Is anyone interested in a book club? If so, I'll start a group. But we should pick a book first (if anyone is even interested). My dad just sent me Evolution: The First Four Billion Years. It would be good, but it's massive.
I've gotten into Neil Shubin's "Finding Your Inner Fish". It's relatively short and has been quite readable -- something kids or non-science geeks could get into. I read it during our weekly "East Reads" 1/2 hour of reading time. I'd recommend it.
I'm interested. I got Evolution: The First Four Billion Years and think I'll use it mainly as a reference book. What fun to browse through! Still, I can't imagine reading it cover to cover. How long would that take?
Along a similar line, I just got E.O. Wison's Superorganism, just because it was irresistible. Definitely a book everyone HAS to have. But that one, too, would be rather tough to read cover to cover!
I also have Shubin's "Your Inner Fish" and have been meaning to read it... this might help motivate me (or just cause a greater lack of sleep! :)
The Natural History Museum of LA County hosted Shubin this last year to give a short talk for the public and he talked a little bit about some of the things in his book. (All the First Friday lectures are archived on their website, by the way.) It was a nice lecture and a really nice set of lectures to celebrate evolution and Darwin's birthday year.
I recently listened to an audiobook version of Thomas Hager's "The Demon Under the Microscope." I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the history of science, particularly in the advent of modern medicine, and the pharmaceutical industry. The book reads very much like a novel, dramatically recounting the development of the world's first antibiotic (sulfa). Today just a middling antibiotic, sulfa has had immensely far-reaching effects on the way medicine is practiced, research is conducted and drugs are produced and regulated. I've included a more thorough summary below, with the main skeleton of the history (Do history books require spoiler alerts?)Read the book if you're interested in seeing how it all unfolded!
"This book describes a time before antibiotics, when tuberculosis, pneumonia and "childbed fever were major killers. It tells how Gerhard Domagk, a young German physician during WW I, saw the deaths of thousands of wounded soldiers from gas gangrene and other infections that invaded what would have otherwise been non-fatal wounds. He returned home and became a chemist, working at Bayer, a subsidiary of I.G. Farben, later to become infamous as the producer of the cyclon-B gas that the Nazis used to murder millions in concentration camps. Domagk, whose work was more benign, headed a team that developed the first sulfa drug, Prontosil. The story of the discovery of sulfa drugs, a group of chemical compounds used as antibacterial agents had many ramifications, well described here. While the German chemists, under Domagk, tried for years to attach sulfur to various aniline dyes, a team of French scientists showed that it was the sulfur, and not the dyes, that had the antibacterial effect. This, of course, made the medicine non-patentable, and many of the manufacturers lost interest at that point. A US company made a "patent medicine" with sulfa and diethylene glycol as a solvent that killed several hundred people (diethylene glycol is a poison). This resulted in Congress passing laws that strengthened the power of the FDA to regulate all medications. The work with the sulfa drugs facilitated the later work that gave the world the antibiotics that we use today. Hoye offers an outstanding reading; his voice is clear, and exceptionally well modulated and phrased." Susan Offner, Teacher, Lexington HS, Lexington, MA
Love Evolution: First Four Billion Years - but I keep only dipping into it, and then it's due back in the library! The most recent quasi-biological book I've read recently is Kandel's In Search of Memory - just a great tour through neuroscience from Freud to now by a Nobel prizewinner. Full of terrific scientific biography, history of research, and inspiration for budding scientists. Great writing, as well. Two sitting on my shelves, which I need a little reason to start reading are Prothero's Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters, and Jerry Coyle's Why Evolution is True. A fourth I stumbled across is The Tangled Bank - a study of creativity and imagery in science writing- studies in Freud, Darwin, J G Frazer, and a fourth author of the same vintage. I'd be in for something that feeds my bent in evolution (and religion)