One question I get often is:
What books on the topic of black holes would you suggest as a starting point for interested readers without specialized knowledge of physics and math?
I interpret this question as: what books about black holes that I would suggest for people who are not pursuing physics or math as a career or taking a physics/math undergraduate course? Luckily, there are many lovely books for a broad spectrum of readers.
For readers with high-school or higher education
- Black holes. Heather Couper & Nigel Henbest. This book is fantastic and gives a lucid, accurate description of black holes, their features and role in the cosmos. Plus, it is full of awesome illustrations. Unfortunately, it is out of print.
- Black Hole: How an Idea Abandoned by Newtonians, Hated by Einstein, and Gambled on by Hawking Became Loved. Marcia Bartusiak. Disclaimer: I haven’t read this one, but it came highly recommended.
If you are interested in a more “apocalyptic” take on black holes and their destructive power, check these books out:
- Death from the skies: The science behind the end of the world. Phil Plait. Lots of fun to read this one
- Death by black holes and other cosmic quandaries. Neil de Grasse Tyson. This is a collection of articles on different topis of science and astronomy, and there is only one chapter about black holes.
- Black holes. Ker Than
- A black hole is not a hole. Carolyn DeCristofano
- George’s secret key to the universe. Stephen Hawking, Lucy Hawking & Garry Parsons. Written by Stephen Hawking’s daughter. A lovely story of George’s quest to understand the universe
In-depth books without math
For those wanting to go deeper, without falling inside the event horizon. I would especially recommend the books below for physics, math or engineering undergraduate students.
- Gravity’s fatal attraction: Black holes in the universe. Mitchell Begelman & Martin Rees. For the undergrads that come to me interested in doing a undergraduate research project on black holes, I always recommend to read a couple of chapters from this book. Clear, non-technical description of black hole astrophysics, getting into a bit more detail than other expositions on the subject.
- Black holes and time warps. Kip Thorne. A classic, must-read book for anybody wanting an in-depth account of the history of black holes and the main discoveries until the mid-nineties. Written by one of the leaders in the field and one of the pioneers of the LIGO observatories (he eventually got a Nobel prize for LIGO). Thorne gives a lot of historical details about the development of the theory of black holes and their observations.
Recent developments: Gravitational waves and the first image of a black hole
- Black hole blues and other song. Janna Levin. I have to say this book was a ton of fun to read! This is a required reading for anybody wanting to understand the history of LIGO and the quest for gravitational waves.
- Einstein’s shadow. Seth Fletcher. A description of the challenges behind the Event Horizon Telescope, published before the first image of an event horizon was taken.