Please visit our new site!


A growing trend for science in fiction?

29 new additions to the Lab Lit List!

Jennifer Rohn 5 March 2017

In fashion: science continues to infiltrate fiction

We also noticed that several of the books dealt with marital breakdown - underscoring the reassuring idea that scientists are human beings above all

Spring is finally in the air, and we are pleased to unveil our latest Lab Lit List update, which includes 25 lab lit novels, two films and two plays.

I was happy to see that a fair number of our nominations were novels published in the past year or so, which really does bolster the idea of a growing trend in popularity for this niche genre. As always, though, reader nominations have unearthed a few older specimens too.

So what are the trends this time? As regular as clockwork, we've got the usual crop of murder mysteries - a perennial fascination, as death seems to make science much more palatable to readers who wouldn't otherwise consider stomaching science in their plots. In addition, a significant fraction of the novels are historical fiction, both wholly imagined tales as well as fictionalized versions of the lives of real-life scientists (such as Thomas Edison, George Price and Srinivasa Ramanujan) or of events (the Manhattan Project, a recurring favorite). We also noticed that several of the books deal with marital breakdown - underscoring the reassuring idea that scientists are human beings above all.

I was particularly intrigued to see that Jenny Colgan, a best-selling author of romantic comedy, has recently dipped into the world of lab lit with her novel Resistance is Futile, a tale about a gorgeous female codebreaker. My only disappointment is that Colgan's website bills it as "this summer’s most irregular love story" - a nod to the strangeness of featuring a female scientist as the protagonist of a rom-com, we assume. Perhaps one day, this concept will be common enough not to warrant a disclaimer.

The two films this time are both biopics about real-life mathematicians. I can particularly recommend Hidden Figures, a clever, sad and at times laugh-out-loud funny story about the struggles of three African-American women at NASA during the Space Race.

Thanks are due to our List Curator, Asa Karlström, and to Dom Stiles, our chief 'lab lit sniffer'. But we are only able to cover all of our bases because of nominations from our readership. If you have a title to suggest, please do contact us. The usual spiel: ‘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.

We hope you find some inspiration here!

In today’s update:


Open Grave

by Kjell Eriksson
Thriller; lab lit lite After Professor Bertram von Ohler is awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine, his neighbours don’t approve and mysterious things start to happen.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Three Weeks in December

by Audrey Schulman
Historical Fiction In 1899, a young engineer leaves to construct a railroad in east Africa, while in 2000, an American ethnobotanist in east Africa stumbles into an old story.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Satin Island

by Tom McCarthy
Drama An anthropologist consulting for a company becomes almost overwhelmed by too much information.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Coffin Road

by Peter May
Drama A scientist washes up on a Hebridean island with no memory of the shocking things that have befallen him.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Easter Island

by Jennifer Vanderbes
Drama A female paleobotanist moves to Easter Island to follow her passion, mirroring the 1970s journey of another woman.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Conrad & Eleanor

by Jane Rogers
Drama/Thriller Secrets are revealed during the disintegrating marriage of two scientists.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Degrees of Freedom

by Lori Barrow
ThrillerA murder disrupts a group of physics graduates in the early Nineties.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Night of Fire

by Collin Thubron
DramaSeven people (landlord, priest, neurosurgeon, naturalist, photographer, schoolboy, traveler) in a house on fire, one chapter per character.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Lamentations of Zeno (translated from the German)

by Ilija Trojanow
DramaA glaciologist working as a guide on an Antarctic cruise ship plans a desperate disruption
Links: Amazon (UK)

Dying to Know

by Alison Joseph
ThrillerA particle collider in Kent hosts a murder.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Resistance is Futile

by Jenny Colgan
Romantic ComedyA brilliant female mathematician is recruited to a top-secret code breaking project
Links: Amazon (UK)

My Last Continent

by Midge Raymond
DramaTwo penguin specialists find love in Antartica when one of their ships end up in trouble.
Links: Amazon (UK)

A Doubter’s Almanac

by Ethan Canin
DramaA mathematician grad student in Seventies California finds himself while exploring the art of research.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Antonia Hayes
Drama12-year-old physics and astronomy savant Ethan navigates his family’s past.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by A.N. Wilson
Historical Fiction An exploration of the life and times of the British explorer Captain Cook through the eyes of his ship’s botanist George Forster
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Poison Artist

by Jonathan Moore
Thriller A toxicologist studying pain and death finds himself drawn to a mysterious woman.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Atomic Weight of Love

by Elizabeth Church
DramaThe tale of an ornithologist married to a physics professor living in New Mexico in the early 1940s.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Under a Pole Star

by Stef Penney
Historical Fiction A geologist from Manhattan falls for a miner’s daughter during an Arctic expedition in the late 19th century.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter

by John Pipkin
Historical FictionA women takes over her father’s legacy mapping the solar system and beyond.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Crossing Places

by Elly Griffiths
ThrillerA forensic archaeologist gets tangled up in a murder.
Links: Amazon (UK)

A Beautiful Young Wife

by Tommy Wieringa
DramaA celebrated microbiologist has a midlife crisis when he finally settles down with one woman.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Terranauts

by T.C. Boyle
DramaA diverse group of people takes part in an ecological experiment in the Arizona desert.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Freud’s Alphabet

by Jonathan Tel
Historical FictionA fictionalised account of Sigmund Freud in London.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Last Days of Night

by Graham Moore
Historical Fiction/ThrillerA fictionalized account of a lawsuit as Tesla’s and Edison’s lightbulb tehnologies battle for supremacy.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Jennifer Ball
DramaAgainst the backdrop of a volatile marriage, fraud rears its head in a chemistry lab.
Links: Amazon (UK)


Miss Atomic Bomb

by Adam Long, Gabriel Vick and Alex Jackson-Long
Musical In 1952, a Las Vegas hotel tries to lure in tourists coming to gawk at desert nuclear tests by holding a beauty pageant.
Links: The Guardian

Calculating Kindness

by Lydia Adetunji and Laura Farnworth, Directed by Laura Farnworth
Musical A play based on the life of geneticist George Price, the man who tried to use math to explain altruism.
Links: at Camden People’s Theatre
Links: The Observer


Hidden Figures

(Dir. Theodore Melfi)
Drama/Biopic A story about NASA’s real-life African-American female mathematicians and their work in the space program. Links: IMDb

The Man Who Knew Infinity

(Dir. Matthew Brown)
Drama/Biopic: Mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan travels from India to attend Cambridge University during World War I. Links: Amazon (UK)