Tim Gregory, author of Meteorite: The Stones From Outer Space That Made Our World, chooses some great books to share with us! Before jumping into the interview, please check out Tim's book:
Q. Do you have a favourite smart thinking book (and why that book)?
My favourite smart thinking book is Cosmos by Carl Sagan. I read it about a decade ago while I was an A-level student, and it articulated something that had been in my mind for a long time: that science is beautiful, and can be a deep source of fulfilment and meaning. The poetic, almost romantic language that Carl Sagan uses in Cosmos (and his other books, for that matter) really struck me, and added warmth to what can easily become cold.
I have read Cosmos a few times, and often refer back to some of my favourite passages and chapters. It is a masterpiece.
Q. What's the most recent smart thinking book you've read (and how would you rate it)?
I finally got around to reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. It did not disappoint, although I think it was a little ambitious for one single book (admittedly, trying to cover the entirety of human history is one hell of a task!). However, I loved reading it, and it was a real page turner.
Sapiens has subtly changed the lens through which I see society. For example, Harari talks about ‘shared belief in myths’ as one of the glues that keeps human society together, and I think he is right. Now I’m in that mindset, I am seeing these myths everywhere, and it has made me realise how remarkable it is that we (tribal animals biologically predisposed to live in groups of no more than ~ 150 individuals or so) can live in towns and cities in relative peace and harmony. It is astounding.
Q. Do you have a favourite childhood book?
Yes, absolutely. It’s a book called Yorkshire Rock: A Journey Through Time by Richard Bell. It’s the first book I remember reading. It talks all about the geology of my home county (Yorkshire) and is beautifully illustrated. We used go on holiday and for days out quite a bit on the Yorkshire coast, and many of the places we visited are in this book!
I could not believe that the rocks that I was seeing with my own eyes and touching with my own hands held such amazing secrets. The feeling that beneath any beautiful landscape there is a whole story written in the rocks has never left me.
I still have my childhood copy on my shelf (over 20 years old now).
Q. Do you prefer reading on paper, Kindle or listening to an audiobook?
For the past few years I have read all of my books on my iPad, mainly for convenience (I have been living in rented accommodation for the past 9 years and moved around a lot, and so it saved me lugging my books from place to place). I also think it’s impossible to lay down in bed on your side and read comfortably with a paper book… or at least I’ve never mastered the craft! Reading on an iPad this way is no problem.
Q. Do you have a favourite bookshop (and why that shop)?
Yes. My favourite bookshop is The Ullapool Bookshop in NW Scotland. My partner and I holiday in NW Scotland every year (we are very keen hikers) and we always make a point of visiting this bookshop. It stocks some fantastic hiking guides and ‘outdoors-y’ books. The staff are also really friendly.
Many thanks to Tim for answering my questions and for the great list of books he has shared with us! Please don't forget to check out his book Meteorite: The Stones From Outer Space That Made Our World.
Image Copyrights: John Murray Press (Meteorite), Little, Brown Book Group (Cosmos), Vintage Publishing (Sapiens), British Geological Survey (Yorkshire Rock).