Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time

Generally speaking, if you skipped every book with the word "weird" in the title, you wouldn't be missing much. This is an exception. Michael Shermer teaches the history of science at Occidental College in Eagle Rock, California and, as Editor of Skeptic Magazine, is a prominent and eloquent proponent of the skeptical viewpoint.

The Dead Zone

Did you know that the so-called "Spanish" influenza epidemic of 1918 killed more Americans in three months than the number who died in the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War - combined? Most people don't.

The Limelight

Heat a ball of lime in a hydrogen-oxygen flame, and what do you get? Limelight! This very intense light source was used for lighting plays (hence the modern usage of the word), but it also was the source for the record distance, for a time, over which man-made light was observed.

Catalyst, a Novel

It's not too late to do some recreational reading this summer. "Catalyst" is an enjoyable, light read, especially for chemists. How often do you find a novel that includes catalysis, NMR, mass spectrometry, TLC, some scientific misconduct, and a little sex?

River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life

The "river" to which Dawkins refers in the title of this little (172 page) book is the river of digital genetic information that connects us to our human ancestors and to the rest of life on our planet. I find this metaphor to be an extremely provocative one, and I suspect that it would appeal to many of our computer-addicted students.