Please visit our new site!

The Lab Lit List

Novels, films, plays and TV programs in the Lab Lit fiction genre

Last updated: 9 December 2018

Please check out the new, more easily searchable (and updatable!) Lab Lit List

Editor's note: This list will be a continual work-in-progress; nominate your favorite work here. (We always have a dozen or so under consideration and updates take place about once or twice a year. Our next update is due in Summer 2020!)

Please note that 'lab lit' is not 'science fiction’; briefly, lab lit fiction depicts realistic scientists as central characters and portrays fairly realistic scientific practice or concepts, typically taking place in a realistic – as opposed to speculative or future – world. The action does not have to take place in a laboratory per se, just anywhere where scientists are doing what they do, such as a field station. Although some science fiction does indeed have elements of ‘lab lit’, and the boundaries can be fuzzy, this list is meant to feature real scientists in the real world. Those that deviate slightly from this definition, or are crossover works, are annotated as such. In the interest of promoting scientists in fiction, this list also includes novels in which the scientist character(s) are not wholly central ('lab lit lite').

The list of novels is spread over three separate pages, and other media appear on the fourth page. If you're searching for a book, please don't forget to check all three pages using the links below.

Jump to: Novels (1 of 3) • Novels (2 of 3) Novels (3 of 3) Crossover novelsFilmsPlaysTV



by John McCabe
Black comedy/thriller: A disgruntled biochemist is threatened by boredom, boss and vial of phenol.
Links: our author interviewAmazon (UK)

Carbon Dreams

by Susan M. Gaines
Drama: A female geologist struggles with career and love in California.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Sinclair Lewis
Drama: A scientist/medic leans the hard way that pure research is more noble – and cures plague in the process.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Mendel's Dwarf

by Simon Mawer
Black comedy: A megalomaniac achondroplasiac geneticist studies his own disease.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Brazzaville Beach

by William Boyd
Drama/Thriller: Mathematics meets malign chimps – Jane Goodall with a twist.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Gold Bug Variations

by Richard Powers
Drama: Love, music, art, literature, DNA coding and computers in one heady intellectual mix.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Galatea 2.2

by Richard Powers
Drama: In this haunting story, a writer-in-residence recovers from personal tragedy by helping colorful, well-drawn neurologists build a sentient AI program.
Links: Amazon (UK)

As She Climbed Across the Table

by Jonathan Lethem
Drama: A particle physicist falls in love with a black hole of her own creation.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Neal Stephenson
Comedy/thriller: A fun-loving ecoterrorist chemist stumbles onto something more alarming than the usual toxic sludge in Boston Harbor.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Boric Acid Murder

by Camille Minichino
Mystery: A retired physicist gets caught up in a library murder.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Connie Willis
Drama: Near-death experiences under the microscope – is Heaven the Titanic? A scientist attempts to work out the brain physiology behind that long glowing tunnel.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Connie Willis
Humor: The queen of science fiction sets her favorite genre aside to pen an entirely mainstream tale; capers, chaos theory and a flock of sheep feature in this rom-com set in a research institute.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Triplet Code

by B. B. Jordan
Mystery: A scientist can't help noticing when her colleagues start dropping dead.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Gut Symmetries

by Jeanette Winterson
Drama: Physicists becoming One with each other and the universe.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Periodic Table

by Primo Levi
Semi-autobiographical fiction: A chemist survives Auschwitz.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Cantor's Dilemma

by Carl Djerassi
Drama: What would you do to win a Nobel?
Links: our author profileAmazon (UK)

The Bourbaki Gambit

by Carl Djerassi
Drama: A secret group of researchers make a key discovery: their egos don't like being buried.
Links: our reviewour author profileAmazon (UK)

Menachem's Seed

by Carl Djerassi
Drama: Sperm-snatching on the academic conference circuit.
Links: our author profileAmazon (UK)


by Carl Djerassi
Drama: Scientists study penile erection and things get a bit personal.
Links: our author profileAmazon (UK)

