Over the last few years, my friend and fellow writer Susan M. Gaines (author of the novels Accidentals and Carbon Dreams and the non-fiction book Echoes of Life: What Fossil Molecules Reveal about Earth History, and co-director of the Fiction Meets Science Program at the University of Bremen) and I have developed a fascination with what we’ve taken to calling “nerd novels” for the way they incorporate a specific field of study or body of knowledge into their plots, themes, settings, and characters. A few of our favorite examples are listed below (descriptions from the respective publishers).
- Body and Soul, by Frank Conroy
In the dim light of a basement apartment, six-year-old Claude Rawlings sits at an old white piano, picking out the sounds he has heard on the radio and shutting out the reality of his lonely world. The setting is 1940s New York, a city that is “long gone, replaced by another city of the same name.” Against a backdrop that pulses with sound and rhythm, “Body & Soul” brilliantly evokes the life of a child prodigy whose musical genius pulls him out of squalor and into the drawing rooms of the rich and a gilt-edged marriage.
- The Passion of Tasha Darsky, by Yael Love Goldstein
The Passion of Tasha Darsky draws readers into the glamorous and competitive world of classical music, capturing its harsh demands and its magical power to move performers and audiences alike. With rare mastery, Yael Goldstein Love offers a sweeping tale of female ambition, unflinchingly rendered in all its danger, confusion, and passion.
- Orpheo, by Richard Powers (also molecular biology)
Retired composer Peter Els has an unusual hobby, do-it-yourself genetic engineering. Is his work dangerous? We’re not sure, but when hazmat-suited government agents descend on his home, he flees, becoming perhaps the world’s least likely suspected terrorist, the “biohacker Bach.” On his prolonged cross-country journey, we learn Els’ life story in flashback: how he fell in love with music and with a woman, went to school at the height of the avant garde, and began a lifelong struggle between the urge to invent and the need to please.
- In the Time of Our Singing, by Richard Powers
On Easter day, 1939, at Marian Anderson’s epochal concert on the Washington Mall, David Strom, a German Jewish emigre scientist, meets Delia Daley, a young Philadelphia Negro studying to be a singer. Their mutual love of music draws them together, and—against all odds and better judgment—they marry. They vow to raise their children beyond time, beyond identity, steeped in song. But their three children must survive America’s brutal here and now.
- A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism, by Peter Mountford
On his first assignment for a rapacious hedge fund, Gabriel embarks to Bolivia at the end of 2005 to ferret out insider information about the plans of the controversial president-elect. If Gabriel succeeds, he will get a bonus that would make him secure for life. Standing in his way are his headstrong mother, herself a survivor of Pinochet’s Chile, and Gabriel’s new love interest, the president’s passionate press liaison.
- Euphoria, by Lily King
English Anthropologist Andrew Bankson has been alone in the field for several years, studying a tribe on the Sepik River in the Territory of New Guinea with little success. Increasingly frustrated and isolated by his research, Bankson is on the verge of suicide when he encounters the famous and controversial Nell Stone and her wry, mercurial husband Fen. Bankson is enthralled by the magnetic couple whose eager attentions pull him back from the brink of despair. Set between World War I and II and inspired by events in the life of revolutionary anthropologist Margaret Mead, Euphoria is an enthralling story of passion, possession, exploration and sacrifice.
- Mating, by Norm Rush
The narrator of this splendidly expansive novel of high intellect and grand passion is an American anthropologist at loose ends in the South African republic of Botswana. She has a noble and exacting mind, a good waist, and a busted thesis project. She also has a yen for Nelson Denoon, a charismatic intellectual who is rumored to have founded a secretive and unorthodox utopian society in a remote corner of the Kalahari—one in which he is virtually the only man. What ensues is both a quest and an exuberant comedy of manners, a book that explores the deepest canyons of eros even as it asks large questions about the good society, the geopolitics of poverty, and the baffling mystery of what men and women really want.
- Brazzaville Beach, by William Boyd (also mathematics)
On Brazzaville Beach, on the edge of Africa, Hope Clearwater examines the complex circumstances that brought her there. Sifting the details for evidence of her own innocence or guilt, she tells her engrossing story with a blunt and beguiling honesty that not only intrigues and disturbs but is also completely enthralling.
