Peter Macinnis

The web site of Peter Macinnis, Australian science writer, curious mind and practising grandfather. Find him on Googlebooks.

Most of my books are available. Please use this link, added in October 2021, to find out which of my books are still in print, and which ones are now ebooks and print-on-demand recovery works.

About me

Writing awards I have won

My blog, Old Writer On The Block

Some of my favourite research sources

My current historical research on Trove

A growing addition: early uses of Australian terms, located on Trove

What I read (better, look me up on GoodReads)

Some of my radio broadcasts

Simple science amusements

Why I like my home town, Sydney

Books I have written

Some reviews

Why I write

Technicalities: how I plan and write a book

What e-books could be

Advice to young writers

Other writing stuff

Thoughts on science literacy

Some lighter-to-soufflé essays

They saw the difference.

Essays on more than a hundred scientific discoveries, some of them a bit dodgy (to say the least). This is the background to science that is usually missing.

The source is my files of quotable stuff that I have kept for half a century as a professional writer for magazines, radio and an online encyclopaedia, ebook and print.

Here's more information.

Old Grandpa's Book of Practical Poems.

All the verse and poetry you half-learned at school, and want to recover so you can share it with children and grandchildren. There's a world of metre, rhythm and rhyme that kids are missing.

All copyright-free, taken from the commonplace files of quotable stuff that I have kept for half a century as a professional writer. Third edition out now.

Here's more information.

Available on Kindle, paperback as well.

You Missed a Bit: untold Australian stories.

All the bits of Australian social history that fall between the cracks. What the great-great-grandparents wore, how (if they were invaders) they got here, how they travelled, what they ate and drank, how they treated each other and the real Australians. Here's a link.

This is a thousand pages of meticulously sourced detail, using what they wrote, loaded up with links so you can read the originals.

Available on Kindle.

The Nature of North Head.

The history, geology and biology of North Head, one of the sentinels guarding Sydney Harbour. As a volunteer in the plant nursery there, and as a trained biologist, I have detailed knowledge of the lower and higher plants, the invertebrates and the vertebrates, as well as the geology of the area. This is a guide and companion for walkers and wanderers. Available on Kindle, and also as a free low resolution PDF.

Australia's Hidden Heroes.

Australia's Hidden Heroes: Crooked Mick of the Speewah and Henry Cruciform. A totally true story. The author is a trained hoaxer and fraud investigator, who would never allow the wool to be pulled over his eyes. Two totally incredible Australians are brought to life.
Buy the e-book. More info here.

Survivor Kids.

Staying alive: getting ready for Wild Australia.

For younger readers: what to watch out for, how to help others, how to stay alive under emergency conditions. Published by the National Library of Australia, 1 April 2020, combining a lot of experience in the wilderness over 70 years (yeah, I'm old!) More info here.

Mistaken for Granite.

Earth science for rock watchers, for older readers (mainly adults). Published by Amazon Kindle.

This combines a lot of experience chasing curious and ingteresting geology in some 60 countries. It would make an excellent coffee table book if somebody nailed some legs on it. Going cheaply as a Kindle e-book and also as an Amazon Print On Demand paperback. More info here.

Looking at Small Things.

Using hand lenses, clip-ons and microscopes.

How to see the unseen world, this is the distilled wisdom of a lifetime as a naturalist and microscopist. How to find things to look at, how to care for the things you want to study. techniques and methods. This book is looking for a print publisher.

More info here.


Amusing science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics for agile minds: STEAM, in other words!

This is absolutely not a school book, though I will be delighted if teachers purloin the ideas that are contained in it. It is written for nerds and geeks, the gifted and talented who want to extend themselves.

This is brain food, based on a website that has drawn more than 4 million views. Now available as an e-book in free (low res) and commercial (high res) forms, and as a non-colour book.

More info here. *


The Sheep that Parse in the Night: A comedy/fantasy/mystery, packed full of peculiar beings.

The main characters are Alice Liddell and Eric Blair, who are both rather good around numbers, and also more than capable at fooling the Bad Guys at Mega Global Limited, the latter-day incarnation of the Illuminati and the Knights Templar, but they speak no Latin. Eric does.

This covers higher mathematics, lower mathematics, cosmology, normality, cryptography, paronomasia, an alternative history of science, hacking, dragons, feghoots and a brief aspidistra.

More info here.

The Not Your Usual series: a range of e-books.

This is a single stop link to find all of the books and e-books that Peter Macinnis is offering in the Not Your Usual series. Needs an update, and I'm busy.

Kindle link to ALL his books on Kindle


Available now on Kindle: Not Your Usual Sources:

This is food for the mind, the commonplace books of an active and industrious writer, instant erudition at your fingertips. This serves as three dictionaries of quotations under a single cover.

More info here.


Available now on Kindle: Not Your Usual Australian Tales: Australian social history, from invasion to Federation.

