Biology Books - Suggestions?

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RabidAltruism
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Biology Books - Suggestions?

Postby RabidAltruism » Tue Sep 15, 2009 12:35 am UTC

This is going to sound rather broad, but I'm interested in reading more about biology; anything pertaining to the history of biological thought, molecular biology, evolutionary biology, population genetics, genetics more generally, or mathematical/computational biology (esp. mathematical biochemistry and mathematical evolutionary theory) is of high interest. Books on biochemistry, anatomy, and anything discussing the overlap between neuroscience and biology would also be good.

I recently purchased one of Ernst Mayr's books - A New Philosophy of Biology - and am waiting for it to come in. A few of his others looked interesting, too. I've read The Selfish Gene, and would like to purchase and read The Extended Phenotype (Dawkins' major "academic" work, from what I understand). And then I've read some complexity science focused on biology (Stuart Kauffman's books, with emphasis on the Origins of Order), and am in the process of working through three books on genetic algorithms (Adaptation in Natural and Artificial Systems by John Holland, Genetic Algorithms in Search, Optimization, and Machine Learning by Goldberg, and An Intro to Genetic Algorithms by Melanie Mitchell). I've also read J. M. Smith's Evolution and the Theory of Games, and studied evolutionary game theory a little bit at the undergrad level and a bit more independently (smatterings here and there in various texts).

The Mayr books are an attempt to start heavily reading mainstream evolutionary thought (Stuart Kauffman's work and the genetic algorithms books are not mainstream, evo. game theory is closer but I would still think not giving me a feel for what a biologist thinks of as "studying evolution" or as "studying biology" - Dawkins I think would be considered close enough to median, but I need to extend that list!).

I've had a good introduction from the above, but would like to see what evolution looks like from the primary institutional perspectives.

I am interested in both reasonably serious works of popular science and in flat-out textbooks. Anything you might recommend as high in quality and relevant would be great.

So, does anybody have book suggestions?
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DNA
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Re: Biology Books - Suggestions?

Postby DNA » Tue Sep 15, 2009 1:00 am UTC

Jeez, sorry for the useless post, but I am stealing your "introductory" list for my own library 8)
Oh wait, I do have a suggestion: The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond, it mostly about human evolution based on "new" genetic clues. I sure enjoyed it :wink:
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Re: Biology Books - Suggestions?

Postby Interactive Civilian » Tue Sep 15, 2009 1:13 am UTC

RabidAltruism wrote:So, does anybody have book suggestions?

Does it have to be books? Because I can recommend some papers to read, and then you can both read the references in those papers and read other papers that cite those papers, and never run out of material to read. Plus, it will keep you on top of what new developments are coming. You seem to be focusing on Evolution, so I'll go ahead and throw these out for you to see what you think:

Darwinian Evolution in the Light of Genomics - Eugene V Koonin, Nucleic Acids Research, 2009, 1–24, doi:10.1093/nar/gkp089 (full text PDF url on the right). - This is a nice overall summary of the current state of and future directions of studies of the mechanisms of evolution. It's a great read and it has just over 270 references, so it could keep you busy for awhile, depending on how much access you have. A lot of the references can be found via GoogleScholar, PubMed, etc.

The Evolution of Complex Features - Richard E. Lenski, et al, NATURE | VOL 423, 8 MAY 2003. - Very interesting paper that uses computer simulations to show how complex features can evolve from a subset of simple features, and also how slightly deleterious features may turn out to be advantageous.

If you are interested in abiogenesis and the origin of life, I think this paper is an excellent place to start:

On the origins of cells: a hypothesis for the evolutionary transitions from abiotic geochemistry to chemoautotrophic prokaryotes, and from prokaryotes to nucleated cells - William Martin and Michael J. Russel, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 29 January 2003 vol. 358 no. 1429 59-85 - I think the title summarizes it well, but this provides an excellent overview of some very provocative hypotheses regarding the origins and early evolution of life. Also, there are plenty of references to read up on and stay busy, and this paper has been often cited by newer research, so check up on that and you'll find more interesting stuff.