The Struggles of Albert Woods

by William Cooper
Humor: One minor scientist's battle to become not-quite-so-minor.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Pharmacology Is Murder

by Dirk Wyle (and others in the series)
Mystery: A graduate student goes undercover.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by David Lodge
Humor: The Humanities vs. the Arts: a cognitive scientist and a novelist attempt to speak the same language.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Einstein's Dreams

by Alan Lightman
Drama: A poetical, fictionalized account of Einstein's discovery process, most of which happens while he is asleep.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Long For This World

by Michael Byers
Drama: A geneticist medic discovers a mutation in his patients that could lead to an ethically dubious cure for aging.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Unnatural Exposure

by Patricia Cornwell
Mystery: Virigina Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta on the trail of a serial killer, with a hefty dose of forensic science (and many others in this series).
Links: Amazon (UK)

Seaside Pleasures

by Ann Lingard
Drama: A tale of shells and snails, science and religion, love and death.
Links: our author interviewLittoralis Press

Figure in a Landscape

by Ann Lingard
Drama: A seal zoologist clashes with a guilt-ridden recluse.
Links: our author interviewAuthor's website

Floating Stones

by Ann Lingard
Drama: A geologist toys with the irrational as he considers leaving family and career for a potter he meets while doing fieldwork.
Links: our author interviewOnline Originals

Strong Medicine

by Arthur Hailey
Thriller: A women discovers the sins and secrets of the pharmaceutical industry.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Inspired Sleep

by Robert Cohen
Drama: A disgrunted PhD student tries to find solace in the dreams of a sleep research project.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture

by Apostolos Doxiadis
Humor/Drama: The black sheep of a family struggles to solve an age-old mathematical theorem.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Cloud Chamber

by Clare George
Historical drama: A tale of nuclear physicists at the dawn of atomic science.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Speed of Dark

by Elizabeth Moon
Drama: Lab lit lite: In considering an experimental new cure, a bioinformaticist must choose between love and the autism that facilitates his talents.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Measuring the World

by Daniel Kehlmann
Historical drama: A fictionalized account of an intense meeting between mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss and natural scientist Alexander von Humbold in Berlin in 1828 (originally in German).
Links: Amazon (UK)

Properties of Light

by Rebecca Goldstein
Drama: Burning love and murderous professional envy consume three physicists obsessed with understanding the quantum physics underpinning light.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Leaky Establishment

by David Langford
Humor: A caustic and humorous send-up of the nuclear research industry in Britain written by a former weapons physicist.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Crow Lake

by Mary Lawson
Drama: Lab lit lite: An invertebrate zoologist returns home after many years of estrangement from her family.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Quite a Year for Plums

by Bailey White
Drama: Lab lit lite: A plant pathologist learns how science should be used to understand nature rather than to conquer and master it.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Prodigal Summer

by Barbara Kingsolver
Drama: Lab lit lite: A lone wildlife biologist lives in the woods and studies coyotes while attempting to sort out her personal life.
Links: Amazon (UK)

This Thing of Darkness

by Harry Thompson
Historical Drama: Darwin and the voyage of the Beagle viewed through the eyes of Captain Fitzroy.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Darwin Conspiracy

by John Darnton
Historical Drama: Darwin again, this time seen through the eyes of two modern-day, lovelorn scholars – Possession for the evolutionarily minded.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Allegra Goodman
Drama: Secrets, lies and scientific fraud threaten to tear apart a close-knit cancer laboratory.
Links: Amazon (UK)Nature review by LabLit's editor


by Robert Harris
Historical fiction: A brilliant mathematician struggles to crack German codes in the second world war.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Neal Stephenson
Historical fiction: Alan Turing as a troubled mathematical soul in this brilliant blend of fact and fancy.
Links: Amazon (UK)

A Whistling Woman

by A.S. Byatt
Drama: Lab lit lite: Snail scientists almost completely diluted by an exhaustive cast of characters in this 'novel of ideas' (preceded by three other books in a series).
Links: Amazon (UK)

A Whiff of Death

by Isaac Asimov
Mystery: Petty politics and murder in this still-timely 1958 tale of an assistant professor in a chemistry department, penned when Azimov was a chemistry professor himself.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Scorpion's Tail

by Sylvia Torti
Drama: Written by a biology PhD and set in Chiapas during the 1994 Zapatista rebellion, this novel features two field ecologists who get caught up in something they never expected.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Wegener's Jigsaw (One Day On the Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead)

by Clare Dudman
Historical drama: A fictionalized autobiography of the scientific revolutionary Alfred Wegener, the main proponent of continental drift.
Links: the author writes in LabLitAmazon (UK)

