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Another welcome booster shot

19 new additions to the Lab Lit List!

Jennifer Rohn 6 March 2015

Top shelf: some interesting new finds

There are a heck of a lot of dead bodies in labs – anyone might think that your chances of getting murdered as a scientist are alarmingly high

Coinciding with our tenth anniversary, we are happy to present our latest update of the Lab Lit List. This update consists of 19 lab lit novels, along with one in the crossover section (speculative fiction with great scientists), one film and one play. It's not my imagination: the List has really been on a roll for the past year.

We are only able to track down new additions thanks to the crowd-sourcing activities of our readership. Special thanks are also due to the denizens of Fiction Lab, the monthly lab lit book group I host at London's Royal Institution, who are always on the lookout for leads. But as with our previous update, we are yet again indebted to the US National Public Radio station WCAI for running an hour-long interview of me imbedded in a call-in show all about lab lit. As the programme gets syndicated across other NPR stations, the nominations should keep coming in, if our last airing was anything to go by.

The additions, as always, cover a wide variety of styles and genres: thrillers and everyday dramas, comedies, tragedies and historical fiction. Within these stories, readers can experience a day in the life of a biologist, chemist or physicist. For the first time, they can even follow in the footsteps of an art restoration scientist. We're happy to have a few more foreign-language translations (two novels of Danish crime noir by Sissel-Jo Gazan, our first Scandinavian entries). Just by coincidence, crime thrillers dominate this time around, featuring a heck of a lot of dead bodies in labs – anyone might think that your chances of getting murdered as a scientist are alarmingly high. Real scientists from history make appearances again, including yet another novel about Darwin to add to our copious collection – but balanced out by a novel about Ignaz Semmelweis, a researcher/doctor that I had never heard of.

Most of the books have been unearthed from the past, but a handful are new since 2014 – thereby continuing the upward trend in a most cheering fashion. We're also thrilled that the Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything did so well, including an Academy Award for best actor, and that celebrated playwright Tom Stoppard has written a new lab lit play, The Hard Problem.

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. And please note the novels are split into two separate pages, which you can navigate to at the top or bottom of the first page.

In today’s update:


A Box of Birds

by Charles Fernyhough
Drama: A neuroscientist conducting experimental brain research gets drawn into more than she bargained for.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Night of the Mi’raj

by Zoe Ferraris
Thriller: A traditional Saudi man is forced to work closely with a female forensic scientist to solve a murder.
Links: Amazon (UK)

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

by Karen Joy Fowler
Drama: A girl disappears, and her sister unravels the psychological mystery in her family.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Trudeau Vector

by Juris Jurjevics
Thriller: An epidemiologist investigates murder at an Arctic research station and discovers something much bigger.
Links: Amazon (UK)

People of the Book

by Geraldine Brooks
Drama: A book restoration expert travels to Sarajevo to save a lost treasure in the wake of the Bosnian war.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Rescue Mode

by Ben Bova and Les Johnson
Drama: A realistic tale of a manned expedition to Mars set in the present day.
Links: our reviewAmazon (UK)

Morpho Eugenia

by A. S. Byatt
Drama: (One of two novellas contained within Angels and Insects) A young Victorian clashes with his religious benefactor over Darwinism.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Mr. Darwin’s Shooter

by Roger McDonald
Historical Fiction: Darwin’s famous sea voyage told from the point of view of his young servant.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Devil’s Garden

by Edward Docx
Thriller: A zoologist confronts corruption in the jungle where his team of naturalists are working.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Not Easy Being Green

by Susy Gage
Thriller: A virus that makes things glow green escapes the lab, but is it an accident?Links: Amazon (UK)

Slow Cold Death

by Author
Thriller: An aimless scientist lands in a lab where a suspicious death complicates everything.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Migratory Animals

by Author
Drama: A climate scientist grapples with upheavals in her itinerant life when she returns home.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Lily King
Drama: Three anthropologists in the 1930s are caught in a passionate love triangle; inspired by the life of Margaret Mead.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Dinosaur Feather

by Sissel-Jo Gazan
Thriller: (Translated from the Danish) A bird biologist is about to defend her thesis when her supervisor is found dead in the lab.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Arc of the Swallow

by Sissel-Jo Gazan
Thriller: (Translated from the Danish) A scientist is killed to cover up dodgy dealings perpetrated against the developing world.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Path of Minor Planets

by Andrew Sean Greer
Drama: A meeting of astronomers in the South Pacific in the 1960s is marred by the death of a boy.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Cry and the Covenant

by Morton Thompson
Historical fiction: A fictionalized account of the life of Ignaz Semmelweis, an Austrian-Hungarian physician who researched puerperal fever.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Death of an Expert Witness

by P. D. James
Thriller: (And others in the same series) A forensics lab in the East Anglia fens grapples with the death of one of their own scientists.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Rosie Effect

by Graeme Simsion
Comedy: A hopelessly hapless geneticist struggles to keep the first woman - now his wife - who he ever dated more than once.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Crossover Novels

The Black Cloud

by Fred Hoyle
Drama: Scientists struggle to understand a black cloud threatening Earth’s existence.
Links: Amazon (UK)


The Hard Problem

by Tom Stoppard
Drama:A researcher tries to understand the nature of consciousness.
Links: Amazon (UK)


The Theory of Everything

(Dir. James Marsh)
Thriller: A biopic based on the life of Stephen Hawking.
Links: Amazon