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Post NYT landslide

29 new additions to the Lab Lit List!

Jennifer Rohn 7 April 2013

Stacked high: more books for your pile

We are treated to fictional accounts of real scientists such as Newton, Einstein and Lamarck, and a dazzling array of made-up characters

This past December, The New York Times used a review of Barbara Kingsolver’s new novel Flight Behavior as a platform to discuss science in fiction – and we got a generous name check. Afterwards, our humble inbox was flooded with nominations, so many that it has taken this long to sort through them all (with thanks as always to our List Curator, Asa Karlström, for her kind assistance). Many of the suggestions made the cut and, as a result, we are now happy to announce our latest upgrade to the LabLit List – a whopping 22 novels, two "crossover" choices (science fiction or other genres with great scientist characters), and five plays.

The books, as always, cover a wide variety of styles and themes: dramas and thrillers, mysteries and comedies, tales of ordinary life. We hear from the worlds of botany, meteorology, astronomy, medical science, mathematics and everything in between, and the selections are written not only in English, but one each in French and Dutch too. We are treated to fictional accounts of real scientists such as Newton, Einstein and Lamarck, and a dazzling array of made-up characters. And the publication dates range from a few weeks ago, to an old French novel from 1931 – which may qualify it as the second-oldest lab lit novel after Sinclair Lewis’s Arrowsmith.

We hope that you continue to enjoy the List, and if you think anything’s missing, please do contact us. Equally, if you think there’s a book on the List that actually doesn’t qualify, we’d like to hear from you. (We don’t always read every nomination from cover to cover, and sometimes cannot track down copies, so we rely on our nominators to steer us in the right direction.) Remember, ‘lab lit’ is defined as fiction featuring a scientist as a central character, plying his or her trade as a profession in the real world – it is not science fiction. At the moment, for resource reasons, we are not including self-published works on the List, though some day we may be able to add these. For more information about the genre, and to see all of our titles, please check out The List.

Novels in today’s update:

The Falling Sky

by Pippa Goldschmidt
Drama: An astronomer thinks she's found evidence contradicting the Big Bang theory.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Day Without Yesterday

by Stuart Clark
Historical fiction: Einstein and Lemaitre work towards a new view of the universe.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Berlin Wild

by Ely Welt
Historical fiction: The Holocaust, as viewed by a small group of research scientists (said to be modelled on the laboratory of real-life scientist Nikolai Timofeev-Ressovsky).
Links: Amazon (UK)

No Ordinary Matter

by Jenny McFee
Lab Lit lite: Two sisters, a neuroscientist and a soap opera writer, get caught up in a drama of their own.
Links: Amazon (UK)

George Letham: Médecin et Meurtrier (Physician and Murderer)

by Ernst Weiss
Drama: In French: A bacteriologist infects himself in a study of scientific egotism.
Links: English translationAmazon (UK)

The Accident

by Dexter Mmsters
Drama: A nuclear physicist becomes ill after working on the Manhattan Project.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Night Thoughts of a Classical Physicist

by Russell McCormmack
Drama: An aged physicist thinks back on his life and the great scientists who taught him.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Mind-Body Problem

by Rebecca Goldstein
Lab lit Lite: A philosophy graduate student drop-out hopes to rescue her life by marrying a genius mathematician.
Links: Amazon (UK)

In His Genes

by Robin Stratton
Drama: A lab researcher struggles to find a cure for his son's disease.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Running From The Devil

by Jamie Freveletti (and others in the series)
Thriller: Biochemist Emma Caldridge crashes in the jungle and has to deal with guerrillas and a dangerous biological weapon.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Perri Klass
Drama: Scientists, would-be artists, single working women, young parents, and born-again Yuppies mingle to create a gentle social satire.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Edge of Chaos

by Pamela McCorduck
Drama: Mathematicians in Santa Fe explore the fine line between frozen predictability and hopeless disorder.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Bounded Rationality

by Pamela McCorduck
Drama: Scientists in Santa Fe struggle with backdrop of 9/11 and what it means to be successful, in science as well as in life.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Rebecca Stott
Mystery: A modern-day mystery/fantasy set in Cambridge that features Isaac Newton's obsession with alchemy.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Coral Thief

by Rebecca Stott
Historical fiction: Set in the 18th century, a British naturalist comes to Paris to work for the famous Lamarck
Links: Amazon (UK)

Strong Motion

by Jonathan Franzen
Mystery: A seismologist arrives in Boston and investigates recent earthquakes that might be linked to a chemical company.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Debbie Lee Wesselman
Drama: Chimpanzees are set loose from a sanctuary and cause ethical chaos.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Highest Tide

by Jim Lynch
Drama: A budding marine biologist has an unforgettable summer.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Bonnie Rozanski
Drama: A skewed coming-of-age story of a normal boy in a crazy world, with a scientist father and a mother who wants to cure his autistic brother.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Atmospheric Disturbances

by Rivka Galchen
Lab Lit Lite: Dr Leo Liebenstein is convinced that his wife has disappeared and that she has been replaced by a double.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Beyond Sleep

by WF Hermans, translator Ina Rilke-Mulder
Drama: A young Dutch geologist is determined to make a great discovery in a geological expedition.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Wild Type

by Jeffrey Ivan Victoroff
Mystery/Thriller: Two NIH fellows begin their research in Washington and try and navigate through the bureaucracy and science.
Links: Amazon (US)

Crossover works in today’s update:

The Highest Frontier

by Joan Slonczewski
Drama: A young girl goes to college to learn more about the interesting world of biology but learns that not everything is what it seems - or is it?
Links: title="The highest Frontier" >Amazon (UK)

A Door Into the Ocean

by Joan Slonczewski
Drama: Two completely different worlds collide: a world inhabited by pacifists and the new violent rulers.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Plays in today’s update:

Photograph 51

by Anna Ziegler
Historical fiction: Rosalind Franklin's work is stolen from her by Watson and Crick.
Links: New York Times

Experiment With An Air Pump

by Shelagh Stephenson
Historical fiction: Scientists in the past and present grapple with scientific mysteries.
Links: Wikipedia

Lenin's Embalmers

by Vern Thiessen
Dark Comedy: Two rival chemists must decide how to preserve the deceased leader's body.
Links: Amazon

Chain Reaction

by Jonathan Alexandratos
Drama: The key scientists at Los Alamos must build the A-bomb and deal with its consequences.
Links: Backstage


by Roald Hoffman
Drama: A chemist takes his own life, blaming himself for putting an easy way to make a neurotoxin into the hands of terrorists.
Links: Play website