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Biology Book Synopsis  

Last Updated: May 3, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
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Living with Our Genes - Dean H. Hamer; Peter F. Copeland
Call Number: 155.234 Hamer
How many of our faults are in our genetic stars, and how many in ourselves? The researchers and authors take a broad-minded look at hot-button topics such as sex, drugs (especially tobacco and alcohol), and violence, as well as anxiety, intelligence, and eating habits.

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Pandas Thumb - Stephen Jay Gould
Call Number: 508 Gould
A collection of essays which examine and explain biological evolution.

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The Invisible History of the Human Race - Christine Kenneally
Call Number: 572.8 Kinneally
What do genetics and genomics really tell us? How does DNA shape us physically? Is there a connection between an individual's genotype and their traits and history? Does DNA shape us physically? Does DNA contribute to human behavior, decision making, or even language and intelligence? How does it contribute to diseases? Are private genealogical databases advancing or editing the past? And what role does Neanderthal DNA play in our current genetic makeup? The author gives her perspective on all these questions and more, looking to the history of the past to discuss what we are and who we might become in the future. Related topics include human origins in Africa,,, human origins in Australia, genetic patterns in Britain, orphaned and institutionalized children and their lost histories, X and Y chromosomes, the Mormon Church archives, the genealogy of colonial America, the genealogy of convicts in Australia, genetics and diseases (Huntington's disease/Mendelian diseases), individual history in DNA, DNA testing companies, eugenics and eugenics in Nazi Germany, Native American genomes, heredity, Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP), Melungeons, National Geographic's Genographic Project, Norway, Orkney, privacy laws, genetics and race and racism, genealogical records, clans and Scotland, surnames, genetics and traits, 23andMe, and Vikings.

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Genome - Matt Ridley
Call Number: 574.873 Ridley
The author examines some of the findings of the Human Genome Project, telling the story of one newly discovered gene from each of the twenty-three human chromosomes, and discussing what those genes reveal about the history of the human species.

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The Selfish Gene - Richard Dawkins
Call Number: 576.5 Dawkins
Examines the biology of selfishness and altruism in light of Darwin's Theory of Evolution.

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Rosalind Franklin and DNA - Anne Sayre
Call Number: 576.92 Sayre
A biography of one of the four scientists responsible for the discovery of the molecular structure of DNA, the key to heredity in all living things. The author acknowledges the central research of Rosalind Franklin who didn't receive the credit she was due from the scientific community in her lifetime.

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Chance in the House of Fate - Jennifer G. Ackerman
Call Number: 599.93 Ackerman
The author relates events from her own life, her pregnancy and the death of her mother from cancer, to the power of heredity in human life and the natural world.

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The Sports Gene - David Epstein
Call Number: 613.71 Epstein
Is athletic skill a result of nature or nurture? A discussion and analysis of the debate as to whether athletes are born with their athletic skills or if their skills are developed through commitment and training.


Viruses and Bacteria

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The Andromeda Strain - Michael Crichton
Call Number: Fic Chricton
A team of scientists struggles to define and contain a deadly bacteria brought back from outer space by a satellite that has left the streets of Piedmont, Arizona, littered with dead bodies.

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The Demon in the Freezer - Richard Preston
Call Number: 358 Preston
A graphic account of the anthrax emergency that occurred in America in October 2001 and also the threat of a biological terrorist attack using secretly manufactured smallpox virus by hostile states like North Korea and Iraq.

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Black Death - Susan Hunter
Call Number: 362.196 Hunter
Presents a study of the AIDS epidemic, focusing on its spread in Africa, looking at the social, political, and historical factors that have made Africa a fertile breeding ground for the disease, and considering the moral responsibility individuals and countries have in the fight to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS.

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Flu - Gina Kolata
Call Number: 614.5 Kolata
A study of the history of the flu, focusing on the influenza pandemic of 1918, and discusses how the government has tried to discover what caused the pandemic and so prevent it from occurring again.

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The Hot Zone - Richard Preston
Call Number: 614.57 Preston
A highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest suddenly appears in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. There is no cure. In a few days 90 percent of its victims are dead. A secret military SWAT team of soldiers and scientists is mobilized to stop the outbreak of this exotic "hot" virus.

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The Mold in Dr. Florey's Coat - Eric Lax
Call Number: 615 Lax
Traces the history of penicillin, from its discovery by London scientist Alexander Fleming in 1928, to its use in wartime hospitals, to its role as one of the most important drugs of the modern era.