- We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler
Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. “I was raised with a chimpanzee,” she explains. “I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren’t thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern’s expulsion…she was my twin, my funhouse mirror, my whirlwind other half and I loved her as a sister.” As a child, Rosemary never stopped talking. Then, something happened, and Rosemary wrapped herself in silence.
- A Beautiful Truth, by Colin McAdam
Looee, a chimp raised by a well-meaning and compassionate human couple who cannot conceive a baby of their own, is forever set apart. He’s not human, but with his peculiar upbringing he is no longer like other chimps. One tragic night Looee’s two natures collide and their unique family is forever changed.
- The Mind Body Problem, by Rebecca Goldstein (also physics and mathematics)
When Renee Feuer goes to college, one of the first lessons she tries to learn is how to liberate herself from the restrictions of her Orthodox Jewish background. As she discovers the pleasures of the body, Renee also learns about the excitements of the mind. She enrolls as a philosophy graduate student, then marries Noam Himmel, the world-renowned mathematician. But Renee discovers that being married to a genius is a less elevating experience than expected, and that the allure of sex still beckons. Her quest for a solution to the conflicting demands of sensuality and spirit is a touching and always humorous adventure.
- 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, by Rebecca Goldstein (also psychology)
A witty and intoxicating novel of ideas that plunges into the great debate between faith and reason. At the center is Cass Seltzer, a professor of psychology whose book, The Varieties of Religious Illusion, has become a surprise best seller. Dubbed the atheist with a soul, he wins over the stunning Lucinda Mandelbaum, the goddess of game theory. But he is haunted by reminders of two people who ignited his passion to understand religion: his teacher Jonas Elijah Klapper, a renowned literary scholar with a suspicious obsession with messianism, and an angelic six-year-old mathematical genius, heir to the leadership of an exotic Hasidic sect.
- Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson
Marilynne Robinson returns with an intimate tale of three generations, from the Civil War to the 20th century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America’s heart. In the words of “Kirkus,” it is a novel “as big as a nation, as quiet as thought, and moving as prayer. Matchless and towering.” Gilead tells the story of America and will break your heart.
- Headlong, Michael Frayn
Invited to dinner by the boorish local landowner, Martin Clay, an easily distracted philosopher, and his art-historian wife are asked to assess three dusty paintings blocking the draught from the chimney. But hiding beneath the soot is nothing less—Martin believes—than a lost work by Bruegel. So begins a hilarious trail of lies and concealments, desperate schemes and soaring hopes as Martin, betting all that he owns and much that he doesn’t, embarks on a quest to prove his hunch, win his wife over, and separate the painting from its owner.
- What I Loved, by Siri Hustvedt
When art historian Leo Hertzberg discovers an extraordinary painting by an unknown artist in a SoHo gallery, he buys the work; tracks down the artist, Bill Wechsler; and the two men embark on a life-long friendship. Leo’s story, which spans twenty-five years, follows the growing involvement between his family and Bill’s—an intricate constellation of attachments that includes the two men, their wives, and their sons. But the bonds between them are tested, first by sudden tragedy, and then by a monstrous duplicity that slowly comes to the surface.
- The Blazing World, by Siri Hustvedt
The provocative story of artist Harriet Burden, who, after years of having her work ignored, ignites an explosive scandal in New York’s art world when she recruits three young men to present her creations as their own. Yet when the shows succeed and Burden steps forward for her triumphant reveal, she is betrayed by the third man, Rune. Many critics side with him, and Burden and Rune find themselves in a charged and dangerous game, one that ends in his bizarre death.
- Lisette’s List, by Susan Vreeland
In 1937, young Lisette Roux and her husband, Andre, move from Paris to a village in Provence to care for Andre’s grandfather Pascal. Pascal begins to tutor Lisette in both art and life, allowing her to see his small collection of paintings and the Provencal landscape itself in a new light. With German forces spreading across Europe, the sudden fall of Paris, and the rise of Vichy France, Lisette sets out to locate the paintings.
- Luncheon of the Boating Party, by Susan Vreeland
As impressionistically dazzling and humane as the Renoir painting that inspires it, Luncheon of the Boating Party is itself a true work of art that blends the manifest joys and the impossible longings of life into a single coherent vision.
- The Forest Lover, by Susan Vreeland
The Forest Lover traces the courageous life and career of Emily Carr, who—more than Georgia O’Keeffe or Frida Kahlo—blazed a path for modern women artists. From illegal potlatches in tribal communities to artists’ studios in pre-World War I Paris, Vreeland tells her story with gusto and suspense, giving us a glorious novel that will appeal to lovers of art, native cultures, and lush historical fiction.
