resource to share with students to help them deal with what is potentially the most challenging, but also the most exciting, period in their development.’

The Magic of Reality (Richard Dawkins and Dave McKean)

What came first – the chicken or the egg? Why do bad things happen? Is there life outside our planet? Mankind has always pondered such questions, and has often come up with wild (and sometimes harmful) theories to explain the big mysteries of our universe.

In this book, acclaimed thinker Richard Dawkins and illustrator Dave McKean set out to untangle fact from fiction, bringing the wonder of science – and forgotten myths – to a modern audience. Filled with fascinating facts about space, time, and evolution, and packed with stunning illustrations, this wonderful scientific guide takes the reader on a voyage of discovery and is sure to inspire any curious young mind – whether they’re keen on reading or not.

All Fall Down (Sally Nicholls)

When writing during the COVID-19 pandemic, author Sally Nicholls commented on how ‘the present situation has been compared to everything from the Blitz to the Spanish flu. And, inevitably, people have been comparing it to the greatest pandemic […] in historical memory: the Black Death.’

The Black Death is one of Nicholls’ historical specialisms, and also the focus of her acclaimed novel All Fall Down: a gripping tale about a young girl, Isabel, who is growing up in Yorkshire during medieval times. For Isabel, life is simple and unpredictable – until a deadly disease spreads across the Channel and upwards to the north of England, devastating everything Isabel took for granted and forcing her into a fight for survival.

Isabel’s experience of the disease is shockingly vivid; so it’s worth mentioning to younger readers, particularly if they’ve suffered from anxiety during the coronavirus crisis, that the Black Plague was far more dangerous than COVID-19 (the mortality rate is believed to have been around 80 to 100%). However, if your child is a keen reader who delights in all the gory details found in historical fiction, this is a fantastic – and highly relevant – novel to try.

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