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Microbe Hunters - F. Gonzalez-Crussi (Introduction by); Paul de Kruif
Call Number: 616.9 Kruif
A classic account of the first scientists to see and learn about microbes visible for the first time through the lens of a microscope. These were the Scientists, bacteriologists, doctors, and medical technicians who discovered the microbes and vectors that caused diseases such as rabies, the tsetse fly, nagana, and sleeping sickness, mosquitoes and malaria and yellow fever, ticks and Texas fever, cholera, anthrax, diphtheria, syphilis, and tuberculosis and their discoveries led to vaccine that prevented the disease and cures that killed the microbes

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Scourge - Jonathan B. Tucker
Call Number: 616.912 Tucker
Traces the history of the smallpox virus from its first recorded outbreak around 3700 B.C. through its use as the first biological warfare agent in human history, and draws some lessons for the future.



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Traces of an Omnivore - Paul Shepard
Call Number: 304.2 Shepard
A collection of essays that address controversies in the field of human ecology, a heritage that spans three million years of hunting and gathering, and offers ways to heal the bond between humans and the natural world. Explores topics such as aesthetics, the bear, hunting, perception, agriculture, human development, social structure, myths and cosmology.

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Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation - Olivia Judson
Call Number: 306.7 Judson
Poses a series of fictional "Dear Dr. Tatiana" questions with answers that provide information about the sexual behavior of insects and animals.

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The Diversity of Life - Edward O. Wilson
Call Number: 333.95 Wilson
Chronicles the processes that have created and destroyed species through time, the changing relationships between species, and examines the destruction of ecosystems by man and offers hopeful solutions.

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Neanderthal Man - Svante Pääbo
Call Number: 576.5 Pääbo
Geneticist Svante Sääbo's mission was to answer this question: What can we learn from the genomes of our closest evolutionary relatives? Sääbo describes his journey of intrigues, failures, and triumphs, as he and his colleagues eventually sequence the the Neanderthal genome. Will the results solve the mystery of why the Neanderthals went extinct?

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Arrival of the Fittest - Andreas Wagner
Call Number: 576.8 Wagner
How have the fittest preserved their ability to creatively adapt and remain efficient? Is is just by chance? Is it random mutations? Is there a piece of Darwin's theory of evolution missing? Using experimental and computational technologies, the author takes a look. Other topics include Boolean logic functions and logic gates, the building blocks of life, the role of computers and computation in scientific research, the role of DNA and RNA and proteins, responses to environmental change, the embryonic development of fruit flies, adaptation and environmental change, innovation and creation of novel enzymes, the phenomenal ability of E.coli to adapt to its environment, gene regulation and gene regulation circuits, phenotypes, genotypes and genotype networks, gene expression, heritability and inheritance, gene transfer and gene deletion, regulation circuits and humans, humans and lactose digestion, innovability and innovation, technological innovation, environmental adaptation and insects (aphids, butterflies and moths, fruit flies), the origin of life, the mapping of genotype networks, the role of metabolism, microbes and gene regulation, the role of mutation, natural selection, the function of proteins and amino acids, DNA replication, the idea of robustness and self-organization in genotype networks, standards in the universal laws of nature, a comparison by the author's research team of phenotypes among bacterial organisms.

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The Beak of the Finch - Jonathan Weiner
Call Number: 598.8 Weiner
Recounts the story of two evolutionary biologists and their research on finches in the Galapagos archipelago.

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Masters of the Planet - Ian Tattersall
Call Number: 599.93 Tattersall
What are our origins? How did we get from hunted to hunter, ancient ape to modern human and top predator? Discusses the factors that led Homo sapiens to survive as the only human species while the rest became extinct 50,000 years ago.

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Biomimicry - Janine M. Benyus
Call Number: 600 Benyus
Introduces some of the men and women who are working in the field of biomimicry--a science that studies nature's models and then imitates them to solve human problems--and considers the implications of such studies for the future of mankind.

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Beyond Evolution - Michael W. Fox
Call Number: 660.6 Fox
How will the explosion of biotechnology and especially genetic engineering affect the course of life on earth? Does genetic engineering in the form of herbicide-resistant soybeans and the splicing of human genes mean the end of natural evolution? What are the consequences of a genetically altered future? What will be left to sustain the human spirit?