- Girl in Hyacinth Blue, by Susan Vreeland
This luminous story begins in the present day, when a professor invites a colleague to his home to see a painting that he has kept secret for decades. The professor swears it is a Vermeer—but why has he hidden this important work for so long? The reasons unfold in a series of events that trace the ownership of the painting back to World War II and Amsterdam, and still further back to the moment of the work’s inspiration. As the painting moves through each owner’s hands, what was long hidden quietly surfaces, illuminating poignant moments in multiple lives.
- The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa
He is a brilliant math Professor with a peculiar problem—ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory. She is an astute young Housekeeper with a ten-year-old son who is hired to care for the Professor. And every morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to each other anew, a strange and beautiful relationship blossoms between them. Though he cannot hold memories for long, the Professor’s mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. And the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her young son.
- The Mathematician’s Shiva, by Stuart Rojstaczer
When the greatest female mathematician in history passes away, her son, Alexander Sasha Karnokovitch, just wants to mourn his mother in peace. But rumor has it the notoriously eccentric Polish emigre has solved one of the most difficult problems in all of mathematics, and has spitefully taken the solution to her grave. As a ragtag group of mathematicians from around the world descends upon Rachela’s shiva, Sasha must come to terms with his mother’s outsized influence on his life.
- An Unnecessary Woman, by Rabih Alameddine
A breathtaking portrait of one reclusive woman’s late-life crisis, which garnered a wave of rave reviews and love letters to Alameddine’s cranky yet charming septuagenarian protagonist, Aaliya, a character you “can’t help but love” (NPR). Aaliya’s insightful musings on literature, philosophy, and art are invaded by memories of the Lebanese Civil War and her volatile past. As she tries to overcome her aging body and spontaneous emotional upwellings, Aaliya is faced with an unthinkable disaster that threatens to shatter the little life she has left.
- Possession, by A. S. Byatt
An exhilarating novel of wit and romance, an intellectual mystery, and a triumphant love story. This tale of a pair of young scholars researching the lives of two Victorian poets became a huge bookseller favorite, and then on to national bestellerdom.
- The Eyre Affair (and other novels of The Thursday Next series), by Jasper Fforde
Fans of Douglas Adams and P. G. Wodehouse will love visiting Jasper Fforde’s Great Britain, circa 1985, when time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously: it’s a bibliophile’s dream. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection. But when someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature and plucks Jane Eyre from the pages of Bronte’s novel, Thursday is faced with the challenge of her career.
- Still Time, by Jean Hegland
Until John Wilson met the warm, wise woman who became his fourth wife, the object of his most intense devotion had always been the work of William Shakespeare. From his feat of memorizing Romeo and Juliet and half a dozen other plays as a student to his evangelical zeal as a professor, John’s faith in the Bard has shaped his life. But now his mental powers have been diminished by dementia, and his wife has reluctantly moved him to a residential care facility. Even there, as he struggles to understand what’s going on around him, John’s knowledge of the plays helps him make sense of his fractured world.
- Thinks…, by David Lodge (also neurosciences)
Thinks… unfolds in the alternating voices of Ralph Messenger, director of the Centre for Cognitive Science at the University of Gloucester, and Helen Reed, a novelist and writer in residence at the university. Mutually attracted, the two end up in a moral standoff that is shattered by events that dramatically confirm the truth of Ralph’s dictum: “we can never know for certain what another person is thinking.”
- The Echo Maker, by Richard Powers (also ornithology)
On a winter night on a remote Nebraska road, twenty-seven-year-old Mark Schluter has a near-fatal car accident. His sister Karin returns reluctantly to their hometown to nurse Mark back from a traumatic head injury. But when Mark emerges from a coma, he believes that this woman—who looks, acts, and sounds just like his sister—is really an imposter. When Karin contacts the famous cognitive neurologist Gerald Weber for help, he diagnoses Mark as having Capgras syndrome. The mysterious nature of the disease, combined with the strange circumstances surrounding Mark’s accident, threatens to change all of their lives beyond recognition
- Galatea 2.2, by Richard Powers
After four novels and several years living abroad, the fictional protagonist of Galatea 2.2, Richard Powers, returns to the United States as Humanist-in-Residence at the enormous Center for the Study of Advanced Sciences. There he runs afoul of Philip Lentz, an outspoken cognitive neurologist intent upon modeling the human brain by means of computer-based neural networks. Lentz involves Powers in an outlandish and irresistible project: to train a neural net on a canonical list of Great Books. Through repeated tutorials, the device grows gradually more worldly, until it demands to know its own name, sex, race, and reason for exisiting.
