www.BioTopics.co.uk

Books (etc) section


I have re-vamped this section because several authors have written more books than the ones I recommended before.

GCSE and AS and A level Biology textbooks each now have a separate page of their own.

I have decided to list these recommended books by author.

The Amazon server sometimes delivers adverts in an unexpected order, and is not too helpful in my offline draft versions.


Nick Lane is a Professor of Evolutionary Biochemistry in the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London. He writes with authority about his subjects and puts them into context with much detail.
Life Ascending by Nick Lane is a fascinating book about evolution from a biochemical background - which is of course the level at which evolution itself operates. The ten sections of the book deal with the great "inventions" of evolution; the origin of life, DNA, photosynthesis, the complex cell, sex, movement, sight, hot blood, consciousness and death. It certainly adds to and updates our ideas of Darwinism.
In these books, Nick Lane explains the impact of mitochondria on the evolution of eukaryotes, and the chemical background to the history of life.

Nessa Carey is a Visiting Professor at Imperial College. Her background includes 13 years in the biotech and pharmaceutical sector, and a PhD in virology. Her books cover a number of topics which do not fit neatly into the accepted backgrounds behind inheritance and biochemistry at the molecular level.
The Epigenetics Revolution touches on the ways in which the action of genes may be modified by 'chemical postscripts' so that subtle differences in expression and their persistence into subsequent generations may be explained. She includes insights into research in various diseases and ageing.
Junk DNA is a great attempt to explain the existence of the large amount of DNA which does not code for functional proteins: 98% in our cells. She puts a slightly different angle on topics increasingly encountered in Biology nowadays: examples include telomeres, centromeres, and gene splicing.

Bill Bryson has written a couple of interesting books on general science
I was interested to hear him read sections of this book on the radio recently.
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (also known as a travel writer) is an impressive book which attempts to chart the development of the universe, planet Earth and life upon it, so it is a sort of compendium of science and history. Alongside this, the author brings out interesting facts about the scientists who made the discoveries, and their idiosyncracies and interactions. I was especially interested in the techniques employed to explain the scale involved in some of the stories. What I found especially uplifting was the way in which he was able to get to meet the people in the know (presumably as a result of his reputation gained in writing his other books), and pass on some fascinating conclusions.
ISBN 0- 552 - 99704-8

Some classical Biological books
Charles Darwin is not the most popular or up-to-date author but he started off a different way of thinking about life ...

The Natural History of Selborne Gilbert White is regarded by many as England's first ecologist and one of the founders of respect for nature. This book was first published in 1789 by his brother Benjamin. It has been continuously in print since then and has been called the fourth most-published book in the English language, after the Bible, Shakespeare and Bunyan. It is just a collection of letters - some unsent - but it shows a genteel concern for natural history.

Rachel Carson can be said to have initiated the contemporary environmental movement. Her best-selling book Silent Spring (1962) - suggesting the possible loss of bird species (and other consequences) - warned of the dangers to all natural systems from the misuse of chemical pesticides such as DDT, and questioned the scope and direction of modern science.
I was unaware of her previous 'sea trilogy' books and her background in writing for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington, DC.



Some recommendations
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Rebecca Skloot)
Why Big Fierce Animals are Rare (Colin Vaux)
Emperor of all maladies - A Biography of Cancer (Siddhartha Mukherjee)
Actually these authors have also been recommended in Biotutors :
Simon Conway Morris
Carl Zimmer



Back to the top?

General interest

I have included a range of books and other media from certain authors, who may be appreciated at different levels or within different sections of the syllabus. And of course some TV programmes are not yet available as DVDs.

Authors Richard Dawkins Matt Ridley Alice Roberts Richard Fortey David Attenborough
Other stuff

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins might not be everyone's cup of tea, but he is very supportive of Charles Darwin, who is featured in most specifications under the heading of natural selection and evolution. He is also inclined to be very sceptical about religion, particularly in the context of evolution.
But isn't being sceptical part of being a scientist?

I was quite interested in his recent TV series entitled "The Genius of Charles Darwin"
( 3 1-hour programmes) and I see it is available as a DVD, and also together with previous TV material.
As yet no supporting book, but lots of other books (below). dvd.jpg
Back to the top?
Richard Dawkins' books in chronological order. The most recent one - The Magic of Reality - is aimed at younger children, attempting to bring a more satisfactory scientific explanation to popular misconceptions.


Back to the top?

Matt Ridley

Matt Ridley is a science writer who produces very readable books, not quite as reactionary as Richard Dawkins.

He also has an interesting background. As well as being titled, he has been a journalist with the Economist and was non-executive chairman of Northern Rock from 2004 to 2007, in the period leading up to the bank's near-collapse.
2006 Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code 2003 Nature via Nurture: Genes, Experience, & What Makes Us Human,
also later released under the title The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture in 2004
1999 Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters 1996 The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation 1993 The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature
Back to the top?

Alice Roberts

Alice Roberts is a doctor, anatomist, illustrator and media person who has participated in TV programmes like Coast and her own project Don't Die Young (what a terrible title!) - now in its second series. I have found this series on human organs quite useful in lessons, especially the section on the eye.
Sadly these are not available on DVD.
The incredible journey covers the topic of human evolution and the spread of Homo sapiens over the world. The book apparently gives more than the DVD.
dvd.jpg

Richard Fortey

Richard Fortey has written a variety of books on biological topics, especially fossils


Back to the top?

David Attenborough

David Attenborough can do no wrong with me; I watch every TV program he is on, and I always find interesting details which amplify the things I am trying to teach each day.
I do not use his DVDs much in lessons, but they are packed full of lots of useful material! His books are great, too.


Other stuff


I enjoyed reading this book, which would be very useful in relation to "How science works" sections of the syllabus.
It has been quite high in the Amazon best-seller charts!
A Guinea Pig's History of Biology focuses on the various organisms chosen by Biologists in their study, some of which were more fortunate choices than others. I have taken a long time reading this book - not much of a recommendation on the face of it. But as you get into it (i.e as it gets nearer to modern times from Darwin and Mendel onwards) it gets quite interesting and there is certainly a lot of detail about the key players in Biological Science, and their interactions at the research group level.



Back to the top?

Some fun choices

These titles are now shown singly, rather than in a carousel (which Google deprecated)



Back to the top?