** Finalist for the 2023 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books **

You are surrounded by stickiness. With every step you take, air molecules cling to you and slow you down; the effect is harder to ignore in water. When you hit the road, whether powered by pedal or engine, you rely on grip to keep you safe. The Post-it note and glue in your desk drawer. The non-stick pan on your stove. The fingerprints linked to your identity. The rumbling of the Earth deep beneath your feet, and the ice that transforms waterways each winter. All of these things are controlled by tiny forces that operate on and between surfaces, with friction playing the leading role.

In Sticky, Laurie Winkless explores some of the ways that friction shapes both the manufactured and natural worlds, and describes how our understanding of surface science has given us an ability to manipulate stickiness, down to the level of a single atom. But this apparent success doesn't tell the whole story. Each time humanity has pushed the boundaries of science and engineering, we've discovered that friction still has a few surprises up its sleeve.

So do we really understand this force? Can we say with certainty that we know how a gecko climbs, what's behind our sense of touch, or why golf balls, boats and aircraft move as they do? Join Laurie as she seeks out the answers from experts scattered across the globe, uncovering a stack of scientific mysteries along the way.

Sticky was further published on 1 February 2022 in North America and on 1 March 2022 in Australia and New Zealand. Translated editions are coming too!


11 Nov 2021 (Europe)
Bloomsbury Sigma
216 x 135 mm
Bloomsbury Publishing




All good bookshops (shop local if you can!)


Chapter 0 Hello

Chapter 1 To Stick Or Not To Stick

Chapter 2 A Gecko’s Grip

Chapter 3 Gone Swimming

Chapter 4 Flying High

Chapter 5 Hit the Road

Chapter 6 These Shaky Isles

Chapter 7 Break The Ice

Chapter 8 Human Touch

Chapter 9 Closer Than Close

“I am in awe of Laurie Winkless: of her ability to take something as seemingly plain as a tire, as overlooked as the dimples on a golf ball, and produce from it a surprising, fascinating narrative, one that effortlessly reveals the astonishing science of the world around us.”

– Mary Roach, author of Stiff and Fuzz

"A beautifully-written, utterly fascinating book that had me glued throughout. Like the very best of science writing, Sticky helps you see the world from a different perspective. I couldn't recommend it more."

– Angela Saini, science journalist and author

“If you’ve ever wondered why some glues work better than others, or been puzzled over why there are so many different types of car tire, or been amazed at the ease in which a gecko can run up the wall, then this wonderful book is for you.”

– Mark Miodownik, author of Stuff Matters

Pop Sci Books (Brian Clegg)

A five-star review!

...."Without doubt, Winkless is great at bringing storytelling to her writing. She frames her information well with interviews, visits to places and her personal experiences. But of itself, that isn't enough. The reason, for example, I was captivated by her section on the remarkable (though oddly, given the book's title, entirely non-sticky) adhesive qualities of the gecko's foot was really about the way that Winkless takes us through the different viewpoints on how the foot's adhesion works. We get plenty of science and also a touch of controversy. I'd read plenty of books before that made reference to geckos' feet - but I got far more from this book than I ever have before."....

New Scientist (Gege Li)

"....a revealing look at the forces at play when materials come into contact..."

Physics World (Dr Jess Wade)

"Unlike many popular-science books, Sticky is not just a disparate list of facts about forces. Every chapter, from “A gecko’s grip” to “Break the ice” is a story, masterfully assembled into an accessible, clear and highly engaging manuscript. Winkless’ writing is informed by discussions with a diverse group of scientists and engineers, and the unparalleled excitement of discovery is evident in every interaction. Alongside these interviews, the author provides an enticing (but not overwhelming) level of detail, introducing readers to the scientific method, peer review and even the politics of scientific theories....."

Professor Steven Abbott

"The book itself is a wonderful journey through stickiness across scales from molecular to continental - van der Waals to earthquakes - showing that a few core principles span that range via geckos, swimming, driving, supersonic travel, sliding on ice and the magic of human touch. Although we might think we know a bit about, say, F1 tyres, it takes the results of Laurie's awesome delving in the literature and conversations with interesting people to let us know what's really going on, demolishing myths and providing a thorough education in the most painless of ways...."