Please recommend some good books to learn science from the very basics.

Hello, due to mental illness, I missed out of learning anything in school. I have an interest in science, well, I like to read mysterious stuff about quantum phenomena and have read Bill Bryson’s Short History of Nearly Everything and Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time. But I don’t actually know anything about science. Not having studied anything in school, even in middle school, I do not even know how to write a simple chemical equation. So I need recommendations for books that will help me learn science from the bare basics. Only problem is I have a short attention span, and the books need to be interesting. So looking for books written in an interesting style like Bill Bryson’s for example, or how Cecil Adam’s would write. Hope you can help.

Going back a ways, Isaac Asimov wrote a lot of nonfiction books about various aspects of the sciences. They’re quite accessible to the average person. Dawkins and Jerry Coyne are good for evolutionary topics. Douglas Hofsteader if you want your brain to melt.

You might try checking out the used book sites or second-hand shops for some of the old Time/Life series. They were aimed at families with children, and very informative for their times. You will want to then read more modern and slightly higher level works to get up to speed on everything that has been discovered, proven, or thought of since then, but they are an excellent source for the fundamentals.

A lot of us also read our parents old encyclopedias for the basic foundations they could provide.

Lastly, there are quite a few sites which sell used college textbooks for decent prices. Anything with “101” in the title should be useful.

Good luck! I hope you’ll journal a bit about your process. Discovering your curiosity as an adult and following up on it for the fist time could serve as the basis of a very interesting narrative.

Another vote for the old Asimov collections of essays, published by Discus (Avon.)

Two good titles are “Only a Trillion” and “The Relativity of Wrong.”

However, fair warning, he always puts in at least one politically motivated essay, and if you don’t share his liberal views, you might find it grating.

James Kakalios’ The Physics of Superheroes discusses physics in the context of comic book superheroes, and how they routinely do the scientifically impossible. It’s a fun read, and if you want to get a sample of what it’s like, you can watch Kakalios lecture on the subject here.

Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman.

Heck, why not go straight to the meat: The Feynman Lectures on Physics are rightly considered classics, sand give you a great introduction to physics.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Feynman_Lectures_on_Physics

Here’s a thread from a few years ago that has some good recommendations.

There have been some good (and, I assume, some not-so-good) books on science published since then. For example, one I’ve read recently is Sam Kean’s The Disappearing Spoon, on chemistry. I recommend it more for entertainment than for systematic education, though I’d say the same about Bryson.