Three great Biology books to read over the Christmas holidays

It is one of the really good things about the extended curriculum at my school that students are not set work to do in the holidays.  This allows time at home to be spent resting, recuperating and preparing for the term ahead.  But can I make a suggestion as to what some of you might like to do before the start of next term?  Find a really good book to read and read a chapter a day.  Here are some personal suggestions as to some of my favourite Biology books.


“Genome” by Matt Ridley is a really interesting read.  I have read it over and over again since it was first published in 2000.  The chapters are short but the ideas contained within are important and challenging.  The 23 chapters are each devoted to a single gene on a different human chromosome but Ridley is able to draw out some deep ideas with entertaining stories, anecdotes and superb detail.  I would say this is ideal for either Y11 (D block) or Y12 (C Block) students.

power sex suicide

Nick Lane came to Eton last year to speak to the Scientific and Banks Societies and he was about the best speaker we have had for a long time.  This book is more suitable for Y12/13 students than GCSE readers as it has direct links to the pre-U course and contains some complex ideas.   He is interested in the role mitochondria have played in the history of life and for me, Nick Lane is the best contemporary writer.  If you like this, I can also recommend his later book “Life Ascending” which is also a super read.

The Ancestors Tale

This is my favourite Dawkins book.  If you are interested in understanding the grand sweep of the tree of life and the history of life on our planet, there are a lot worse ways to start than reading this.  Dawkins has a superb writing style and is able to make a complex chronology of species entertaining and easy to follow.  If you do read any of these books and would like to tell me your thoughts, or indeed if you have other recommendations, please add a comment to this post so that others can see.

Happy Christmas!

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