98 Reasons For Being

by Clare Dudman
Historical drama: A biographical novel about another scientific revolutionary, the experimental psychiatrist Dr. Heinrich Hoffmann.
Links: the author writes in LabLitAmazon (UK)


by Kim Stanley Robinson
Thriller: A rich scientific, political and cultural environment and dangerous ecoterrorists feature in this exciting tale.
Links: our author interviewAmazon (UK)

Forty Signs of Rain

by Kim Stanley Robinson
Drama: Scientists and policy wonks struggle to cope with the impending threat of global warming - with great insights into the culture of scientific funding (first of trilogy entitled 'Science in the Capitol').
Links: our author interviewAmazon (UK)

Fifty Degrees Below

by Kim Stanley Robinson
Drama: The trilogy continues as the Gulf Stream stalls and a mini-Ice Age descends on D.C. - genetically engineered lichen to the rescue? (Part 2 of trilogy).
Links: our author interviewAmazon (UK)

Sixty Days and Counting

by Kim Stanley Robinson
Drama: An eco-friendly president is elected, but will it be too late? (part 3 of trilogy).
Links: our author interviewour reviewAmazon (UK)

The Search

by C. P. Snow
Drama: From the scientist father of 'the two cultures' idea, an x-ray crystallographer participates in a few scientific cover-ups.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Small Back Room

by Nigel Balchin
Drama: Classic lab lit from the 1940s about wartime boffins, by someone who was there.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Talk Nerdy to Me

by Vicki Lewis Thompson
Humor: An electrical engineer hero and a sexy, brainy heroine build a working bio-fuelled hovercraft in her garage (part of 'The Nerd Series').
Links: Amazon (UK)

Saving St. Germ

by Carol Muske-Dukes
Drama: A brilliant, creative organic chemist tries to manage a complicated life without descending into madness while developing her breakthrough theory.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Cannery Row

by John Steinbeck
Humor: A marine biologist presides over a bohemian field station with a colorful cast of whores, gamblers, bums, drunks and artists (based loosely on the life of Ed Ricketts).
Links: Amazon (UK)

A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines

by Janna Levin
Historical Fiction: A poetic account of the lives of Alan Turing and Kurt Gödel, just on the border between fiction and non-fiction.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Gwyneth Jones
Drama: A young geneticist makes her way through her life as a scientist, wife and mother.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Geoff Ryman
Black Comedy: A thirty-something government scientist with an overactive imagination grapples with his urges.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Carter Scholz
Drama: Young physicists become drawn into weapons work at the Lawrence Livermore lab.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Luminous Fish

by Lynn Margulis
Drama: A tale of atmospheric scientists from the founder of the endosymbiosis theory, via an ultimately unsatisfying symbiosis of fiction and autobiography.
Links: Scientist review by LabLit's editorAmazon (UK)

The Oxford Murders

by Guillermo Martinez
Drama: A math graduate student and a logician try to find out who killed an old woman who was involved in Enigma.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

by Paul Torday
Comedy/Drama: A fisheries scientist struggles to create a salmon habitat in the desert.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Gift

by Jon Kalb
Drama: Greed and sabotage in the hominid fossil-hunting world, written by an archaeologist who should know.
Links: Nature review by LabLit's editorPublisher's site

Lethal Genes

by Linda Grant
Mystery: Death and subterfuge in a Bay Area plant genetics lab.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Cold Dark Matter

by Alex Brett
Mystery: A suicide in a remote astronomical observatory opens up an even older, Cold War era mystery.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Dead Water Creek

by Alex Brett
Mystery: A researcher blows the whistle on a lab head siphoning off funds in a fisheries laboratory, but there's more to the crime than meets the eye.
Links: Amazon (UK)

A Hole in Texas

by Herman Wouk
Drama/Romance: An aging particle physicist runs afoul with Congress, the Chinese and the CIA in his quest for the Higgs Bosun.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by John Banville
Historical fiction: The more human side of the famous astronomer is brought to life.
Links: our reviewAmazon (UK)

Doctor Copernicus

by John Banville
Historical fiction: Copernicus attempts to reconcile theory with fact as he develops his theory of the heliocentric solar system.
Links: our reviewAmazon (UK)

Final Theory

by Mark Alpert
Thriller: Terrorists and the FBI battle it out over Einstein's 'lost' unification theory.
Links: our reviewAmazon (UK)

Sun and Moon Corrupted

by Philip Ball
Drama: A troubled journalist goes on the trail of a mysterious fringe scientist.
Links: our author interviewAmazon (UK)