Environmental Issues/Extinction

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Why Big Fierce Animals Are Rare - Paul A. Colinvaux
Publication Date: 577.8 Colinvaux
Renowned ecologist Paul Colinvaux puts down his thoughts in these chapters on a variety of subjects including Darwin's view of ecology, climate change, population regulation and animal breeding strategies, early peoples who lived by the Bering Sea, the role of bird song, the theory of competition, coexistence, the role of animal and plant diversity and ecological dominance, analogy of a lake ecosystem with a telephone network, Charles Elton and the Eltonian pyramid, the exclusion principle in lake ecology, the formations of plant species in the landscape, the history of ecological models, the plant and animal (including humans) "niche" concept, the complexity-stability theory of the balance of nature, the efficiency of leaves (photosynthesis) and how they do it, wolves and mountain lions as predators, mountainside vegetation, the chemistry of nature, the nutrient cycles of different biomes, environmental pollution and its effect on the landscape, Horn's hypothesis, the rarity of large and fierce animals, sea plants, social dominance of species, the history of the study of the sociobiology (community living) of plants, the role and importance of species richness, superorganisms, territorial behavior in birds and animals, the role of stability in the tropical rain forest, and the history of mapping vegetation

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The Sixth Extinction - Richard E. Leakey
Call Number: 304.2 Leakey
Argues that the sixth great extinction on Earth is underway, with 30,000 species disappearing every year. In the previous five extinctions, at least sixty-five percent of all species disappeared, the same rate at which they are now disappearing.

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Eagle's Plume - Bruce Beans
Call Number: 333.95 BEANS
Describes how and where the bald eagle nests, its breeding and feeding habits, migratory journeys, the lore it has inspired, its place in the ecology of this continent, and the continuing threats to its survival.

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Four Fish - Paul Greenberg
Call Number: 333.95 Greenberg
Explores the histories of salmon, sea bass, cod, and tuna, describing how their numbers are decreasing in the wild and how higher levels of PCBs and mercury are being found in seafood, and discussing efforts to regain the oceans for healthy and sustainable food sources.

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The Last Panda - George B. Schaller
Call Number: 333.95 Schaller
Documents the plight of these mysterious creatures
who are dependent on a shrinking supply of bamboo, hunted mercilessly for its pelt, and hostage to profiteering schemes once in captivity and on the brink of extinction.

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The Future of Life - Edward O. Wilson
Call Number: 333.95 Wilson
Argues that many of the world's plants and animals are in danger of becoming extinct because of humans' misuse of the earth's resources and describes the species which are most at risk and spells out the choices we have to address the crisis and also a specific plan to correct it.

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Wild Solutions - Andrew Beattie
Call Number: 333.951 Beattie
A discussion by two ecologists on the biodiversity of Earth, showing how the natural systems that surround us play an essential role in protecting our basic life-support systems. They look at the millions of species that maintain the quality of our air and water and the fertility of the soil; dispose of domestic, industrial and agricultural waste; and protect crops from pests.

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The Return of the Wolf - Rick Bass; Kristen DeBoer; Bill McKibben; John Theberge
Call Number: 333.959 Return
Scientists and policymakers are debating the introduction of the wolf to the woods of Northern New England and upstate New York. This book brings together four observers of the natural world who add their reflections on the implications of such an effort.

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Early Spring - Amy Seidl; Bill McKibben (Introduction by)
Call Number: 363.738 Seidl
A message from an ecologist and mother, Amy Seidl, as she documents the climate changes in her local Vermont environment from global warming, such as spring flowers that blossom before the pollinators arrive, the ponds that no longer freeze in the winter, and changes in animal migration patterns.

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A Sand County Almanac - Aldo Leopold; Michael Sewell (Photographer); Kenneth Brower (Introduction by)
Call Number: 508.73 Leopold
A collection of nature writings by American conservationist Aldo Leopold based on his experiences and feelings while at his weekend farm along the Wisconsin River, illustrated with photographs taken at the farm over the course of a year.

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Silent Spring - Rachel Carson; Linda Lear (Introduction by); Edward O. Wilson (Afterword by)
Call Number: 577.27 Carson
Presents Rachel Carson's 1962 environmental classic "Silent Spring," which identified the dangers of indiscriminate pesticide use.

