Reading Lists & Links

Biology Reading List and notes on reading for interviews

  • Aim to read at least one or two of the books from the area of Biology which you are particularly interested. Some of them are written in discrete chapters eg Stephen J Gould so it is possible to dip in and out of them.
  • Some of these are classics and some are more recent - check the date of publication inside the front cover so that you are aware how current the ideas are that you are reading about.
  • Copies of these books should be in the school library or easily available in paperback from your local bookshop.
  • Make a brief note of the main ideas covered in the book so that you can easily review them at a later date e.g. for interviews
  • Also read relevant articles in New Scientist and Scientific American and keep up to date with current developments in Science in the newspapers especially two months prior to interview as this type of information is often raised in interviews as the basis of some questions and you are assumed to be enthusiastic and interested in the subject that you have applied for -thus should possess relevant recent knowledge where possible.
  • If you are a medic, make sure that you know all about the NHS, current developments, politics, how it is funded etc.

The following books are suggestions only. Any other books that you find for yourself will be equally useful. The important thing is that you READ something and acquire some knowledge other than the syllabus.

Molecular Biology (Modern Genetics) and Evolution

Some of these books are mostly genetics. Some are mostly evolution. Most of them contain a mix ask anyone in the Biology Dept for advice.

  • The Double Helix - James Watson
  • DNA: The secret of life - James Watson
  • The Selfish Gene - Richard Dawkins
  • The Extended Phenotype - Richard Dawkins
  • The Blind Watchmaker - Richard Dawkins
  • River Out of Eden - Richard Dawkins
  • Unweaving the Rainbow - Richard Dawkins
  • Why we do it (Rethinking sex and The Selfish Gene) -  Niles Eldredge  (read this and get updated on the Selfish Gene)
  • The Language of Genes - Steve Jones
  • In the Blood - Steve Jones
  • Almost like a whale - Steve Jones
  • Genetic Destinies - Peter Little
  • Genome - Matt Ridley
  • Evolution - Matt Ridley
  • The Red Queen  - Matt Ridley
  • Adam's Curse - Brian Sykes
  • Seven Daughters of Eve - Brian Sykes
  • Clones: Human Cloning - Martha Nussbaum and Cass Sunstein
  • The X in Sex - David Bainbridge
  • Origin of Species - Charles Darwin
  • Trilobite - Richard Fortey
  • Darwin’s Dangerous Idea - Daniel C. Dennett (NB philosophical approach)
  • The Panda’s Thumb - Stephen J. Gould
  • Bully for Brontosaurus - Stephen J. Gould
  • Wonderful Life - Stephen J. Gould
  • Rock of Ages - Stephen J. Gould (Religion and Science)
  • The Lying Stones of Marrakech  - Stephen J. Gould
  • Reinventing Darwin - Niles Eldredge
  • The Dinosaur Hunters - Deborah Cadbury (Historical approach)

GMO sapiens:

  • the life-changing science  of designer babies  -  Paul Knoepfler
  • A crack in creation: the new power to control evolution - Jennifer Doudna and Samuel Sternberg

Medicine : Disease and Microbiology.

  • The Greatest Benefit to Mankind - Roy Porter (History of medicine)
  • Microbes and Man - J. Postgate
  • Power Unseen- how microbes rule the world - Bernard Dixon
  • Plague’s Progress - Arno Karlen
  • Biography of a Germ - Arno Karlen
  • Plagues - Christopher Wills
  • Medicine- an illustrated history - Roy Porter
  • The Antibiotic Paradox - Stuart B. Levy
  • Hepatitis B - the hunt for a killer virus - B. S. Blumberg (Nobel Laureate)
  • Catching Cold - Pete Davies
  • Immunology - Roitt, Brostoff and Male(Difficult
  • The White Death- a history of TB - Thomas Dormandy(out of print)
  • The Miraculous Fever Tree- quinine and malaria - Fiametta Rocco
  • How to win a Nobel Prize- cancer genes and infectious diseases -  J. Michael Bishop
  • Pain: the gift nobody wants - Paul W. Brand, Philip Yancey
  • This is going to hurt - Adam Kay
  • The emperor of all maladies: a biography of cancer - Siddhartha Mukherjee 

Physiology (How the body works)

  • Life at the Extremes - Science of Survival - Frances Ashcroft (Very.good)
  • Why we sleep - Matthew Walker (Excellent and valuable    for everyone to read)

Neurology(study of brains and nervous systems) and Psychology

  • Mindwaves, Journey to the Centres of the Mind - Susan Greenfield (Neurology)
  • The Private Life of the Brain - Susan Greenfield (Neurology)
  • The Human Brain: A Guided Tour - Susan Greenfield (Neurology)
  • The man who mistook his wife for a hat - Oliver Sacks (Psychology)
  • King Solomon's Ring - Karl Lorenz (Animal behaviour)
  • On Aggression - Karl Lorenz (Animal behaviour)
  • The Making of Memory - Steven Rose
  • Phantoms in the brain: probing the mysteries of the human mind - V.S. Ramachandran, Sandra Blakeslee

Topical issues (such as global warming)

  • Coral: A pessimist in Paradise - Steve Jones


  • Molecules at an exhibition - John Emsley

Anthropology and Human Science

  • The origin of humankind - Richard Leakey
  • The making of mankind - Richard Leakey
  • Human Ancestors - Richard Leakey
  • The sixth extinction - Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin
  • Origins - Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin
  • In the Blood - Steve Jones (genetic basis of races)

See also relevant parts of other genetics books