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8 books to read if you’re starting your sci-tech career

25 Aug 2023

Whether you’re pivoting into the world of sci-tech or just finishing up your undergraduate degree, these books can help you dive in.

Click here to view the full Starting Your STEM Career series.

If you’re just starting out in your science or technology career, you’re likely to be hungry for knowledge about the sector. Whether you came to this sector through passion and a related STEM degree or you decided to move into the industry after years in a completely different area, there’s plenty of books out there that can help further your interest and education.

Science and tech knowledge will often come at you through a range of facts, equations and programming languages that will help build your skills in the area you need to advance your career. But it is a wider understanding of how these disciplines sit within society that will give you a unique perspective, strengthen your creativity and broaden your thought process as you begin your sci-tech career. With this in mind, here are eight books that may help feed your interests in the world of STEM.

Invisible Women

In Invisible Women, feminist writer and activist Caroline Criado-Perez explores the ways in which the world is designed for men, from the size of mobile phones to the design of car airbags.

The book also exposes the gender data gap and its profound effect on women through government policy, medical research, technology, workplaces, urban planning and the media. Anyone in the world of sci-tech would benefit from reading about the world of data.

An Immense World

For scientists who are passionate about the world of animals, Ed Yong’s An Immense World is a great read for you. A New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller, this is one of the more recently published books on our list and will give readers a unique insight into how the world is perceived by other animals.

The science writer seeks to take readers out of their own sensory bubble and helps explain the complex vision of scallops, the turtles that can track the Earth’s magnetic fields and the sensitivity of a crocodile’s face.

Bad Blood

Knowing the background to some of tech’s biggest stories is a good introduction to the industry. One to start with is Bad Blood by journalist John Carreyrou, which tells the compelling true story of Theranos, the hyped miracle health start-up that at its peak was worth $10bn, but in the end was worth nothing.

Carreyrou was the Wall Street Journal investigative reporter that questioned the validity of the start-up’s tech back in 2015, working with a number of whistleblowers including Erika Cheung.

Weapons of Math Destruction

Written by mathematician and data scientist Cathy O’Neil, Weapons of Math Destruction looks at the societal impacts of algorithms and how big data can lead to increases in inequality.

O’Neil herself is a mathematician who has worked as a professor, hedge-fund analyst and data scientist and so is well placed to look at what she describes as WMDs – algorithms that claim to quantify important traits such as teacher quality or creditworthiness but have harmful outcomes and reinforce inequality.

A grid of the front covers of the eight books in this article list.

The Paradox of Choice

For someone who is a little more intrigued by the science of psychology, Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice examines the phenomenon by the same name, which suggests that having an abundance of choices in the modern world actually limits our freedom and makes decision-making more difficult.

Not only is the book a fascinating read for those interested in human behaviour, but it can also help anyone who is starting their career to better understand the stress you can feel from having so many options laid out before you.

Social Capital

Another good snapshot of tech history is Aoife Barry’s Social Capital, particularly relevant for anyone starting their tech career in Ireland.

The book acts like a written version of Reeling in the Years, focusing on the highs and lows of how Big Tech came to set up shop in Ireland and the social media stories that shaped the nation’s narrative around these tech giants and the platforms they produced for us. Barry also spoke about the good, the bad and the ugly side of social media on For Tech’s Sake earlier this year.

Beyond Measure

For lovers of physics, maths or history, Beyond Measure by James Vincent delves into the world of metrics and measurements and how they help tell the story of human history, from inches and feet to step counting and social media likes.

Vincent notes that the point at which humans developed systems to quantify the physical world around them was a turning point for them, but it’s an area that never stops evolving and has an effect on pretty much every area of our lives – and how such measurements can even be used as a tool for oppression.

You Look Like a Thing and I Love You

The evolution of AI and generative AI in particular is moving at such a pace that it can be hard to keep up. It can often be helpful to go back a little, to a moment in time when AI tech was still advanced enough to resemble the capabilities we can currently see without overthinking about the latest Big Tech race.

Janelle Shane’s book, You Look Like a Thing and I Love You, gives readers a fun and comforting guide into the workings of AI and is a great intro for those who are unsure of where to start when it comes to the topic of artificial intelligence.

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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