Entertaining Australian social history. This one looks at the things that worried the invader/settlers between 1788 and about 1901. This is the smaller version of my new work You Missed a Bit. This is food for the mind...

More info here. Kindle link

Available now on Kindle: Not Your Usual Treatments: strange, curious and quack medicine

This looks at treatments such as a dose of millipedes, wearing a fried egg, being zapped with electricity, and more. The odd thing is that some of the old treatments make good sense, once you know where they were coming from, but I won't be putting a hot onion in my crotch just yet. More info here. Kindle link

Now out: Australian Backyard Earth Scientist: Earth science for ages 8 to 88.

Earth science is a key to understanding the world's future. In an age of Trumpery and climate denial in the face of looming disaster, it is time we paid attention to the subject. This covers geology, vulcanism, soil, weather, climate and more. Commissioned by the National Library of Australia, it is a companion volume to Australian Backyard Naturalist and Australian Backyard Explorer

Available now on Kindle: Not Your Usual Australian Villains : lesser-considered Australian history.

Entertaining history. This one looks at rule breakers from ladies in trousers to bigamists and Sabbath breakers to burglars, runaways, horse and cattle thieves, rioters, conmen, quacks, one cannibal and a few killers. The emphasis is on pre-1900 events. More info here. Kindle link

Printed, inexplicably delayed by the publisher: Not Your Usual Gold Stories : an Australian history for all ages.

There were many independent discoveries of gold before the first recognised "discovery" made by Edward Hammond Hargraves. There was even a gold mine operating in South Australia, well before the Californian rush of 1848 and 1849. Now available as an Amazon e-book and paperback, after the publisher went belly-up.

Published July 1, 2015: Not Your Usual Bushrangers : an Australian history for all ages.

The first bushrangers were abroad in February 1788, the earliest bushrangers weren't robbers at all, some were evil vilains, others were scallywags. One of the scallywags was given a pardon by the governor of W.A. for being good at escaping, another was sent out by the NSW governor, into Sydney harbour, at night, in "double irons" to burgle a ship!

The Big Book of Australian History : an Australian history for younger readers in 90,000 words.
. A National Library of Australia commission which goes from the break-up of Pangaea almost to the present day in 292 pages. Fourth edition now available.

Curious Minds, a look at some of the naturalists who worked in Australia. Released October 2012.

Between 1688 and 1888, many scientists and artists came to Australia, collected, pontificated, wondered, enthused and more about the plants and animals. Some stayed, some died in the midst of their trade, some suffered, some prospered. (Released October 1, 2013). This is another one that looks truly delicious.

  Following on from Australian Backyard Explorer, Australian Backyard Naturalist.

Wildlife: the strange plants and interesting things that may be found in the average backyard, a hands-on book on how to make, observe and enjoy nature. Out now, and I am absolutely delighted with the result. The designers excelled themselves.) Won a Whitley Award in 2012, joint winner of the W.A. Premier's Book Awards in September 2013.

The Monster Maintenance Manual
Written mainly for younger readers, though adults also like it. It is now out and running through the streets, pursued by hordes of pedants, sorry, peasants with torches and pitchforks. I want my readers to come to appreciate monsters and their complex ecology, and how to encourage the better ones to stay around. The Monster Maintenance Manual ebook edition.

Australian Backyard Explorer.
This book combines the history of Australian exploration in the 19th century with the science that lies beneath the Winner of the Children's Book Council of Australia Eve Pownall Award for Information Books, 2010. (2009, reprinted 2010). Also on the prestigious White Ravens list for 2011. Reprinted 2013.

And now some social history: THE LAWN
How did the lawn mower and the lawn obsession change our world? The things that interest me most are the small things that get taken to extremes, and few things can be as extreme as the lawn. Without the lawn mower, most of the sports we play on grass would not happen: scythes make uneven surfaces, and sheep and cattle leave too many nasty surprises for the players. (2009).

100 Discoveries.
The Greatest Breakthroughs in History: I chose to look at the hundred most important enabling discoveries, the key underpinning pieces of knowledge and technique that made us the scientific and technological society that we are today. For example, glass gave us food preservation, windows, cathode ray tubes that we needed for X-rays and thermionic valves, not to mention laboratory glassware or light bulbs. And so on. (2009, German translation 2010). ebook link


Mr Darwin's Incredible Shrinking World.
Did the publication of Darwin's The Origin of Species really change the world, or was there lots more change going on? This book looks closely at the science and technology of 1859, the year the world changed. The thing is, there was lots more going on in 1859 than Darwin's book. Science, mathematics, technology, even a few social changes, but to find out more, you'll need to look at the page devoted to the book, or better still, buy the book. (2008, Korean translation, 2009). ebook link

The Speed of Nearly Everything.
How fast do things go, and how do we find out? How we can work out how fast a salmon leaps out of the water, how fast you fall from the top of a high building, speed records for really slow animals, snail races, lies about botflies, the challenge of playing golf on an asteroid like Eros, and how fast volcanic bombs travel. And more, because I set out to cover nearly everything, you see. (2008).


