Booklist: Scientifically Funny Nonfiction

The best kind of science books are the one that share information without getting too technical, are not monotonous, and have a unique angle: that it factor that makes it special. Humor is a draw, especially in nonfiction and, double-points if the book reads like fiction, too. So set aside the baking soda volcanoes and egg drop tests to read some of these humorous science books.

funny science books for teens
collage photos CC via Flickr user hine

Guinea Pig Scientists : Bold Self-Experimenters in Science and Medicine by Mel Boring, Leslie Dendy, and C.B. Mordan 

This book showcases a handful of scientists who advanced medicine by first starting with themselves, then others, then animals, until their theories were proved. Tenacity was the key for all of these innovators of such things as laughing gas or what caused yellow fever. Now we know!  

How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial by Darryl Cunningham

Useful for any STEM curriculum this graphic novel is for conspiracy theorists, science buffs, and graphic novel fans. It discusses topics like autism and vaccines to fracking. For many teens, some of the topics will build new knowledge.

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

Roach has a talent for incorporating solid research, witty observations, and her own brand of intrigue on life, death, and the gastrointestinal system. Written for adults, her books are the kind that are entertaining to any reader not wanting to break out Grey’s Anatomy of the Human Body.  

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks (YALSA’s Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults) 

Genius, fun, and empowering, Ottaviani and Wicks teach readers to follow their passions by sharing the stories of Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas without glorifying their adventures. It’s arduous and difficult working tirelessly in the jungles. Coupled with the vivid colors of the graphic novel, no one would think their work was easy. It’s fighting against politics and civil war and their own critics and bosses that made their work so rewarding and renown.

The Killer Book Of… series by Tom Philbin

  • Serial Killers: Incredible Stories, Facts, and Trivia from the World of Serial Killers
  • True Crime: Incredible Stories, Facts and Trivia from the World of Murder and Mayhem
  • Cold Cases: Incredible Stories, Facts, and Trivia from the Most Baffling True Crime Cases of All Time
  • Infamous Murders: Incredible Stories, Facts, and Trivia from the World’s Most Notorious Murders

Each of the books written by Philbin, and sometimes co-written with his brother Michael, seem like odd titles to be in a post about humorous science books but the dose of light-heartedness through which they share the worst about humanity is necessary. Reading it myself, I sometimes stopped to ponder the downfall of humanity and question everyone from my co-worker to my own husband and the possibility that they were serial killers, murderers, or arsonists. Yet, presenting the facts as Q&As, guessing “who is this?”, and providing definitions and examples of all types of crimes showcase the literary versions of some of the best crime show dramas on television like Dexter and Bones, and reality shows like Dr. G.: Medical Examiner and Cold Case Files.

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgie Bragg and Kevin O’Malley (IllusHowTheyCroakedtrator)

This collective biography is just as scientific as it is biographical, detailing the ways in which historical figures died. Yes, death is not necessarily funny, but knowing how preventable many of their deaths were based on 21st century science and medicine makes them seems outlandish. Hence, the humor.  Bragg combines facts and quotes, but scientific discoveries, odd illustrations, and easily read chapters.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t throw a children’s book in here for good measure. Let’s all remember 1991 when Shinta Cho and Amanda Mayer Stinchecum wrote Gas We Pass: The Story of Farts. Everyone does it but rare is the person who admits it, so we all are fascinated by the story of how gas works and that many an animal deals with it. So here’s to the writers and illustrators that teach us with a side of laughter. They say it is the best medicine.

— Alicia Abdul, currently between books