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Pipettes, polar exhibitions, primates and pure escapism

49 new additions to the Lab Lit List

Jennifer Rohn 9 December 2018

A healthy stack

Although the lot of female scientists has improved exponetially since HG Wells' day, I still recognized the sexism on display

Just in time for Christmas, we are delighted to present this year's Lab Lit List update, which includes 45 lab lit novels, three in the science fiction 'crossover' section, and one defunct television series.

What are the trends this time? As always, a significant fraction of the novels are historical in theme, both made-up stories about fictional explorers and researchers, along with novelized renditions of the antics of of real-life scientists (such as Darwin, Audobon, Tesla, and Kellogg - of cornflakes fame). And as if there weren't already enough on the List, we've added a few more tales set in the polar region, bolstering our mini-genre of 'arctic lab lit' seen in recent years.

We've added two old books this time around. The first, Ann Veronica by HG Wells, was written in 1909 and is a romance novel about a young woman chafing at the confines of her sex and running off to London, that cesspit of sin, to do something truly subversive: become a female undergraduate studying comparative anatomy at Imperial College. Although the lot of female scientists has improved exponentially since Wells' day, I still recognized many aspects of the sexism on display, which just goes to show that this prophetic author was spot-on about more than just lasers, email and the atomic bomb in his works.

The other old novel is The Temptor by Norbert Weiner, himself a famous American mathematician and the founder of the science of cybernetics. His sole work of fiction, amid a large corpus of scholarly tomes, was published in 1959. Despite the age of these two works, Thomas Hardy is still easily the winner of the oldest lab lit novel with his 1882 classic Two On A Tower.

I would like to express our ongoing thanks to our List Curator, Asa Karlström, and to Dom Stiles, our chief 'lab lit sniffer'. But as always, many nominations poured in from our international 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, with a navigation tool at the top or bottom of the first page.

We hope you'll find some great festive holiday reading in this latest haul!

In today’s update:


Essex Serpent

by Sarah Perry
Historical Fiction: An amateur Victorian naturalist with no patience for superstition is convinced that what local people think is a magical beast may be a yet-undiscovered species.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Last Pilot

by Benjamin Johncock
Drama: A trained pilot makes choices between family and the space program in the early 1950s.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Dragon Keeper

by Mindy Mejia
Drama:A reptile specialist in a zoo tries to protect her komodo dragon from a media frenzy after it appears to lay eggs without having a mate.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Ann Veronica

by H.G: Wells
Drama: lab lit lite: A female biology major in Edwardian London finds love.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Evangelist

by Clare George
Drama: An evolutionary biologist writes his memoirs about the nature of science and God.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Cat Zero

by Jennifer Rohn
Thriller: A female scientist joins forces with a sexist mathematician to understand a dangerous cat virus that may be a threat to humans.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Wanderers

by Meg Howrey
Drama:A group of astronauts trains for a mission to Mars while their families come to terms with the prospect of separation.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by A.N. Wilson
Historical drama: A novel about Captain Cook’s discovery to Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii, as seen through the eyes of botanist George Forster.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Us Conductors

by Sean Michaels
Historical fiction: A Russian scientist, spy and prisoner is torn between Manhattan and his native Russia.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Sylvia Torti
Drama: Two neurologists who experiment on songbirds in a university laboratory must confront emotional truths to be released from their own individual cages.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Many Worlds of Albie Bright

by Christopher Edge
Young adult fiction: Albie’s parents are both scientists, and when his mother dies, his father is left to explain where she went.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Time and Space of Uncle Albert

by Russell Stannard
Young Adult fiction: Book one in the bestselling Uncle Albert science and adventure series.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Some Of Us Glow More Than Others

by Tania Hershman
Short stories: A collection reflecting what life is like at the cutting edge of technology.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Robert Harris
Historical drama: During the second World War, which side will solve fission first and create the ultimate weapon? Classic territory but with a spy angle…
Links: Amazon (UK)


by L.A. Larkin
Thriller: A glaciologist living in Antarctica gets wind of a global catastrophe. Is there time to save the world?
Links: Amazon (UK)

An English Guide to Birdwatching

by Nicholas Royle
Drama: A story about society, birds, social justice and a mix-up between two authors and their work.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Museum of Cathy

by Anna Stothard
Historical Drama: Lab Lit Lite: A story about an English woman working as a curator of natural history in Berlin.
Links: Amazon (UK)

