Fellows' favourites: your summer reading and listening recommendations

December 16, 2020
Academy Fellows Dr TJ Higgins and Professor Frances Separovic (and Gigi) with their favourite books of this year. Photos: supplied

The Australian Academy of Science’s Annual Fellows’ Christmas Book and Podcast List, released today, contains 37 favourite reads (and listens) recommended by the Academy’s Fellows.

As we have for the past four years, we asked our Fellows to provide their top book and podcast suggestions for this year.

Here's a small sample of this year's recommendations:


Wonder, by RJ Palacio

Recommended by Emeritus Professor Frances Separovic AO FAA

‘Wonder’ is a delightful book recommended for children aged 8 to 12 but its themes of identity, bullying and acceptance apply to readers of all ages. It tells the story of a boy born with severe facial differences as he starts school. The power of the book comes from how normal and relatable each character is and the insight into how one person can affect the lives of others.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyou

Recommended by Professor Georgia Chenevix-Trench FAA FAHMS

Everyone with an interest in biotech should should read this. It is scary how gullible clever men are when faced with a charismatic young woman, and how many people were fooled. The court case is pending but the author tells a gripping story.

A Water Story: Learning from the Past, Planning for the Future, by Geoff Beeson

Recommended by Dr TJ Higgins AO FAA FTSE

Water is a precious chemical globally and is especially so in Australia. This very accessible book with its excellent illustrations tells of the use and importance of water from ancient times to the present. The focus is on Australia and it covers everything from aquifers to yabbies.

English Pastoral, by James Rebanks

Recommended by Dr Jean Finnegan FAA

A thoughtful account of how the quest for cheap food has changed farming practices and the effect that this has had on farmland in the Lake District. Rebanks tells of his efforts to return to more traditional farming practices and to restore parts of his farm to a ‘wild’ state with benefits for both flora and fauna.

Morality, by Jonathan Sacks

Recommended by Professor Steven Prawer FAA

This book reassesses moral philosophy in the face of a society which seems to have lost its way. We in the Academy believe in evidence and truth as the basis for a society in which we want to live; but this notion is currently under threat in the era of post-truth and fake news. Sacks provides a vision of the moral basis for society in which the values which we hold dear can flourish.


13 Minutes to the Moon, hosted by Kevin Fong

Recommended by Professor Ivan Marusic FAA

Podcast on Nasa's missions to the Moon. Gripping interviews and original audio recordings of mission control, astronauts and partners who made the mission possible. Apollo program revised in a refreshing way with theme music by Hans Zimmer.

Terrible Lizards, hosted by David Hone and Iszi Lawrence

Recommended by Professor Andrew White FAA

This the podcast about dinosaurs that you have been missing your entire life. It brings together each week paleontologist Dr David Hone, comedian and writer Iszi Lawrence, and an expert guest. Using the latest research, they answer listeners’ questions with conversations that are equally entertaining and informative.

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