- The Overstory, by Richard Powers
An Air Force loadmaster in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan. An artist inherits a hundred years of photographic portraits, all of the same doomed American chestnut. A hard-partying undergraduate in the late 1980s electrocutes herself, dies, and is sent back into life by creatures of air and light. A hearing- and speech-impaired scientist discovers that trees are communicating with one another. These four, and five other strangers—each summoned in different ways by trees—are brought together in a last and violent stand to save the continent’s few remaining acres of virgin forest.
- Flight Behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver (also climate change)
A breathtaking parable of catastrophe and denial that explores how the complexities we inevitably encounter in life lead us to believe in our particular chosen truths. Kingsolver’s riveting story concerns a young wife and mother on a failing farm in rural Tennessee who experiences something she cannot explain, and how her discovery energizes various competing factions—religious leaders, climate scientists, environmentalists, politicians—trapping her in the center of the conflict and ultimately opening up her world.
- The Highest Tide, by Jim Lynch (also marine biology)
One moonlit night, thirteen-year-old Miles O’Malley, a speed-reading, Rachel Carson-obsessed insomniac out looking for tidal specimens in Puget Sound, discovers a giant squid stranded on the beach. As the first person to see a giant squid alive, he finds himself hailed as a prophet. But Miles is really just a kid on the verge of growing up, infatuated with the girl next door, worried that his bickering parents will divorce, and fearful that everything, even the bay he loves, is shifting away from him. As the sea continues to offer up discoveries from its mysterious depths, Miles struggles to deal with the difficulties that attend the equally mysterious process of growing up.
- State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett (also ecology, pharmacology)
Infusing the narrative with the same ingenuity and emotional urgency that pervaded her acclaimed previous novels, Patchett delivers an enthrallingly innovative tale of aspiration, exploration, and attachment in State of Wonder—a gripping adventure story and a profound look at the difficult choices we make in the name of discovery and love.
- The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert (also botany, evolution)
Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker—born in the Age of Enlightenment but living well into the Industrial Revolution, she bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas.
- The Honest Look, by Jennifer Rohn (also cell biology)
In becoming a scientist, Claire Cyrus hopes to escape the fate of her dead father, a brilliant but critically unsuccessful poet whose poverty and bitterness derailed her own strong talent for verse. Soon after moving from England to take up her first job in a start-up biotech company in the Netherlands, she finds herself an outcast in her strange new environment, shunned by her jealous colleagues and moving only on the fringes of the expatriate community. But when she makes an accidental discovery in the lab, her life will never be the same again.
- The Bird Skinner, by Alice Greenway (also ornithology)
Slowing down from a hard-lived life and a recent leg amputation, Jim Kennoway retreats to an island in Maine to drink, smoke, and to be left alone. There, he thinks back to his youth, working for Naval Intelligence during World War II in the Solomon Islands. While spying on Japanese shipping from behind enemy lines, Jim befriended Tosca, a young islander who worked with him as a scout. Now, thirty years later, Tosca has sent his daughter Cadillac to stay with Jim in the weeks before she begins premedical studies at Yale. She arrives to Jim’s consternation, yet she will capture his heart and the hearts of everyone she meets, irrevocably changing their lives.
- The Hungry Tide, by Amitov Ghosh (also cultural anthropology, ecology, and political science)
Off the easternmost coast of India, in the Bay of Bengal, lies the immense labyrinth of tiny islands known as the Sundarbans. For settlers here, life is extremely precarious. Attacks by deadly tigers are common. Unrest and eviction are constant threats. Without warning, at any time, tidal floods rise and surge over the land, leaving devastation in their wake. In this place of vengeful beauty, the lives of three people from different worlds collide.
- Accidentals, by Susan M. Gaines
Accidentals is an intimate family story with an astonishingly epic scope. Alive with history, politics, science, romance, and birds, it is as entertaining as it is intelligent, as beautiful as it is wise. Gabe’s evolution from a passive observer to the passionate creator of his own destiny is a life-changing experience not only for him, but for readers as well.
