Sean Carroll’s ‘The Making of the Fittest‘ shows up in a number of reference lists for thinkBio; the reason is that he’s put together a wonderful compendium of topics that can make for a compelling Introductory Biology experience. They’re basically molecules whose evolutionary history and roles are interesting and well-understood. The book packages them into interesting units, and also provides a wealth of resources for an instructor wishing to make sure he/she has a sound background in the material being taught.
Alas, I phrased that carefully, as I’m not sure it’s the greatest INTRO bio general text, which is my focus. It has a very mechanistic/molecular bent, which aligns it perfectly with my bias. In truth, this post is as much about sharing it as a resource, as it is more-or-less free on line (more info below) and is accompanied by wonderful video tutorials that are also accessible. I’m referring to the textbook here, not the journal. The last (5th, 2008) edition is by Bruce Alberts, Alexander Johnson, Julian Lewis, Martin Raff, Keith Roberts, and Peter Walters. Henceforth, I’ll just refer to it as “MBOC” or MBOC textbook…
Jared Diamond’s book is a wonderful read because it demonstrates the utility of integrating ideas and information from a huge number of fields in order to try to get a handle on questions such as “why did domestication of plants and animals occur where it did, when it did?” and the symmetric “why did such events not take place earlier or later or elsewhere?”. The text showcases an active curiosity as well as the value of gathering information–and determining what information can illuminate a question. All the pieces are assembled to argue that the titular elements arose as consequences of… lots of food.
Horace Judson’s “The Eighth Day of Creation” (only available used, to my knowledge, but worth every penny and who cares if your copy is a little tattered) was a foundational book for me in the path that lead to my career. It makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in how science actually takes place–conversations, inspirations, blind alleys, discovery. A brief book review follows.