10 Great Books on Genetics


This week’s 10 Great Books list is brought to us by Jack Scanlan. He is a serious social media user, with a weekly pocast, blog and recent curator of @realscientists on Twitter. Thanks Jack!

Jack is the head editor of the Young Australian Skeptics, a group blog about science communication, critical thinking, skepticism and religion, and a panelist on its weekly podcast, The Pseudoscientists. He also writes for The Panda’s Thumb and Nature Education’s Student Voices, and has written for COSMOS Magazine Online as a freelancer. Jack has a Bachelor of Science degree (majoring in Genetics and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology) from the University of Melbourne, and is currently undertaking a Master of Science (Genetics) degree at the Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute, working on a project in Drosophila melanogaster, looking at an unknown gene family that may be implicated in insecticide resistance and metabolic defense against bacteria and fungi. – From http://www.jackscanlan.com

Jack’s Homepage: http://www.jackscanlan.com
Jack’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/JackLScanlan


1. The Origins of Genome Architecture, by Michael Lynch

Michael Lynch is one of the greatest modern population geneticists, and in this book he advances his ideas about how genomes evolve over time – which is mostly by processes other than natural selection (which I’m sure will surprise many people)!

2. Evolutionary Genomics and Proteomics, by Mark Pagel and Andrew Pomiankowski

Genetics and genomics is almost nothing without understanding genes in the context of the whole organism, and this book ties evolutionary genomics with proteomics (the “-omics” study of proteins), which is no mean feat.


3. Genetics: Analysis and Principles by Robert Booker

Sure, this is a textbook, but it was the first academic genetics book I read before I went to university and it got me seriously interested in the area.





selfishgene4. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

While its strong ideas about natural selection might not be as central to evolutionary genetics as they once might have been, this is still a very important book in the history of science communication – a classic.





ancestors-tale5. The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution by Richard Dawkins

Another Dawkins book! But this book beautifully highlights a central concept in genetics – that at one point in the past or another, every two organisms on the planet shared a common ancestor.





next6. Next: A Novel by Michael Crichton

While I’m not a massive Crichton fan (State of Fear was an atrocious piece of anti-climate change propaganda), this is an interesting book that will – at the very least – get you thinking about genetic bioethics. Not bad for a novel.





immortal-life-of-henrietta-lacks7. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot

I must admit that I haven’t yet read this book, but it’s high on my list. Apparently, it wraps genetics, medicine and “immortal” cells in a fascinatingly human story, which sounds like a greatest thing ever (probably).





rosalind-franklin8. Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox

An important book about the greatest discovery in the history of genetics and why one of the scientists involved never got recognised.






human-genome9. The Human Genome: Book of Essential Knowledge by John Quackenbush

A great little read about the technology and implications of modern genome science, particularly in medicine.

10. The Signature in the Cell, by Stephen C. Meyer
This is not a good book. It is a pro-intelligent design (read: creationist) book that misinterprets genetics and origin of life research for its own religious ends. However, I recommend reading it, simply for the mental exercise of seeing where it spectacularly falls apart under scrutiny.


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