I've recently been interested in studies of the origins of the genetic code, which is one of the biggest mysteries about the early origins of life and biochemistry. These two papers were VERY thought provoking and maybe worth a look at, if you are interested in that sort of thing:

On the origin of the translation system and the genetic code in the RNA world by means of natural selection, exaptation, and subfunctionalization - Yuri I Wolf and Eugene V Koonin, Biology Direct 2007, 2:14doi:10.1186/1745-6150-2-14 - An excellent look at some of the difficulties involved in trying to understand the origin of the genetic code, as well as some tentative hypotheses which suggest directions for research to look. Very thought provoking.

A four-column theory for the origin of the genetic code: tracing the evolutionary pathways that gave rise to an optimized code - Paul G Higgs, Biol Direct. 2009; 4: 16. - This paper blew my mind. The author comes up with a viable, energetically favourable model of the order in which genetic code assignments evolved, though he doesn't talk much about mechanisms (the previous link shows some of the complexity involved in that question). Some of the math was beyond me, but I could understand just enough to get the gist and see the significance of his arguments. Fascinating read.

Anyway, like I said, not books, but extremely interesting none-the-less. And, with the internet being the way it is, you don't need to be a master in these fields to understand this stuff. With some patience and willingness to Google and even look through Wikipedia articles, you can quickly find info on things you don't understand in the papers, and expand your knowledge even further. Anyway, just some thoughts. :)
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Re: Biology Books - Suggestions?

Postby RabidAltruism » Tue Sep 15, 2009 1:22 am UTC

DNA,

Thanks for the reminder! I actually own a copy of The Third Chimpanzee; I got about a hundred pages into it a while back, but got distracted - I will have to jump back into finishing it.

Regarding the books I listed: I hope you enjoy them! Just be aware, as I said in the OP, that they're not really mainstream biological theory, though they're all quite interesting (although I don't think I've ever met a more boring author than J.M. Smith - cool, classical intro to a neat body of theory, but damn if he doesn't have a *really* boring author's voice :P ).

Interactive,

I definitely prefer books - I find them more comfortable to loft about and read while moving around, and they tend to be a bit more forgivingly thorough - but articles are good, too! I have access to a university set of journal subscriptions and an inter-library loan system, so I should be able to pick up all of those; thank you!
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Re: Biology Books - Suggestions?

Postby Interactive Civilian » Tue Sep 15, 2009 2:18 am UTC

RabidAltruism wrote:Interactive,

I definitely prefer books - I find them more comfortable to loft about and read while moving around, and they tend to be a bit more forgivingly thorough - but articles are good, too! I have access to a university set of journal subscriptions and an inter-library loan system, so I should be able to pick up all of those; thank you!

My pleasure. Note that all of the ones I linked have full PDF downloads available for free, so if you need/want some quick reading, it might be worth printing out a couple of them. I can understand the desire for books, but I find myself enjoying getting lost in the research at times; you know, just reading a paper, and then finding a few references in that paper that look interesting, so searching for those, and then finding several other papers while searching for those that also look fascinating, lather, rinse, repeat, get lost in a sea of awesome knowledge. 8)

Anyway, all good stuff. I know in that first link, some of the references are books, so it might be worth taking a look through his list of citations. :)
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Re: Biology Books - Suggestions?

Postby bigglesworth » Tue Sep 15, 2009 2:31 am UTC

I'd suggest Watson's The Double Helix for a good account of that discovery.
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Re: Biology Books - Suggestions?

Postby RabidAltruism » Wed Sep 16, 2009 1:00 am UTC

Thanks, biggles! The Double Helix was actually one of the books in a Stuart Kauffman bibliography, I think, that I'd decided I wanted to read. I appreciate the reminder.

Any other takes? I know XKCD's science forum is pretty physics-heavy, but I'd be interested in physics-biology overlaps, too. :D
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Re: Biology Books - Suggestions?

Postby bigglesworth » Wed Sep 16, 2009 7:36 am UTC

Well, you might have better luck if this thread was moved to the Books subforum rather than the Science one. Not that it shouldn't be here, but you might have a better return of people who want to talk about books.
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Re: Biology Books - Suggestions?