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Nature Wars - Mark L. Winston
Call Number: 577.279 Winston
Sounds the alarm against the dangerous tactics for controlling the pests that are an annoying but integral part of our world.

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Cry of the Kalahari - Mark Owens; Delia Owens
Call Number: 590 Owens
Recounts the authors' seven year stay in the Kalahari Desert where they developed one of the most important conservation research projects ever conducted.

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Last Chance to See - Douglas Adams; Mark Carwardine
Call Number: 591.529 Adams
An entertaining journey with a novelist and a biologist in search of exotic and endangered species around the world: the kakapo in New Zealand, the giant Komodo dragon in Indonesia, river dolphins in China, white rhino in Zaire and rare birds in Mauritius.

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The Devil's Teeth - Susan Casey
Call Number: 597.3 Casey
Presents the author's firsthand account of her stay on the Farallon Islands--situated in the shark infested waters thirty miles west of San Francisco--and includes information on great white shark behavior and scientists who study them.

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Journey of the Pink Dolphins - Sy Montgomery
Call Number: 599.53 Montgomery
Chronicles Sy Montgomery's quest to find and study the pink river dolphins of the Amazon.

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To Touch a Wild Dolphin - Rachel Smolker
Call Number: 599.53 Smolker
The author describes her experiences as one of a group of scientists who spent fifteen years exploring the lives of dolphins in their natural environment at Monkey Mia beach in Australia; and shares what her research has revealed about dolphin society and the characters that inhabit it.

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The Fate of the Elephant - Douglas H. Chadwick
Call Number: 599.61 Chadwick
Written by a noted wildlife biologist, this book is a guide to the natural history of the elephant, both the Asian and the African, and their future as a species. Includes visits to India, Siberia, Botswana, Thailand, Malaysia, Kenya, and an American zoo.

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Walking with the Great Apes - Sy Montgomery
Call Number: 599.8 Montgomery
The stories of three women who dedicated their lives to the study of primate ethology. Covers the work of Dian Fossey and the mountain gorillas of Rwanda, Biruté Galdikas and the orangutans of Borneo, and Jame Goodall and the chimpanzees of Gombe.

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Pandora's Picnic Basket - Alan McHughen
Call Number: 631.5 McHughen
Describes the technologies underlying genetically modified foods, comparing them with other 'natural' methods of plant breeding and production, and calculating the risks they may pose to society.

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A World Without Bees - Alison Benjamin
Call Number: 638 Benjamin
Discusses the reasons for the disappearance of honeybees around the world, including viruses, parasites, and climate change, and examines the agricultural repercussions of a complete loss of the pollinators, which would threaten civilization.

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Seal Wars - Paul Watson; Martin Sheen (Foreword by)
Call Number: 639.9 Watson
Memoir of environmentalist Paul Watson who recounts his 25 years on the front lines in the war to stop the slaughter of the Canadian harp seal.



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Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
Call Number: Fic Huxley
A satirical novel about the utopia of the future, a world in which babies are decanted from bottles and the great Ford is worshipped

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The Story of Stuff - Annie Leonard
Call Number: 306.4 Leonard
Why is it cheaper to replace a broken TV than repair it? Why do we toss out cell phones when they still work? What is the cost in health and quality of life for all those who work in factories producing the cheap goods we buy? Annie Leonard explains how the stuff people use every day is destroying the world, describing the waste and environmental damage that is created by the production, distribution, consumption, and disposal of material objects.

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The Botany of Desire - Michael Pollan
Call Number: 306.4 Pollan
Traces the history of four domesticated species, the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato, from the plant's point of view and discusses how they have been cultivated to fill the human need and desire for sweetness, beauty, intoxication and control.

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Bottlemania - Elizabeth Royte
Call Number: 333.91 Royte
An investigation of bottled water that discusses the science, politics, economics, and environmental issues of the industry. Also looks at tap water vs. bottled water, the water wars in Frryeburg, Maine, global warming and the water supply, the water supply of New York City and how it gets there, and companies that bottle water such as Nestlé Waters North America, Poland Spring, Pepsi-Cola, Pure Mountain Springs.

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Corpse - Jessica Snyder Sachs
Call Number: 363.25 Sachs
Examines how entomologists, anthropologists, biochemists, and botanists are becoming invaluable in solving murder cases by using their skills in understanding the clues found in plants, chemicals, and insects found near a murder victim's body.

