Science Book Lovers Meme

David, aka whysharksmatter, at Southern Fried Science tagged me in the latest internet meme to go around: Science Book Lover’s meme. Unfortunately, I’m still living in temporarily limbo as I’m waiting to close on my house so most of what I own, including my beloved books, has been in storage since last September. So you will get a list of books that I can think up off the top of my head that made an impression on me when I decided (late in life) science was for me. In no particular order

1) Chaos by James Gleick – Made math fun and interesting for me. One of the first science books I read when I was deciding to go into science… my third time around college…

2) Invertebrates by Brusca & Brusca – Yeah not supposed to cite textbooks, but I read this for pleasure so it counts : )

3) Stranger and the Statesman by Nina Burleigh – It was the most recent book I finished. An interesting account of James Smithson, the financial founder for the Smithsonian Museum.

4) E=mc2: A History of the World’s Most Famous Equation by David Bodanis – Another book I read early in my scientific life that made science something enjoyable to learn about!

5) Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist by Adrian Desmond and James Moore – Expertly done masterpiece of Darwin’s life. One of the few books I read constantly and could not put down (Dune being the another one). Filled with action, culture, history, context and much more. Should be required reading for biology majors.

6) Selected Poems by Robinson Jeffers – While not a science book, I feel scientists need to develop an appreciation for the world around them. Honing in on the bigger picture and interconnectedness of all things. Poets have been doing this long before science was a glimmer of light upon the dawn of reason. One of my favorite poets is Robinson Jeffers who was trained in forestry and medicine before settling into Tor House in Carmel, CA and living an idyllic life by the coast as a writer and bohemian. I’ll leave you all with a poem that could be read in any introductory ecology, marine biology or geology lecture, and indeed I shall if I ever teach once more:

Continents End
At the equinox when the earth was veiled in a late rain,
wreathed with wet poppies, waiting spring,
The ocean swelled for a far storm and beat its boundary,
the ground-swell shook the beds of granite.

I gazing at the boundaries of granite and spray, the
established sea-marks, felt behind me
Mountain and plain, the immense breadth of the continent,
before me the mass and doubled stretch of water.

I said: You yoke the Aleutian seal-rocks with the lava
and coral sowings that flower the south,
Over your flood the life that sought the sunrise faces
ours that has followed the evening star.

The long migrations meet across you and it is nothing
to you, you have forgotten us, mother.
You were much younger when we crawled out of the womb
and lay in the sun’s eye on the tideline.

It was long and long ago; we have grown proud since then
and you have grown bitter; life retains
Your mobile soft unquiet strength; and envies hardness,
the insolent quietness of stone.

The tides are in our veins, we still mirror the stars,
life is your child, but there is in me
Older and harder than life and more impartial, the eye
that watched before there was an ocean.

That watched you fill your beds out of the condensation
of thin vapor and watched you change them,
That saw you soft and violent wear your boundaries down,
eat rock, shift places with the continents.

Mother, though my song’s measure is like your surf-beat’s
ancient rhythm I never learned it of you.
Before there was any water there were tides of fire, both
our tones flow from the older fountain.

I won’t tag anyone but would love to ask our readers (and my cobloggers) what non-text science books they would recommend to young science majors?

9 Replies to “Science Book Lovers Meme”

  1. The Song of The Dodo by David Quammen is inspirational and impressed on me how ecology can change the fate of the natural world.

  2. I read Carl Safina’s “Song for the Blue Ocean” while riding on a twin outrigger through the Philippine archipelago. That was truly inspiring.

    For science, I also enjoyed J Gleick’s “Chaos”, and later, its near antithesis- Martin Wells “Civilization and the Limpet”. For naval exploration I liked “Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage”.

    I could read these last two again. The others are pratically memorized!

  3. Here are a few of my favorites (BTW, Blind Man’s Buff is a great read, I totally agree with Peter)

    Darkness in El Dorado, Patrick Tierney, an expose of the bizarre and troubling actions of anthropologists studying the Yanomami

    The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Edward Tufte–this is a classic, anything by Tufte is worth reading including his splendid condemnation of Powerpoint, but this one changed the way I think about numerical representation forever

    Blink, Malcolm Gladwell–now, this might not be a great science book, but it’s a great read

    The Misbehavior of Markets: A Fractal View of Financial Turbulence, Benoit Mandelbrot, particularly prescient in light of recent events

    If you haven’t read these, enjoy

  4. Nice! Keep them coming! I’m enjoying hearing what people read!

    Peter, I loved Civilization and the Limpet too. The next book on my pile is Extinction by Douglas Erwin, a birthday present from the wife last year.

  5. Well, then there are these classics that got me all jazzed waaaay back when you pups were barely twinkles in your momma’s eye:

    “Lives of a Cell” by Lewis Thomas
    “To Know a Fly” by Vincent Gaston Dethier
    “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” by Annie Dillard (Even though it brings in a theological perspective, it’s a great read on observing nature without sentimentality.)

  6. If you want a fiction recommendation I would give Tuff Voyaging by George R. R. Martin. I just finished it and it is the only Scf-Fi stories I have read that have a good amount of ecology, it was a nice change of pace. And one of the stories is about combating alien sea monsters.
    Thanks for the recommendations I need to read more non-fiction instead of fantasy and sci-fi all the time.

  7. I’m not a scientist but I do love reading about science. Some of my favorites are;
    Chaos by James Gleik
    anything by Lewis Thomas, Loren Eisley or Stephan Jay Gould
    most anything by Diane Ackerman, especially Natural History of the Senses
    Jared Dimond Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse
    Edwin O. Wilson and Richard Dawkins
    currently reading Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks. Also loved his Uncle Tungsten a remarkable autobiography and history of chemistry combined into one fascinating memoir.
    Recently finished Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel

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