God is an Astronaut

by Alyson Foster
Drama: A female botanist has to decide whether to follow her Elon Musk-like husband into space to save their marriage.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Weike Wang
Drama: A chemistry PhD is bombing out of graduate school…is it the right thing for her to do?
Links: our reviewAmazon (UK)


by Robin Cook
Thriller: Why do all those routine hospital patients keep dying? A medical student and her lab partner start to investigate.
Links: Amazon (UK)

pH: A Novel

by Nancy Lord
Thriller: A marine biologist and his student crew embark on cruise in the Gulf of Alaska to understand the worrying acidification underway.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Devil’s Garden

by Edward Docx
Drama: A research team studying ants in the Amazon get endangered by a corrupt military regime.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Brother in Ice

by Alicia Kopf
Drama: Lab lit lite. Translated from the Catalan. A curious blend of fact and fiction, art and science, superimposed over polar explorations past and present.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Perfect Marriage

by Alison Booth
Romance/Thriller: A scientist meets a charismatic geneticist on a plane and her secrets begin to unravel.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Out of the Ice

by Ann Turner
Thriller: An environmental scientist stumbles into a psychological drama on a remote Anatarctic island.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Aminatta Forna
Drama: A psychiatrist and a biologist meet up in London and start to look into why an immigrant child has gone missing.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Overstory

by Richard Powers
Drama: A complex and unusual tale of trees: eight characters (one of whom is a scientist) struggle to save the forests.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Tempter

by Norbert Wiener
Drama: Engineer-scientist Gregory James draws another scientist into subterfuge.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Give Me Your Hand

by Megan Abbott
Thriller: Old friends and rivals with a deadly secret suddenly find themselves as researchers in the same lab.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Chemistry Lesson

by Meredith Goldstein
Romance: A lab researcher experiments with pheromones to try to rekindle her love life.
Links: Amazon (UK)

We Love You, Charlie Freeman

by Kaitlyn Greenidge
Drama: Lab lit lite: An African-American family is invited to live with a chimp as part of a scientific study – but is it as simple as it seems?
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Voyage of the Narwhal

by Andrea Barrett
Historical Drama: The crew of The Narwhal sets out in 1854 to explore the Artic region.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Servants of the Map

by Andrea Barrett
Historical Fiction/Romance: A collection of stories and novellas on the border of science and desire
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Road to Wellville

by T. C. Boyle
Historical Drama: A fictionalized account about John Harvey Kellogg, the real-life inventor of cornflakes, and his science of ‘wellness’ (inspired a film by the same name).
Links: Amazon (UK)

Shooting the Sun

by Max Byrd
Drama: A tale, part fiction and part fact, about an expedition to see an eclipse in the 1840s.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Confessing a Murder

by Nicholas Drayson
Historical Fiction: The story about the Theory of Evolution told from the point of view of a fictional character who ‘knew’ Darwin and Wallace.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Katherine Govier
Historic Drama: A fictionalized account of the naturalist John Audubon during the creation of his masterpiece, Birds of North America.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Signal and Noise

by John Griesmer
Historical Drama: A story about laying the first transatlantic telegraph cable, with a fictional main character embedded in plenty of historical fact.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Hippolyte’s Island, An Illustrated Novel

by Barbara Hodgson
Illustration : Fictional map drawer and explorer Hippolyte Webb on a quest for vanished lands – with many details from actual real-life explorations.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Invention of Everything Else

by Samantha Hunt
Historical Drama: A fictionalized account of Nikola Tesla, who has built a live-in lab in a New York hotel.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Memory Artists

by Jeffrey Moore
Drama: A story about memory disorders and a grad student who want to find a cure for his mother’s Alzheimer’s.
Links: Amazon (UK)

An Imperfect Lens

by Anne Richardson Roiphe
Historical Drama: Chemists from Paris search for the source of the cholera epidemic in 1880s Egypt.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Josephine Wilson
Drama: A retired engineer stuck in a nursing home gets shaken out of his morose musings.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Douglas Preston
Drama: The tale of a chimpanzee brought up as a human child.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Barbara Kingsolver
Drama: The tale of four generations who have occupied the same house in New Jersey, including amateur scientists.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Crossover (Science Fiction with great scientist characters)

Odds Against Tomorrow

by Nathaniel Rich
Thriller: A gifted mathematician spends his days in a near-future Manhattan, calculating worst-case scenarios for a consulting firm that indemnifies corporations against potential disasters.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Spaceman of Bohemia

by Jaroslav Kalfar
Sci-fi: A Czech astronaut launches into space to investigate a mysterious dust cloud covering Venus.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Good Morning, Midnight

By Lily Brooks Dalton
Drama: A scientist in the Artic and an astronaut returning from Jupiter find themselves on the same journey.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Television series


by Alexandra Cunningham and Kem Nunn
TV series/Thriller: Dr. Eldon Chance, a neuropsychiatrist, is a man primed for spectacular ruin.
Links: Amazon (UK)