Postby RabidAltruism » Thu Sep 17, 2009 4:29 am UTC

Good idea, Biggles; I'll try there, too. XKCD is actually the second forum I posted this request in, so I'm getting used to it emigrating. :D
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Re: Biology Books - Suggestions?

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Sep 17, 2009 4:44 am UTC

If you are interested in evolution, I felt that Parasite Rex, by Carl Zimmer, rather changed my outlook. I would also suggest Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan
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Re: Biology Books - Suggestions?

Postby sgt york » Thu Sep 17, 2009 3:05 pm UTC

Some of my standby texts are:

Guyton-Hall Medical Physiology - good overview textbook for physiology. Covers just about everything you need. Starts at rudimentary biochem and takes you up through systems. The sections on neuro and the senses are especially good, IMHO. I taught from this one years ago, and although it's billed as "medical," it's rigorous enough for me to hang on to it in a basic science lab.

Lehninger's Principles of Biochemistry - good basic biochem books. This and Stryer's are the old standbys of the field. I still have my Lehninger's from college sitting at home, and I actually use it. You'll get the basics from Guyton, but this will get you more in depth.

Signal Transduction by Gompert's : Probably the best cell signaling book I've ever used. The edition I am familiar with is from 2002, but there's a 2nd ed that just came out this year. Again, Guyton will get you started, this will get you much more in depth.

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Re: Biology Books - Suggestions?

Postby Averazul » Thu Sep 17, 2009 4:07 pm UTC

not a book, but I get most of my biology from Wikipedia. Wikipedia excels where most biology textbooks have failed me, which is that they try to include information from a huge variety of topics, and do a shitty job on all of them. Any biology book that mentions truffles without mentioning symbiosis is a trash book, but if you want any more than that, you either get another book only about mushrooms, or you go to the internet.

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Re: Biology Books - Suggestions?

Postby bigglesworth » Thu Sep 17, 2009 5:32 pm UTC

As to my texts, Stryer's Biochemistry naturally, also Brock Biology of Microorganisms is pretty good.
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Re: Biology Books - Suggestions?

Postby RabidAltruism » Fri Sep 18, 2009 1:06 am UTC

Fantastic, guys! Those responses are exactly what I was looking for - much appreciated.

I think I have enough to chew on for a while. :D
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Re: Biology Books - Suggestions?

Postby rflrob » Mon Sep 21, 2009 6:24 am UTC

If you're curious about the physics of biology, I just got done reading Howard Berg's Random Walks in Biology. It's somewhere on the line between popular science and textbook.

Erwin Schrödinger's What is Life is also a fun, quick little read. The science itself is a bit out of date; it was written in the 30's, before we knew the cornerstones of modern biology, like what DNA is, exactly, but still a good way to see how to think about the field.
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Re: Biology Books - Suggestions?

Postby kneelingyak » Mon Sep 21, 2009 2:40 pm UTC

Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo - Sean B. Carroll: Covers a pretty wide range from the basics of how genes work to switches controlling when genes are expressed up through how these genes build new features. I guess Evolutionary Developmental Biology is the how new thing in Biology since it provides a lot of new insight into evolutionary history. I found the book to be quite fascinating because I knew how evolution works but this really gives you a good idea of how new forms can easily develop.

Your Inner Fish - Neil Shubin: Somewhat similar to Endless Froms in that it uses the discovery of Tiktaalik (and many other animals) to help trace the evolution of many features found in humans.

Not really Biology but Bones, Rocks and Stars: The Science of When Things Happened - Chris Turney: is a pretty good companion to any book on evolution. It covers many of the ways that scientists use to determine when something happened. Since much of evolutionary biology involves understanding when different animals existed knowing how we know that is pretty important.

These are all popular science books but as someone with no Bio classes other than high school (erm, probably 10 years ago now) they were very entertaining and enlightening.

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Re: Biology Books - Suggestions?

Postby Piggyfish » Mon Sep 21, 2009 11:30 pm UTC

Why We Get Sick by Williams and Neese is a good read... I had to read sections for an intro to bio course (Along with parts of Your Inner Fish) last year and ended up reading the whole thing.

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Re: Biology Books - Suggestions?

Postby RabidAltruism » Wed Sep 23, 2009 4:12 am UTC

Good stuff! Keep it coming, all :D .
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