- Mendel’s Dwarf, by Simon Mawer
Like his great-great uncle, the early geneticist Gregor Mendel, Dr. Benedict Lambert is struggling to unlock the secrets of heredity. But Benedict’s mission is particularly urgent and particularly personal, for he is afflicted with achondroplasia—he’s a dwarf. He’s also a man desperate for love. And when he finds it in the form of Jean—simple and shy—he stumbles upon an opportunity to correct the injustice of his own capricious genes.
- Generosity: An Enhancement, by Richard Powers
What will happen to life when science identifies the genetic basis of happiness? Who will own the patent? Do we dare revise our own temperaments? Funny, fast, and magical, Generosity celebrates both science and the freed imagination. In his most exuberant book yet, Richard Powers asks us to consider the big questions facing humankind as we begin to rewrite our own existence.
- Long for this World, by Michael Byers
Dr. Henry Moss is a dedicated geneticist who stumbles upon a possible cure for a disease that causes rapid aging and early death in children. Although his discovery may hold the key to eternal youth, exploiting it is an ethical minefield. Henry must make a painful choice: he can save the life of a critically ill boy he has grown to love—at the cost of his career—or he can sell his findings for a fortune to match the wealth of his dot-com-rich Seattle neighbors.
- The Gold Bug Variations, by Richard Powers (also music)
Stuart Ressler, a brilliant young molecular biologist, sets out in 1957 to crack the genetic code. His efforts are sidetracked by other, more intractable codes—social, moral, musical, spiritual—and he falls in love with a member of his research team. Years later, another young man and woman team up to investigate a different scientific mystery—why did the eminently promising Ressler suddenly disappear from the world of science?
- Where the Sea Used to Be, by Rick Bass
Where the Sea Used to Be tells the story of a struggle between a father and his daughter for the souls of two men, Matthew and Wallis—his protégés, her lovers. Old Dudley is a Texan whose religion is oil, and in his fifty years of searching for it in Swan Valley he has destroyed a dozen geologists. Matthew is Dudley’s most recent victim, but Wallis begins to uncover the dark mystery of Dudley’s life.
- Remarkable Creatures, by Tracy Chevalier
On the windswept, fossil-strewn beaches of the English coast, poor and uneducated Mary Anning learns that she has a unique gift: “the eye” to spot fossils no one else can see. When she uncovers an unusual fossilized skeleton in the cliffs near her home, she sets the religious community on edge, the townspeople to gossip, and the scientific world alight. After enduring bitter cold, thunderstorms, and landslips, her challenges only grow when she falls in love with an impossible man.
- Carbon Dreams, by Susan M. Gaines (also climate change and oceanography)
At an oceanography institute in northern California, geochemist Tina Arenas studies climates of the distant geologic past. Heedless of life beyond her circle of scientists, Tina is immersed in a world of dinosaurs and shifting continents, where time is measured in ten-million-year spans—but when both her research and an extracurricular love affair take off in directions she has not anticipated, she is catapulted into the late twentieth century world of people and politics.
- Zodiac, by Neal Stephenson (also microbiology and ecology)
Sangamon Taylor’s a New Age Sam Spade who sports a wet suit instead of a trench coat and prefers Jolt from the can to Scotch on the rocks. He knows about chemical sludge the way he knows about evil—all too intimately. And the toxic trail he follows leads to some high and foul places. As he navigates this ecological thriller with hardboiled wit and the biggest outboard motor he can get his hands on, Taylor reveals himself as one of the last of the white-hatted good guys in a very toxic world.
- Solar, by Ian McEwan (also climate change)
Dr. Michael Beard’s best work is behind him. Trading on his reputation, he speaks for enormous fees, lends his name to the letterheads of renowned scientific institutions, and halfheartedly heads a government-backed initiative tackling global warming. Meanwhile, Michael’s fifth marriage is floundering due to his incessant womanizing. When his professional and personal worlds collide in a freak accident, an opportunity presents itself for Michael to extricate himself from his marital problems, reinvigorate his career, and save the world from environmental disaster. But can a man who has made a mess of his life clean up the messes of humanity?
