Can you recommend a good science book for college freshman?

Reply Wed 22 Dec, 2010 08:55 am
First, some clarification. I am not looking for a text but a popular book written for the "educated general reader" on science or a scientific issue.

Second, I want to encourage group or committee work and allow for a bit of public speaking as well as writing. In general, colleges want students to do peer editing and this seems a better vehicle than giving them anonymous copies of their classmates' papers (which does not work).

I teach developmental writing and first year composition. In general, most students in first year composition are assigned a single text (which can be novel or a work of non-fiction) as an "essay generator" and as an aid to helping them understand what they read.*

I remember without fondness my own English 101 class. Whether the entire freshman class used the same text or just the section I was in, I can not say. However, I hated spending a term with the book we used: a collection of essays on Mass Culture v. High Culture. I cried my way through several of the two 500-word essays we wrote each week. I would not inflict that experience on another person.

My solution is to offer a selection of what I call projects. In the fall, the selected projects were Shakespeare's Henry V; Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, Volume 1 (the two students who selected this dropped the class!); a collection of love poems; a collection of nature poems; the works of Bill Peet; Nineteen Eighty-Four; Brave New World.

I intend to revise the list for spring. To date, my list looks like this:

1.) the short stories of Eudora Welty
2.) Shakespeare's Twelfth Night
3.) Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
4.) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
5.) Beverly Cleary's Ramona Quimby novels
6.) Poems of love

I would like the list to include a popular book on science and perhaps a memoir or autobiography, if I can find one that is rather short,but, more importantly, interesting and relevant.

*Schools no longer emphasize reading as they did when I was a high school student. When I was in high school, we were expected to present our English teacher with six book reports during the first week of school. While we read books together in class (for example, during American Lit, the sophomore class, we all read The Scarlet Letter), we were expected to read one book each month of the school year and report on it. Some teachers did oral reports while others did short written reports based on a standardized form of their own composition.
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Reply Wed 22 Dec, 2010 01:52 pm
I teach mining geology and "Other courses". One of my favorite popularly written books is DNA by James Watson, (one of 3 wcientists awarded the Nobel prize for first describing the structure and bonding of DNA). His book is written from a valuable distance and is focused on the entire scope of DNA(what it is, who did a lot of work on it, what it does, and how we know). Its very accessible without being childish in it oresentation.

T Rex and the CRATER OF DOOM, by Walter Alvarez is a good discussion of the evidence that surrounded the discovery of a meteorite impact crater (and its consequences to ancient life),
Its written almost as an adventure tale.

The FEYNMAN LECTURES are also good but they presume a certain proficiency in math, even though they are popularly written.

EO WIlson-The DIVERSITY OF LIFE, IS a treatise, popularly written, about the web of life on the planet. WIlson is one of the worlds leding entomologists. He uses his specialty of the study of ANTS as a mere jumping off point to investigate life and its rise on earth.

There are others in each field but these are a few I like and have read more than a few times.
Reply Wed 22 Dec, 2010 03:53 pm
Just thought of "Why Big Fierce Animals Are Rare." Good book!

Reply Wed 22 Dec, 2010 11:12 pm
You are a treasure. I want to read the Alvarez book myself.
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Reply Wed 22 Dec, 2010 11:17 pm
Another book that sounds interesting. I almost think my granddaughter could read it.

One of the nice things about Amazon is being able to read reviews.
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