Experimental Heart

by Jennifer L. Rohn
Thriller/Romance: A love-struck workaholic obsesses over a mysterious woman and her new vaccine in a London cancer research institute.
Links: CSHL PressAmazon (UK)


by Neal Stephenson (plus two others in the The Baroque Cycle)
Historical fiction: An alternative history in the 17th Century, complete with authentic scientists.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Tom Grace
Mystery: An invention yielding unlimited power could start a wonderful new industry or the end of the world.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Gravity’s Chain

by Allan Goodwin
Drama: Life changes for a brilliant young scientist who unifies Relativity and Quantum Theory.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Sarah Andrews
Mystery: Like a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, forensic geologist Emily Hansen uses geological clues to solve crimes while climbing the professional ladder.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Principal Investigation

by BB Jordan (and others in the same series)
Mystery: Can virologist Dr. Celeste Braun stop a former Harvard researcher from creating a virus and selling the only cure to it?
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Lori Andrews
Mystery/Crime: Alexandra Blake, a geneticist with major commitment issues and a taste for old cars, takes on mysteries.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Los Alamos

by Joseph Kanon
Mystery: A group of scientists race the Nazis to finish the first atomic bomb.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Ship Fever

by Andrea Barrett
Historic fiction: Do swallows really sleep under water? A collection of short stories blending history, science and fiction.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Behaviour of Moths

by Poppy Adams
Drama: Lab lit lite: A moth expert compares the situation of moths to her own life than that of her family.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Embalmer’s Book of Recipes

by Ann Lingard
Drama: Lab lit lite: The lives and loves of three women in Cumbria: a widowed sheep farmer, a taxidermist and a mathematician.
Links: our author interviewAmazon (UK)

The Housekeeper and The Professor

by Yoko Ogawa
Drama: Lab lit lite: A touching Japanese novella about the housekeeper to an amnesiac math professor, and her young son.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Bob Stickgold and Mark Noble
Thriller: Scientists try to save the world from a deadly virus in this 70s classic penned by real scientists.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Story of Forgetting

by Stefan Merrill Block
Drama: Lab lit lite: A science nerd desperately tries to understand his mother’s Alzheimer’s.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Sun at Midnight

by Rosie Thomas
Drama: A young Oxford geologist travels to Antarctica and finds love.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Mobius Dick

by Andrew Crumey
Genre: A professor of theoretical physics stumbles into a dangerous plot.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Schrödinger’s Ball

by Adam Felber
Comedy: Erwin Schrödinger and a cast of zany characters get drawn together by a freak traffic accident.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Hungry Tide

by Amitav Ghosh
Drama: A cetologist studying the elusive Ganges Dolphin discovers a stormy history of unrequited love and loss in the Indian Sundarbans.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Log from the "Sea of Cortez"

by John Steinbeck
Drama/Comedy: A blend of fiction and fact, the author and his scientist friend keep a ship’s log.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Gravity’s Rainbow

by Thomas Pynchon
Drama: Lab lit lite: scientists study bombs and the paranormal in this classic epic tale of the dreg-ends of World War II.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Giles Foden
Historical drama: Met office scientists struggle to predict the weather for the D-Day Landings.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The First Circle

by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Drama: A fictional account of imprisoned Soviet scientists working on secret projects for Stalin.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Girl Pretending To Read Rilke

by Barbara Riddle
Drama: A young woman's struggles to begin a career in bioscience amid the backlash from a fateful telegram.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Remarkable Creatures

by Tracy Chevalier
Historical Drama: A fictionalized account of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, two real Victorian natural historians struggling in a man's world.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Trouble With Lichen

by John Wyndham
Drama: Two scientists run into trouble when they accidentally discover the biological secret of staying young.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Dreaming Jungles

by Michel Rio
Drama: A French aristocrat travels to the jungles of Africa in the early 20th Century to study chimpanzees.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Mrs Einstein

by Anna McGrail
Historical drama: Einstein's abandoned daughter resolves to haunt her father's scientific career and master physics.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Particles and Luck

by Louis B. Jones
Comedy: A young theoretical physicist gets sucked into a crazy caper.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Dork of Cork

by Chet Raymo
Drama: An amateur astronomer finds his ideas about God, women, and himself challenged when he meets the mainstream scientific community.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Where The Sea Used To Be

by Rick Bass
Drama: The struggle between a prickly Texas oilman and his daughter, an expert on wolves, for the souls of the two geologists who become her lovers
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Time of Our Singing

by Richard Powers
Drama: Lab lit lite: a mixed-raced music-loving family headed by a physicist grapples with racism in during the American Civil Rights movement.
Links: Amazon (UK)

