If you read these books, you'll know more Biology than all of your friends

Your Inner Fish

By: Neil Shubin

A Note from Author Neil Shubin

This book grew out of an extraordinary circumstance in my life. On account of faculty departures, I ended up directing the human anatomy course at the University of Chicago medical school. Anatomy is the course during which nervous first-year medical students dissect human cadavers while learning the names and organization of most of the organs, holes, nerves, and vessels in the body. This is their grand entrance to the world of medicine, a formative experience on their path to becoming physicians. At first glance, you couldn't have imagined a worse candidate for the job of training the next generation of doctors: I'm a fish paleontologist.

This is their grand entrance to the world of medicine
— Neil Shubin

It turns out that being a paleontologist is a huge advantage in teaching human anatomy. Why? The best roadmaps to human bodies lie in the bodies of other animals. The simplest way to teach students the nerves in the human head is to show them the state of affairs in sharks. The easiest roadmap to their limbs lies in fish. Reptiles are a real help with the structure of the brain. The reason is that the bodies of these creatures are simpler versions of ours.

During the summer of my second year leading the course, working in the Arctic, my colleagues and I discovered fossil fish that gave us powerful new insights into the invasion of land by fish over 375 million years ago. That discovery and my foray into teaching human anatomy led me to a profound connection. That connection became this book.

Why do you like it Mr. B? 

I love this book because Shubin balances the excitement of scientific discovery with the romantic logic that comes with the scientific method. Shubin shares his discoveries and defeats in this book, which scientific authors seldom juxtapose. If you can learn to think like Shubin, you will benefit greatly in any endeavor you decide to pursue. 

The Greatest Show on Earth

By: Richard Dawkins

"Intelligent Design" is being taught in our schools; educators are being asked to "teach the controversy" behind evolutionary theory. There is no controversy. Dawkins sifts through rich layers of scientific evidence—from living examples of natural selection to clues in the fossil record; from natural clocks that mark the vast epochs wherein evolution ran its course to the intricacies of developing embryos; from plate tectonics to molecular genetics—to make the airtight case that "we find ourselves perched on one tiny twig in the midst of a blossoming and flourishing tree of life and it is no accident, but the direct consequence of evolution by non-random selection." His unjaded passion for the natural world turns what might have been a negative argument, exposing the absurdities of the creationist position, into a positive offering to the reader: nothing less than a master’s vision of life, in all its splendor.

Why do you like it Mr. B? 

Despite Dawkins passionate distaste for religion, he is an unparalleled orator of scientific methodology. Without a doubt, Dawkins passionate plea to analyze and speculate about the natural world is only rivaled by his intellectual transcendence of traditional theory. My favorite part of this book are Dawkins' computer models which he uses to show random mutation stability. It's sometimes eerie how simple, local computer algorithms can amount to complexity in such a short amount of time. If you can get through this book, you'll have mastered Evolution, and therefore the foundation of all modern Biology.

Brave New World

By Aldous Huxley

"Community, Identity, Stability" is the motto of Aldous Huxley's utopian World State. Here everyone consumes daily grams of soma, to fight depression, babies are born in laboratories, and the most popular form of entertainment is a "Feelie," a movie that stimulates the senses of sight, hearing, and touch. Though there is no violence and everyone is provided for, Bernard Marx feels something is missing and senses his relationship with a young women has the potential to be much more than the confines of their existence allow. Huxley foreshadowed many of the practices and gadgets we take for granted today--let's hope the sterility and absence of individuality he predicted aren't yet to come.

Why do you like it Mr. B? 

Bioethics is often passed by in modern science. The desire to use the biggest and baddest scientific technique is often reached at before one can discern it's potential externality. Huxley's hyperbolic dystopian future serves as a cautionary tale for any aspiring scientist. 


Cover Photo by Joshua Earle