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The Writings of Isaac Asimov
Portrait of Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov in 1965

I have a special shelf set aside for the nonfiction writings of the late Dr. Isaac Asimov, because I enjoy his work so much. For something like forty years, Asimov wrote monthly science essays for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF for short). Each essay was focused on a specific topic. Each was clearly and simply written, and based on the best information available then. Periodically, these essays were collected and printed as books. He also wrote a number of other books about science and history.

Essay Collections from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

For more than thirty years, Asimov wrote a steady stream of monthly science essays for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The essays were on every topic under the sun. Many of them were collected and published in book form over the years.

  • 'X' STANDS FOR UNKNOWN
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1984
    Publisher: Avon
    ISBN: 0-380-69847-1
    A variety of essays from F&SF grouped into four major topics: the electromagnetic spectrum, the chemistry of silicon, the history of comets, and exploding stars. Three miscellaneous essays round out the collection: one about the 'Golden Section' in mathematics, one about how the Bible assumes a flat earth, and a final one that's a devastating attack against 'the armies of the night,' or those people who prefer to run their lives by superstition instead of science.
  • ADDING A DIMENSION
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1964
    Publisher: Avon/Discus
    ISBN: 0-380-00278-7
    F&SF science essays on some of Asimov's favorite topics: mathematics, deepspace physics, chemistry, biology, and astronomy. As he often did, Asimov finishes this collection with a whimsical entry about 'the Isaac winners:' a list of nominees for a list of the ten most important scientists and mathematicians in human history.
  • ASIMOV ON ASTRONOMY
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1975
    Publisher: Doubleday & Co.
    ISBN: 0-385-06881-6
    A collection of F&SF essays that all have something to do with astronomy: the planets, the Sun, other stars, other galaxies. One of my favorite Asimov essays can be found in this book: 'Just Mooning Around,' which starts with musings on Newton's Law of Gravitation and finishes with the revelation that the Moon isn't a moon. Other essays explore such topics as the mythological implications of Alpha Centauri, the dangers posed by close-passing asteroids, and the origins of the 'flickering yardstick' provided by Cepheid variable stars , which allows astronomers to measure the distance to other galaxies.
  • ASIMOV ON NUMBERS
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1977
    Publisher: Pocket Books
    ISBN: 0-671-49404-X
    A collection of F&SF essays on numbers and counting, including such topics as factorials, transfinite numbers, the significance of ϖ and e, the wonderful power of nothing, and even why forgetting math can be a good thing.
  • ASIMOV ON PHYSICS
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1976
    Publisher: Avon/Discus
    ISBN: 0-380-41848-7
    A collection of F&SF essays that focus on topics in physics: pressure, vacuum, sonar, the speed of light, and similar matters.
  • ASIMOV ON SCIENCE
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1989
    Publisher: Doubleday & Co.
    ISBN: 0-385-26345-7
    A wide-ranging collection of F&SF essays on many topics within the sciences: physics, chemistry, astronomy, intelligence, and more.
  • COUNTING THE EONS
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1983
    Publisher: Avon
    ISBN: 0-380-67090-9
    Science essays from F&SF
  • EDGE OF TOMORROW, THE
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1985
    Publisher: Tor Books
    ISBN: 0-812-53122-1
    A thick collection of F&SF essays and fiction stories, usually done in pairs that are somehow related. For example, a 'Black Widowers' mystery story that depends on a flash of insight for the solution is paired with a nonfiction essay about the role that this 'Eureka phenomenon' has played in the history of science.
  • EXPLODING SUNS, THE
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1985
    Publisher: Mentor Books
    ISBN: 0-451-62481-5

  • FACT AND FANCY
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1962
    Publisher: Avon
    ISBN: 380-00320-125
    A collection of science essays from F&SF on a variety of topics. One essay, 'No More Ice Ages?', is one of the earliest pop-science treatments I've seen of the danger of carbon-dioxide-induced global climate change.
  • FAR AS HUMAN EYE COULD SEE
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1987
    Publisher: Pinnacle Books
    ISBN: 1-55817-107-X
    A collection of science essays from F&SF. Most of these focus in one way or another on chemistry: physical, biological, or geological.
  • FROM EARTH TO HEAVEN
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1966
    Publisher: Avon/Discus
    ISBN: 380-00338-125
    A collection of science essays from F&SF, in three groups. The first group discusses down-to-earth matters of science, primarily different aspects of Earth's surface, land area vs. water area, and so on. The middle group is a grab-bag of topics: one about math, two about chemistry, three about subatomic physics. The third group consists of astronomy essays: the tides, asteroids, collapsed stars, etc.
  • LEFT HAND OF THE ELECTRON, THE
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1972
    Publisher: Dell
    ISBN:
    This time around, Asimov is focusing on earthly topics: chemistry, oceanography, mathematics, biology, and history.
  • LIFE AND TIME
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1978
    Publisher: Avon
    ISBN: 0-380-47944-3
    This collection of F&SF essays is a sort of general survey of the history of life on Earth: past, present, and what the future may bring.
  • OF MATTERS GREAT AND SMALL
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1975
    Publisher: Ace Books
    ISBN: 441-52220-195
    Science essays from F&SF
  • OF TIME AND SPACE AND OTHER THINGS
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1965
    Publisher: Avon/Discus
    ISBN: 0-380-00325-2
    Science essays from F&SF
  • OUT OF THE EVERYWHERE
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1990
    Publisher: Pinnacle Books
    ISBN: 1-55817-601-2
    Science essays from F&SF
  • PLANET THAT WASN'T, THE
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1976
    Publisher: Avon/Discus
    ISBN: 0-380-01813-6
    Science essays from F&SF
  • QUASAR, QUASAR, BURNING BRIGHT
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1978
    Publisher: Doubleday
    ISBN: 0385134649
    Science essays from F&SF
  • RELATIVITY OF WRONG, THE
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1988
    Publisher: Pinnacle Books
    ISBN: 1-55817-169-X
    Science essays from F&SF
  • ROAD TO INFINITY, THE
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1977
    Publisher: Avon/Discus
    ISBN: 0-380-54155-6
    F&SF science essays
  • SECRET OF THE UNIVERSE, THE
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1990
    Publisher: Doubleday & Co.
    ISBN: 0-385-41693-8
    Science essays from F&SF
  • SOLAR SYSTEM AND BACK, THE
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1970
    Publisher: Avon/Discus
    ISBN:
    Science essays from F&SF
  • STARS IN THEIR COURSES, THE
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1970
    Publisher: Ace Books
    ISBN:
    Science essays from F&SF
  • VIEW FROM A HEIGHT
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1963
    Publisher: Avon/Discus
    ISBN: 0-380-00356-2
    Science essays from F&SF

