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Something old, something new...and yet more Darwin

36 new additions to the Lab Lit List!

Jennifer Rohn 21 May 2016

Science in fiction: they're really stacking up now

Just in time for the impending summer holidays, we are happy to present our latest update of the Lab Lit List. This update includes 23 lab lit novels, along with seven in the crossover section (speculative or otherwise unusual fiction with great scientists), one film, four plays and a TV drama.

Thanks are due as always to our List Curator, Asa Karlström, for her kind assistance and infinite patience in chasing down obscure leads.

And of course, we are only able to find new additions due to the crowd-sourcing activities of you, our readership. I must give a special thanks again to the Labliterati - the regulars of Fiction Lab, the monthly lab lit book group I host at London's Royal Institution, who are always on the lookout for leads. I'd like to specially mention Dom Stiles in this bunch, who, in nosing tirelessly through used book shops across London, has unearthed quite a few interesting finds over the past year.

As with our other updates, all of human life can be found in the pages of these lab lit novels. This time around, we've got the usual crop of thrillers, mysteries and dramas - with dead scientists being a continuing fascination. (We try not to take it personally.) We didn't think it was possible to find another fictionalized account of Charles Darwin, but we somehow managed it. There are some disciplines not commonly represented in lab lit: archaeologists, ornithologists, and neuropsychologists to name a few. Two classic but lesser known C.P Snow novels (The Affair and The New Men) have been included as well, which we understand to be much more rigorous lab lit than is The Search.

We went a little bit off piste in our Crossover updates this time, including not just the normal speculative fiction, but also a bit of experimental fiction - and a Tintin comic!

Most of the books are old, but there are a few that have only been published in the last year, which is always heartwarming. Equally encouraging is the Hollywood film based on Andy Weir's The Martian, imparting a little glamour to the movie section. As with Gravity before it, we don't agree that The Martian is science fiction as commonly billed, because all of it is based on tech that we have now. As such, the story not much more speculative than any other work of mainstream fiction where a very complex problem needs to be overcome.

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 something on the List that actually doesn’t qualify, we’d like to hear from you. (We don’t always inspect or watch every nomination, 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 (except in the Crossover section). 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.

Happy reading!

In today’s update:


The Affair

by C.P. Snow
Drama: A scientist accused of scientific misconduct gets dismissed from a Cambridge college (first book in series)
Links: Amazon (UK)

The New Men

by C.P. Snow
Drama: A group of Cambridge scientists work on splitting the atom
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Jury

by Steve Martini
Drama: A medical researcher is accused of murdering a junior scientist
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Pawless Papers

by Robert Fagen
Drama: A satirical portrait of a scientist
Links: Amazon (UK)

Deep Blue

by Randy Wayne White
Mystery/Lab lit lite: Marine biologist Marion "Doc" Ford solves mysteries in a fictional Florida village (part of the Doc Ford series)
Links: Amazon (UK)

Cold Blood, Hot Sea

by Charlene D’Avanzo
Mystery: An oceanographer grapples with climate change denialists and the death of her colleague
Links: Amazon (UK)

This Living and Immortal Thing

by Austin Duffy
Drama/Dark comedy: An oncologist living in New York questions his own life decisions in science
Links: our reviewAmazon (UK)

Raw Data

by Pernille Rorth
Drama: Two young scientists try to make their mark in the world of biomedical research
Links: Amazon (UK)

Apple Tree Yard

by Louise Doughty
Thriller/Lab lit lite: A successful, married geneticist meets a stranger and her life starts to unravel
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Bird Skinner

by Alice Greenway
Drama: An ornithologist seeking solitude learns to live again
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Naomi J. Williams
Historical fiction: A voyage of scientific and geographical discovery in 1785
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Wolf Border

by Sarah Hall
Drama: A wolf biologist is asked to help reintroduce the Grey Wolf to the English countryside
Links: Amazon (UK)

Us Conductors

by Sean Michaels
Drama: A Russian scientist and inventor remembers love, music and science
Links: Amazon (UK)


by David Nicholls
Lab lit lite: A biochemist fights for his marriage with his artist wife
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Origin: A Biographical Novel of Charles Darwin

by Irving Stone
Historical fiction: Charles Darwin’s life, told through narrative
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Wallcreeper

by Nell Zink
Lab lit lite: Portrait of the highs and lows of a pharmaceutical scientist’s marriage
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Man Without a Shadow

by Joyce Carol Oates
Drama: A neuropsychologist researcher undergoes a journey of self-discovery with her case study
Links: Amazon (UK)

All the Light We Cannot See

by Anthony Doerr
Lab lit lite: A young math whiz meets blind girl obsessed by shells in 1940s France
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Crossing

by Andrew Miller
Drama: An aloof scientist sails across the Atlantic on her own
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Martian

by Andy Weir
Drama: Stranded on Mars, a botanist has to fend for himself
Links: Amazon (UK)

Pandora’s Sisters

by Michael Stephen Fusch
Thriller: Who will win the battle over the key to a mysterious and game-changing stretch of DNA?
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Rebecca Hunt
Drama: Two sets of explorers lost in the fictional Antarctic island of Everland - in 1913 and 2012
Links: our reviewAmazon (UK)


by John Darnton
Thriller: Two rival archaelogists and former lovers discover a surviving race of Neanderthals
Links: Amazon (UK)

Crossover Novels

Sixth Winter

by John Gribbin & Douglas Orgill
Thriller: Will the next ice age start next winter?
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Alan Garner
Drama: A tortured scientist savant searches for sister and sanity (part of the Weirdstone Trilogy)
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Edge of the Sky

by Roberto Trottam
Experimental fiction: Exploring the most important ideas about the universe in language simple enough for anyone to understand
Links: Amazon (UK)

Galileo’s Daughter

by Dava Sobel
Historical Fiction: On the cusp between non-fiction and fiction, this work is a narrative treatment of great Italian scientist Galileo and his daughter Virginia
Links: Amazon (UK)

Flowers for Algernon

by Daniel Keyes
Drama: An experiment in the enhancement of human intelligence turns a simple man into a genius
Links: our reviewAmazon (UK)

Infinite Ground

by Martin MacInnes
Thriller: A forensic scientist finds curious abnormalities in bacteria after a man disappears
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Calculus Affair (The Adventures of Tintin)

by Hergé
Comic: A slightly distracted professor invents a novel weapon that could change the world
Links: Amazon (UK)



by Tom Morton-Smith
Historical fiction: A study of the moral issues inherent in being a scientist and a human being
Links: Royal Shakespeare Company


by John D. Barrow FRS
Experimental: Five scenarios eplore infinity, mathematics and the concept of life – without a plot or characters
Links: SIAM


by Melissa James Gibson
Drama: A clinical trial forms the backdrop for crucial life decisions
Links: Amazon (UK)

Informed Consent

by Deborah Zoe Laufer
Drama: Is DNA is our destiny, and who gets to decide?
Links: Amazon (UK)


The Martian

(Dir. Ridley Scott)
Thriller: An abandoned astronaut struggles to get home
Links: our reviewIMDb



written by Carl Joos (Dir. Tim Mielants)
Thriller: A viral outbreak in the heart of Antwerp threatens Europe
Links: Wikipedia