Robin McKie’s best science books of 2017

Why good health requires good sleep, the role our senses play in what we choose to consume, and some mind-boggling maths about the air that we breathe

Think of anything that ever breathed – from bacteria to blue whales to Roman emperors – and some of his, her or its last breath is either circulating inside you now or will be shortly. Thus, with this startling claim, Sam Kean begins his examination of all things gaseous, Caesar’s Last Breath (Doubleday £20), in which he attempts to make stories about gases visible “so you can see them as clearly as you can see your breath on a crisp November morning.”

By and large, Kean succeeds in this hugely enjoyable, slightly rambling account of our atmosphere and the remarkable men and women who transformed our knowledge about the air we breathe. I am not quite convinced by the arithmetic used to ...