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A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson
Call Number: 500 Bryson
Nature and science writer Bill Bryson examines some of mysteries of science, and attempts to understand not only what scientists know, but how they know it.

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What If? - Randall Munroe
Call Number: 500 Munroe
Hypothetically speaking, what if? What if we drained the oceans? What if you could pitch a baseball at the speed of light? How much Force power can Yoda output? What are the odds of meeting your soul mate? Entertaining, deeply researched, here are the answers

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The Double Helix - James D. Watson
Call Number: 576.5 Watson
A personal story by James Watson of the race to identify the building blocks of life. With Francis Crick, the pair revolutionized biochemistry when they solved the mystery of the structure of DNA, and were awarded the Nobel Prize for their efforts.

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Your Inner Fish - Neil Shubin
Call Number: 576.8 Shubin
Why do we look the way we do? Were our hands once fish fins? Our heads long-extinct jawless fish? And why does the human genome look so similar to those of worms and bacteria? How can we find out about our bodies if 99 percent of the animals that existed back then have been dead for a very long time? Enter the paleontologist and the fossil record.

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Rats - Robert Sullivan
Call Number: 599.352 Sullivan
Rats live in the world precisely where humans do; they survive on the effluvia of human society; they eat our garbage. While dispensing gruesomely fascinating rat facts and strangely entertaining rat-stories, Sullivan gets to know not just the beast but its friends and foes: the exterminators, the sanitation workers, the agitators and activists who have played their part in the centuries-old war between human city dweller and wild city rat.

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Stiff - Mary Roach
Call Number: 611 Roach
Explores how human cadavers have been used throughout history, discussing how the use of dead bodies has benefited every aspect of human existence.

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Gulp - Mary Roach
Call Number: 612.3 Roach
Can constipation kill you? Why doesn't your stomach digest itself? How much can you eat before the stomach bursts? What happens to the meal you ate?

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Phantoms in the Brain - V. S. Ramachandran
Call Number: 612.82 Ramachandran
Dr. Ramachandran recounts his experiments with patients who have bizarre neurological disorders. These experiments have shed new light on the architecture of the brain, and what these findings tell us about who we are; how we construct our body image; why we laugh or become depressed; why we may believe in God; how we make decisions, deceive ourselves and dream; perhaps even why we're so clever at philosophy, music and art.

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Being Mortal - Atul Gawande
Call Number: 616 Gawande
Practicing surgeon Atul Gawande examines the limitations and failures of medicine in reference to aging, frailty, and end-of-life care and decisions.

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Better - Atul Gawande
Call Number: 616 Gawande
Dr. Atul Gawande explores how doctors struggle to achieve optimum performance in the face of obstacles, recounting true stories of doctors trying to do right by their patients in the face of insurmountable challenges and conditions.

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot
Call Number: 616 Skloot
Examines the experiences of the children and husband of Henrietta Lacks, who, twenty years after her death from cervical cancer in 1951, learned doctors and researchers took cells from her cervix without consent which were used to create the immortal cell line known as the HeLa cell; provides an overview of Henrietta's life; and explores issues of experimentation on African-Americans and bioethics.

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Frankenstein's Cat - Emily Anthes
Call Number: 616.02 Anthes
Peril or promise? Fact or fiction? What does biotechnology really mean for the world's wild things? What are we doing with the latest scientific knowledge? What happens when we take bio-engineering a step further and clone our pets or genetically modify zebra fish into candy-colored pets, or pigs to fit in your handbag? Explores the genetic engineering of animals, including cloning endangered species, animal prosthesis, and engineering disease-resistant livestock.

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Complications - Atul Gawande
Call Number: 617 Gawande
The author, nearing the end of eight years of training in general surgery, contemplates the nature of modern medicine, discussing the fallibility of doctors, the mysteries and unknowns of medicine and the struggle to know what to do about them, and the issue of .

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The Pig Who Sang to the Moon - Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
Call Number: 636 Masson
Combining history, literature, anecdotes, scientific studies, and his own experiences, the author shows that farm animals do indeed have feelings and are far from being dumb. Looks at the emotional lives of chickens, cows, dogs, ducks, geese, goats, sheep, and especially pigs. Other topics include agribusiness, depression in animals, the domestication of animals, factory farming, Indian culture and animals, the maternal-child bonds of farm animals, playfulness in animals, animal stereotypes, vegetarianism, and vegan-ism.


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