1 Voyage of the Beagle Charles Darwin
Documenting Darwin's 1831 journey of discovery that sparked his theories of evolution and natural selection.
2 The Golden Ratio Mario Livio
Discusses phi, a number not only known for its aesthetic qualities in art and architecture, but also ubiquitous in physics and nature.
3 The Red Queen Matt Ridley
The real deal on how sex evolved and how sexual selection has shaped the human mind.
4 Stiff Mary Roach
The secret history of the exciting 'life' of cadavers.
5 The Diversity of Life Edward O. Wilson
Beautifully written treatise on biodiversity and environmental ethics.
6 Rivals Michael White
Illustrates how rivalry has been a driving force in scientific discovery through the ages.
7 The Selfish Gene Richard Dawkins
The gene is the unit of selection and really doesn't care about much else than passing on to the next generation.
8 Innumeracy John Allen Paulos
Why are people afraid of numbers? Is it fate or coincidence? How does the media misinterpret statistics? Are the odds in your favour?
9 Orchid Fever Eric Hansen
Enter a realm of obsessed smugglers, murderous Victorians, bureaucracy, red tape, and little old ladies.
10 Almost Like a Whale Steve Jones
Darwin's Origin of Species updated for the 21st century. It will amuse you, astound you and leave you with a new-found passion for biology.
For those anoraks among you, here are the books on my long list that didn't make the cut (and I'm not implying that I've actually read all of these, but hey, I need something to read in future, too). Trilobite and Counting Sheep were my favourites from this long list.
11 The Quark and the Jaguar Murray Gell-Mann
The unified theory of everything and beyond.
12 Six Degrees Duncan J. Watts
Ever play that Kevin Bacon game? This book is on the science of networks: social, economic, electronic. Diverse.
13 The Ancestor's Tale Richard Dawkins
A pilgrimage through time with our genetic relatives to meet our common ancestors. At each convergence we're joined by sister groups, until finally all life is connected, a big family reunion at the start of it all.
14 Wonderful Life Stephen Jay Gould
Arguably the best volume on palaeobiology. The fossils of the Burgess Shale shed light on how strange the Primordial Soup might have been.
15 Longitude Dava Sobel
The history of cartography comes to life in this tale of greed, ignorance and heroism.
16 Gödel Escher Bach Douglas R. Hofstadter
Gödel's mathematical theorems, Escher's art and Bach's music are linked together to illuminate the mysteries of the human thought process.
17 Counting Sheep Paul Martin
Why do we sleep? What happens when we're asleep? How does this intriguing process go wrong? Find it all here, as well as tips on how to get a good night's rest.
18 Trilobite Richard Fortey
The natural history of an ancient arthropod, a witness to evolution, told with spark and enthusiasm.
19 Beyond Supernature Lyall Watson
Telepathy, reincarnation, poltergeists and telekinesis cannot be explained by logic or science, right? Guess again.
20 The Meaning of It All Richard Feynman
Feynman's inspiring lectures on the value of science, science and religion, pseudoscience, and science and public perception.