Australia's Pioneers, Heroes & Fools.
The Trials, Tribulations and Tricks of the Trade of Australia's Colonial Explorers. Here, I introduce the reader to the realities of exploration, going behind the myth of the Dead White Male to spot the Aborigines, the convicts, the teenagers and the women who also played their part, along with a large number of white males. What they took, how they found their way (and how often they followed established Aboriginal tracks), health, injuries and much more, drawing heavily on the original journals of the explorers (2007).

Kokoda Track: 101 Days.
Eve Pownall Honour Book, 2008 Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards. Shortlisted in the NSW Premier's History Awards, 2007. My aim was to take the complex story of a complex campaign, and explain why it was important for a bunch of under-trained and poorly-supported militia to hold out crack Japanese troops who vastly outnumbered them. Along the way, I had to draw back from the parallel tale of the bastardries committed by poltroons Blamey and MacArthur. I stayed with the main story, the brilliance and resilience of young Australians who were tossed in at the deep end. (2007).

It's True: You Eat Poisons Every Day.
A work for younger readers that arose from the next book. The idea was to demystify poisons for youngsters, and to make them aware of the very many poisons which are all around them. Did you know that if you eat 200 kg of potatoes in a sitting, you will die? No? Well now you know, so don't do it! (2006). Published also in Chinese in 2010, also available as a talking book.

The Killer Bean of Calabar and Other Stories.
Poisons and Poisoners.

A work for older readers and adults, a mix of social history and science history which had, by this time, become my hallmark. Poisons were feared in the past, and yet most of the medicines that we used (and use) are poisons: the difference lies only in the dose that is used. I also devoted some time to the race between poisoners and those determined to knock out the poisoners by finding ways to detect and prove their crimes. The book has also been published in the USA (as Poisons), and translated in Slovak, Polish and Russian (2004). US edition ebook; Australian edition ebook;


A history of the way rockets developed, and how they changed our world. Long before the space race, people were fascinated by rockets, and people dreamed of going into space, long before it seemed feasible. I really wanted to call this Big Bangs and Hard Starts, but the po-faced marketing people at Allen and Unwin couldn't see the merits of this. Telling the story took me into the politics of the Duke of Wellington and the habits of hairy-chested chemists with death wishes (2003).Rockets, ebook edition

Bittersweet: The story of sugar.

The sugar story began with what appeared to be a glaring anachronism in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale (it wasn't an anachronism at all). That digging showed me that there was more to sugar than met the eye, so I traced it back to its origins in New Guinea, 9000 years ago, and traced it through Indonesia, India, Persia, the Mediterranean and beyond, and showed how sugar had changed world history (2002, Russian translation agreed to in late 2011). e-book link. The (US) Library of Congress has recorded an audio version for the visually impaired.


The Rainforest.
An illustrated book for pre-readers.

Illustrated by Kim Gamble and edited by Jane Bowring, we were very pleased with this, and as you can see in the link, it drew considerable critical acclaim. Our aim was to present the complex ecology of the rainforest in a simple form which allowed the complexity to be absorbed (1999).

The Desert.
An illustrated book for pre-readers.

Illustrated by Kim Gamble and edited by Jane Bowring, we were very pleased with this, though it was not well-supported by the Penguin people. Our aim was to present the complex ecology of the desert in a simple form which allowed the complexity to be absorbed (1997).



They Saw the Difference
Old Grandpa's book of Practical Poems


You Missed a Bit


The Nature of North Head


Australia's hidden heroes


survivor kids cover


Kistaken for granite cover


Gold cover


playwiths cover (24K)


Mad sheep cover


Unusual cover


Gold cover


Gold cover


Gold cover


Gold cover


Gold cover


Gold cover


Bushrangers cover


Sample pages


Cover design


A tardigrade


An Indian monster, who may or may not be in the book.


Australian Backyard Explorer


The Lawn


100 Discoveries


Mr Darwin's Incredible Shrinking World


The Speed of Nearly Everything


Australia's Pioneers, 
												Heroes & Fools


Kokoda Track: 101 Days


It's True: You Eat Poisons Every Day








I last remembered to mark this as revised on 20 June 2021, when I added new books.

email400 (18K)

I am usually McManly on social networking sites, if I don't use my real name.

Not Peter McInnes, Peter McInnis, Peter Macinnes, Peter Maginnis, Peter McGuinness, Peter McGuiness, or Peter Magennis. (Bittersweet or Rockets or The Killer Bean of Calabar, known in the USA as Poisons or Australia's Pioneers, Fools and Heroes or Kokoda Track: 101 Days or The Speed of Nearly Everything, Monster Maintenance Manual, Curious Minds, Australian Backyard Explorer, Australian Backyard Naturalist, The Big Book of Australian History, Not Your Usual Gold Stories, Not Your Usual Bushrangers)