About Grace

by Anthony Doerr
Drama: A hydrologist in isolation sets out to find his long-abandoned daughter.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Wave Theory of Angels

by Alison McLeod
Drama: Lab lit lite: the action moves between a growing cathedral in France in 1284 and Fermilab in 2001, where a rebel physicist's daughter keeps a mysterious secret.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Echo Maker

by Richard Powers
Drama: A famous cognitive neurologist investigates a strange case of Capgras syndrome
Links: Amazon (UK)

Generosity: An Enhancement

by Richard Powers
Drama: A geneticist thinks he's found the scientific cause of happiness.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by EO Wilson
Drama: The story of boy who grows up to be a naturalist and a lawyer, determined to save the world from its most savage ecological predator: man himself.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Impact Factor

by Paul Brand
Drama/Thriller: A young female scientist gets into trouble after sleeping with the competition at an international symposium
Links: Amazon (UK)

Return to Almora

by Rajendra Pachauri
Drama: A semi-autobiographical account of the life and loves of the head of the International Panel on Climate Change.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Ian McEwan
Black comedy: The professional and personal worlds of a past-it, Nobel-prize-winning physicist collide in a freak accident.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Conjurer's Bird

by Martin Davies
Historical drama: An 18th Century naturalist uncovers the secrets of an extinct bird, while present day researchers seek his personal secrets.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The House of Sleep

by Jonathan Coe
Drama/comedy: Lab lit lite: a surly sleep researcher interacts with a group of other former students in a humorous tale about love, life and forty winks.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Indian Clerk

by David Leavitt
Historical drama: A fictionalized account of mathematician G.H. Hardy's discovery of mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Story of Blanche and Marie

by Per Olov Enquist
Historical drama: A fictionalized account of Marie Curie and the discovery of radium.
Links: Amazon (UK)

An Instance of the Fingerpost

by Iain Pears
Drama: Lab lit Lite: A group of people, including a mathematician, try to solve a murder in Oxford in 17th Century.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Game Control

by Lionel Shriver
Drama: A family-planning worker falls for a misanthropic population control biologist in Kenya.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Two On a Tower

by Thomas Hardy
Drama: An unhappily married lady breaks all the rules of social decorum when she falls in love with an astronomer who is ten years her junior.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Honest Look

by Jennifer L. Rohn
Drama: A young woman working in a biotech company makes a shocking discovery about the company's new cure for Alzheimer's.
Links: CSHL PressAmazon (UK)

The Unfixed Stars (entitled 'Percival's Planet' in the US)

by Michael Byers
Historical fiction: A pacy, fictionalized account of the real life story of Pluto's discovery by a Kansas farm boy.
Links: our reviewAmazon (UK)


by Julie Chibbaro
Drama for young adults: A 16-year-old girl in New York at the turn of the 20th century discovers a way into the masculine world of science.
Links: Amazon (UK)

State Of Wonder

by Ann Patchett
Drama: An enigmatic scientist working on an infertility cure in the Amazon is tracked down by her former student when a colleague is killed.
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth

by Stuart Clark
Historical drama: A fictionalized account of the science and lives of Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei. First of a trilogy.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Double Helix

by Nancy Werlin
Drama for young adults: A young man takes a detour into a biotech company before starting college – leaving him with more questions than answers about the scientific world.
Links: Amazon (UK)


by Paul McEuan
Thriller: A biological super-weapon destroyed during the Second World War is rediscovered: will there be time stop it?
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Music of the Spheres

by Elizabeth Redfern
Historical drama: French and British astronomers compete to find a lost planet in 1795 amidst the French revolution.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Deja Dead

by Kathy Reichs (and others in the series)
Drama: A forensic anthropologist solves crimes (also the novel behind the popular TV series "Bones").
Links: Amazon (UK)

The Condition

by Jennifer Haigh
Drama: A scientist father and his loves ones grapple with an instance of Turner’s syndrome in the family.
Links: Amazon (UK)

Jump to: Novels (1 of 3) • Novels (2 of 3) Novels (3 of 3) Crossover novelsFilmsPlaysTV