By Steve Olson


Plutonium and the Making of the Atomic Age

The Apocalypse Factory: Plutonium and the Making of the Atomic Age recounts in a new light the story of the nuclear era from the discovery of plutonium in 1941 to the present and beyond. In the desert of eastern Washington State, Glenn Seaborg, Enrico Fermi, and thousands of other scientists, engineers, laborers, and support workers manufactured plutonium for the bomb dropped on Nagasaki and for the bombs in the current American nuclear arsenal, enabling the construction of weapons with the potential to end human civilization.

“Science writer Olson (Eruption) delivers a lucid, fast-paced chronicle of the discovery and weaponization of plutonium and the unforeseen consequences of the nuclear arms race... This comprehensively researched and compulsively readable account deserves a large audience.” — Publishers Weekly

“A gripping story of a time when the fate of the world lay on the line as the United States and Germany raced to translate scientific discoveries into decisive weapons of war. Anyone who has questioned whether investment in science matters must read this book. Anyone who hasn’t will want to.” — Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences

By Steve Olson


The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens

For months in early 1980, scientists, journalists, and nearby residents listened anxiously to rumblings from Mount St. Helens in southwestern Washington State. Still, no one was prepared when a cataclysmic eruption blew the top off of the mountain, laying waste to hundreds of square miles of land and killing fifty-seven people. Steve Olson interweaves vivid personal stories with the history, science, and economic forces that influenced the fates and futures of those around the volcano. Eruption delivers a spellbinding narrative of an event that changed the course of volcanic science, and an epic tale of our fraught relationship with the natural world.

“As Steve Olson reminds us in his vividly reported new history…what happened on May 18, 1980, in the primordial thickets of the Pacific Northwest, was an enormous, multi-faceted event…This engaging book maneuvers deftly along the way toward impact.”

— USA Today

“Steve Olson has brought new dimensions to my experience of the mountain. [He] masterfully delineates the personal histories, cultural assumptions, values, visions, and preconceptions that were brought to bear on the mountain that day. He has the gift of clarity and an enviable ability to find and make drama, present the human narrative, and engage his readers on multiple levels.” — David Guterson, author of Snow Falling on Cedars

By Greg Graffin and Steve Olson


Anarchy Evolution: Faith, Science, and Bad Religion in a World Without God is a book about punk rock, evolution, and the collision between religion and science by the co-founder and frontman of the band Bad Religion, Greg Graffin, who also has a PhD in evolutionary studies, and writer Steve Olson.

“Humble, challenging, and inspiring…. For Graffin, the appeal of both worlds was that, at their best, they challenged authority, dogma and given truths and opened up space for the anarchic process of creativity.”  — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Anarchy Evolution sets out to draw connections between evolution, naturalist thought and punk, an undertaking that might sound rife with the potential to be reachy―or preachy. But Graffin and Olson manage to weave the seemingly disparate concepts together into a satisfying narrative.”  —L A Weekly

By Steve Olson


Count Down: Six Kids Vie for Glory at the World’s Toughest Mathematics Competition is a narrative account of the 2001 International Mathematical Olympiad, which was held at George Mason University just outside Washington, D.C. It follows the six members of the U.S. team, their coach, and their guide (who was a team member several years ago), describing the qualities that led the Olympians to be among the best high-school-aged mathematical problem solvers in the world. More broadly, Count Down explores the following question: How does anyone learn how to do something extremely well?

“Math, meet your savior. . . . Olson finds a way to make the intricacies of higher mathematics palatable to all.” — New York Post


“Olson captures the personalities of these young geniuses and shows that they are more complex, more interesting, and more fun than stereotypes suggest. . . . Thoroughly engaging reading.” — Library Journal

By Steve Olson


Nominated for the 2002 National Book Award.  Winner of the Science in Society Award from the National Association of Science Writers.


Mapping Human History: Genes, Race, and Our Common Origins uses the genetic differences found in people today to reconstruct the last 150,000 years of human history. By revealing the biological roots of our similarities and differences, it offers new ways of thinking about race, ethnicity, ancestry, and language.


“[Olson’s] ideas are compelling, his research staggering, and his conclusion reinforces a belief in human equality.” — Christian Science Monitor

“An excellent job of balancing scientific content with journalistic spice.” — American Journal of Human Genetics

© 1980-2020, Steve Olson, Author :: :: Website: Web Studio Seattle

Book Cover