The Crowd-Sourced Reading List

By Carl Zimmer | February 1, 2009 1:04 pm

kidread.jpgLast week I blegged for examples of great science writing from over the years, and you did not disappoint. Rania Masri, who teaches writing to scientists in Lebanon, asked if I could share the list. It’s the least I can do in exchange for everyone’s generosity, and this morning I’ve got some time as I listen to some interviews for good quotes. (I also have to say it’s very cool to be helping somebody out in Lebanon from my laptop.)

I’ve selected the readings that I think would work best for a class on the art of writing about science and nature. This is obvious a far from definitive list. For one thing, it underrepresents the great books about science. For another, it’s heavy on biology and light on physics, etc.–a reflection of the self-selected nature of the Loom’s readers, I suspect. And I’ve preferred pieces that can be read online. Imperfections notwithstanding, I hope this list brings people some unexpected pleasures from the past…

Frederick Crews: “Saving Us From Darwin” 

Jared Diamond: “The Curse of Qwerty”

Darcy Frey: “George Divoky’s Planet”

Theodosius Dobzhansky: “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution”

Atul Gawande:“The Itch”

Masha Gessen: “A Medical Quest”

Stephen Jay Gould: “A Biological Homage to Mickey Mouse” (pdf)

“The Panda’s Thumb”

J.B.S. Haldane: “On Being the Right Size”

Robert Kunzig: “20,000 Microbes Under the Sea”

Oliver Morton: “Moonshine and Glue: A Thirteen-Unit Guide to the Extreme Edge of Astrophysics” (pdf)

Lawrence Osborne: “A Linguistic Big Bang”

David Quammen: “Is Evolution Wrong?”

Jeffrey Rosen: “The Brain on the Stand”

Oliver Sacks: “The Abyss”

Robert Sapolsky: “A Gene for Nothing”

“A Natural History of Peace”

Polly Shulman: “Infinity Plus One”

Neal Stephenson: “Mother Earth Mother Board”

Gary Taubes: “What if It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?”

Kenneth Weiss and Usha Macfarling: “Altered Oceans”

Appendix A: A few books…

Freeman Dyson, Disturbing the Universe

Richard Feynman, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!

Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb

Matt Ridley, Genome

Robert Sapolsky, Monkeyluv

Lewis Thomas, Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony

Image: Luis Fabres/Creative Commons License [via Flickr]


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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