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Wednesday 20 November 2019
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Five more to excite

DEBBIE JACOB

A LIBRARIAN can really be an educator’s best friend as I tried to show last week when I chose my top five science books from a reading list that the Advanced Placement (AP) biology teacher Maeve O’Donovan and I have come up with over the years. (AP is the US equivalent to CAPE.)

Maeve’s quest to have all of her students read at least one biology book outside of their textbook in the year has proved successful. Her students learn invaluable analytical skills as they review their books. But the books on this list will appeal to anyone looking for an exciting read.

Last week I featured my top five choices from our AP biology list. That list included the following books:

1. The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World by Steve Brusatte.

2. Wooly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive History’s Most Iconic Extinct Creature by Ben Mezrich.

3. Between XX and XY: Intersexuality and the Myth of Two Sexes by Gerald N Callahan.

4. The Chimp and the River: How AIDS Emerged from an African Forest by David Quammen.

5. The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery.

Our biology reading list has a variety of books that are both entertaining and enlightening. They include: The Body in Motions: Its Evolution and Design by Theodore Dimon, which makes use of new technology for imaging to show the inner workings of the body; Five Quarts: A Personal and Natural History of Blood by Bill Hayes, and How to Build a Dinosaur: The New Science of Reverse Evolution by Jack Horner and James Gorman.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, continues to be an important and popular book because it tells the story of a poor woman with aggressive cancer who provided (unknown to her) the HeLa cells, which have made millions of dollars in the medical experiment business.

The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences by Alfred W Crosby is a collection of essays, which shows what Europe and the Western Hemisphere gained and lost with the European conquest of the Western Hemisphere.

But, if I have to round off my list of top ten books, the following five would make up the second half of that list:

1. Bats of Trinidad and Tobago by Geoffrey A Gomes – Vivid descriptions abound in this amazing book with glossy, full-colour, close-up pictures of Trinidad and Tobago’s wide variety of bats. Students could write an interesting essay by comparing the bats.

2. Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics is Fueling Our Modern Plagues by Martin J Blaser – At one time, it seemed doctors prescribed antibiotics for just about everything. This book shows just how the overuse of antibiotics has wreaked havoc on our health. The implications for the future are downright scary.

3. Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus by David Quammen – Is there any disease scarier than Ebola? Quammen’s book about Ebola proves to be a page-turner. If you read either of Quammen’s books Spillover or The Chimp and the River (originally a chapter in Spillover) you will want to read any of his books. He’s a science journalist and his books reflect that tight, edgy writing that is associated with journalism.

4. Everyone is African: How Science Explodes the Myth of Race by Daniel J Fairbanks – I count this as one of my favourite books on the list because Everyone is African... uses biology to debunk the myth of race, which is the basis of so much prejudice.

5. Venomous: How Earth’s Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry by Christie Wilcox – Here, masterful interpretations of evolution offer interesting facts about the world’s deadliest creatures.

Every book on this list is an enjoyable read for anyone looking for a light but meaningful read for the school holidays. The topics are so interesting and the writing is so good that students won’t even notice that they are engaged in invaluable skill-building reading over the holiday, and that is exactly what a good science book should do.

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