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Essay collections from other sources

In addition to his long essays for Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov wrote many shorter science essays and articles for other magazines. Some of those have also been collected into books.

  • BEGINNING AND THE END, THE
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1977
    Publisher: Pocket
    ISBN: 0-671-82135-0
    A number of short science essays from a variety of sources, about a variety of topics that are difficult to summarize.
  • FRONTIERS II
    Author: Asimov, Isaac & Janet
    Copyright:1993
    Publisher: Penguin Books
    ISBN: 0-525-93631-9

  • IS ANYONE THERE?
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1967
    Publisher: Ace Books
    ISBN: 0-441-3741-6
    A collection of speculative essays on subjects that are staples of science fiction: extraterrestrial life, time travel, faster-than-light travel, UFOs, what the future will bring.
  • SCIENCE PAST - SCIENCE FUTURE
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1975
    Publisher: Ace Books
    ISBN:
    Essays from various sources
  • SCIENCE, NUMBERS, AND I
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1976
    Publisher: Ace Books
    ISBN:
    F&SF science essays
  • TODAY AND TOMORROW AND . . .
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1973
    Publisher: Dell
    ISBN:
    A collection of science essays from a variety of sources. Most of these are somewhat shorter than Asimov's individual F&SF essays, so they aren't quite as informative. But they still are interesting and fun to read.
  • TYRANNOSAURUS PRESCRIPTION, THE
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1989
    Publisher: Prometheus Books
    ISBN: 0-87975-540-7
    A collection of a hundred or so of Asimov's essays that are not available in any of his other books.

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Full-length books about science

Besides his F&SF essays, Asimov wrote many self-contained books on aspects of science, nature, and history. I have a few of these too. Most are now pretty outdated, but they still are worth reading.

  • ATOM: JOURNEY ACROSS THE SUBATOMIC COSMOS
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1991
    Publisher: Penguin Books
    ISBN:
    Introduction to modern atomic and subatomic physics. This is recent enough that very little of it has been proven wrong since it was written, so I find it a useful and reliable source on atomic physics.
  • COLLAPSING UNIVERSE, THE
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1977
    Publisher: Pocket
    ISBN: 0-671-81738-8
    A general look at astronomy.
  • NEUTRINO, THE: Ghost Particle of the Atom
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1966
    Publisher: Doubleday & Co.
    ISBN:
    A survey of subatomic physics as of the early 1960s. Asimov makes a slow, methodical survey of the development of atomic physics, from the basic conservation laws, through the discovery of radioactivity and the fact that there was such a thing as subatomic physics, then through quantum mechanics and relativity, and finally to the discovery of the neutrino and its implications for atomic physics. I think this is pretty well written and extremely good for learning the basics of atomic physics, as long as you remember that it's quite old and some of the more advanced material in it has been significantly changed by discoveries since it was written. Asimov was not trying to be technically accurate; he was writing, as he always did, for the non-scientist, and generally chose simplicity over scrupulous accuracy.
  • UNIVERSE, THE: FROM FLAT EARTH TO QUASAR
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1966
    Publisher: Avon/Discus
    ISBN: 0-380-01596-X
    Astronomy and the history of astronomy, from the ancient concept of a flat Earth all the way to the modern picture of a Universe fifteen billion light-years across.

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Other Nonfiction Books

Asimov's writing extended into other realms besides science and nature, too.

  • ISAAC ASIMOV'S BOOK OF SCIENCE AND NATURE QUOTATIONS
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1988
    Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicholson
    ISBN: 1-55584-444-8
    A huge collection of quotations from many sources about science and nature subjects.
  • TWENTIETH CENTURY DISCOVERY
    Author: Asimov, Isaac
    Copyright:1976
    Publisher: Ace Books
    ISBN:
    Discovery and exploration in the 20th century.

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