- Properties of Light, by Rebecca Goldstein
This mesmerizing tale of consuming love and murderous professional envy carries the reader into the very heart of a physics problem so huge and perplexing it thwarted even Einstein: the nature of light. Caught in the entanglements of erotic and intellectual passion, three physicists grapple with mysteries of science as well as mysteries of the heart with consequences not even their finely honed intellects can predict.
- Mrs. Einstein, by Anna McGrail
Anna McGrail has imagined an amazing yet plausible life for this indomitable woman, one that spans the scientific history of the modern world from the theory of relativity to the atomic bomb and that moves from the plains of rural Hungary to the death camps of Germany to the laboratory at Los Alamos where the entire world was put under threat of annihilation. It is Lieserl’s sole burning desire to learn physics, to beat her father at his own game, to teach him that his actions—whether giving away a daughter or unlocking the secrets of the universe—have consequences that cannot be denied.
- Einstein’s Dreams, by Alan Lightman
Einstein’s Dreams is a fictional collage of stories dreamed by Albert Einstein in 1905, about time, relativity and physics. As the defiant but sensitive young genius is creating his theory of relativity, a new conception of time, he imagines many possible worlds. In one, time is circular, so that people are fated to repeat triumphs and failures over and over. In another, there is a place where time stands still, visited by lovers and parents clinging to their children. In another, time is a nightingale, sometimes trapped by a bell jar.
- Particles and Luck, by Louis B. Jones
Mark Perdue and Roger Hoberman have nothing in common—except the joy of adjoining yards. Mark is a whiz-kid physicist who knows that his “genius” stature and his endowed chair at Berkeley are bits of dumb luck; Roger is the owner of a pizza franchise whose luck has turned dumb—in financial and marital distress, he has been denied child visitation rights but not babysitting obligations. Now luck, in the form of an adverse claim on their property, brings Mark and Roger together for a fateful Halloween night neither of them will ever forget.
- Radiance, by Louis B. Jones
Mark is visiting Los Angeles with his ambitious daughter, Carlotta, so she can attend a “Celebrity Fantasy Vacation,” in which she is promised three days and two nights of the rock star lifestyle. On stage, Carlotta sings her way to a new self-confidence, giving Mark a glimmer of joy in her sense of victory. But then she disappears with her newly acquired paraplegic boyfriend to take an excursion to the Hollywood sign and gets them all arrested, Mark included. Mark now faces a night in jail—and maybe a hint of what he really needs to be happy.
- Gut Symmetries, by Jeanette Winterson
One starry night on a boat in the mid-Atlantic, Alice, a brilliant English theoretical physicist, begins an affair with Jove, her remorselessly seductive American counterpart. But Jove is married. When Alice confronts his wife, Stella, she swiftly falls in love with her, with consequences that are by turns horrifying, comic, and arousing. Vaulting from Liverpool to New York, from alchemy to string theory, and from the spirit to the flesh, Gut Symmetries is a thrilling novel by England’s most flamboyantly gifted young writer.
- Kepler, by John Banville
John Banville re-creates the life of Johannes Kepler and his incredible drive to chart the orbits of the planets and the geometry of the universe. Wars, witchcraft, and disease rage throughout Europe. For this court mathematician, vexed by domestic strife, appalled by the religious upheavals that have driven him from exile to exile, and vulnerable to the whims of his eccentric patrons, astronomy is a quest for some form of divine order.
- Percival’s Planet, by Michael Byers
In 1928, the boy who will discover Pluto, Clyde Tombaugh, is on the family farm, grinding a lens for his own telescope under the immense Kansas sky. In Flagstaff, Arizona, the staff of Lowell Observatory is about to resume the late Percival Lowell’s interrupted search for Planet X. Meanwhile, the immensely rich heir to a chemical fortune has decided to go west to hunt for dinosaurs and in Cambridge, Massachussetts, the most beautiful girl in America is going slowly insane while her ex-heavyweight champion boyfriend stands by helplessly, desperate to do anything to keep her.
- The Falling Sky, by Pippa Goldschmidt
Jeanette is a young, solitary post-doctoral researcher who has dedicated her life to studying astronomy. Struggling to compete in a prestigious university department dominated by egos and incompetents, and caught in a cycle of brief and unsatisfying affairs, she travels to a mountaintop observatory in Chile to focus on her research. There Jeanette stumbles upon evidence that will challenge the fundamentals of the universe, drawing her into conflict with her colleagues and the scientific establishment, but also casting her back to the tragic loss that defined her childhood.