Jump to amazon.com

Mr. Ulrich's

Back to Home

READING LIST

"I am not a speed reader. I am a speed understander." –Isaac Asimov

Where do I get some of the strange information I share in class?
I do a lot of traveling but, I also do a LOT of reading.

Some of you might be interested in the books I have read this year.

I update this list rather often so check back soon!

For more information, click on the author for each book.

What I've read recently What I read last year Books by/about women in science Other fabulous books The Archive

Comments welcome!! (click here)

Got a book you think I might want to read? Lemme know (click here)

What I'm reading now:
Griftopia
By Matt Taibbi Not for the faint-of-heart. This book looks into the role of the financial industry in the recent economic meltdown. Mr. Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone so he's not an industry insider. This makes the language, though rather coarse in some places, approachable by the lay reader (that's you and me). Now I know what a "credit default swap" is. You should too.

What I've read recently:
You Are Not A Gadget
By Jaron Lanier  Mrs. St. Johns's class was reading this one and she lent me a copy. Certainly food for thought although I think he makes a rather tenuous equation between people and software and then bases quite a bit on that relationship. Not one of my more favored reads..

Crab Wars
By William Sargent  Here's another suggestion from Mr. Paskell. I never thought about how important horse shoe crabs were. Basically, anyone whose been poked by a needle in the doctor's office has been on the recieving end of the benefits of these ancient decapodans. Who'd a thunk?

Every Living Thing By Rob Dunn  This one came from Mr. Paskell, a most excellent student-teacher that I worked with Spring '09. It gives a fabulous recounting of many of the pioneers of biology and taxonomy whom we briefly talk about in class. I always like hearing the back-story of some of those characters, Leeuwanhoek, Darwin, and the like. Interesting lives they led.

The Geography of Bliss By Eric Weiner  Here's another suggestion from Miss Law. Mr. Weiner is kind of a grump and I guess I am as well. Maybe that's why Miss Law gave it to me to read. Mr. Weiner travels around the world investigating the nature of happiness from country to country and culture to culture. Far more intriguing than I thought it would be. I am a grump.

The Omnivore's Dilemma By Michael Pollan I absolutely love Mr. Pollan's writting.  He really gets you to think about the food we put into our bodies and how the culture of producing and consuming that food has changed.  If you liked Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, you'll love this one.

Born Standing Up By Steve Martin  I needed some light reading.  My fiance had bought this one for her aunt and I ended up reading it before it was wrapped as a gift.  Not uproariously funny but interesting to read up on the development of a "wild and crazy guy".

This Is Your Brain On Music By David Levitin  Mr. Finch, the middle school band director, told me about this one. A short, understandable introduction to music theory makes up the first few chapters. Later chapters deal with how our brains actually perceive and process musical information. Great for anyone who thinks about how they think.

Books by/about women in science:
Women often offer a different approach to problems and issues. Science is all about the non-biased, multi-perspective study of phenomena. We need more women scientists.

Woodswoman By Anne Labastille Another of Ms. Law's reading suggestions. An autobiographical account of how Dr. Labastille builds and lives in a remote cabin in the Adirondack bush. Written in the late 70's, it is rife with robust anthropomorphisms and anthropocentrisms I would not expect from a contemporary ecologist. It does make me want to head into the wilderness though.

Silent Spring By Rachel Carson  A classic in nature literature, this book was written in the late 50's-early 60's so some of the technical material is dated but, this book opened the eyes of a generation to what was (is) happening to the ecosystem around us.

A Feeling For The Organism: The Life of Barbara McClintock By Evelyn Fox Keller  There just aren't enough women in science. Ms. McClintock is responsible for describing much of what we know about modern genetics. Click here for more info on Barbara McClintock.

Rosalind Franklin and DNA By Anne Sayre  I have to admit, I have not read this one. Although I have studied Ms. Franklin's contributions to the development of the discovery of the structure of the DNA molecule, I am shamefully unaware of details of her life. This one is on my (very long) "to read" list.

 

Other fabulous books:
Jayber Crow By Wendell Berry I've read some of Mr. Berry's essays. This is my first of his novels. It tells the story of a small town barber in rural Kentucky. My housemate, Leigh, loves Wendell Berry but she's from Kentucky.

The Glass Castle By Jeannette Walls If you think you've had it bad, read this book. It is horrifying and uplifting. I was assigned this book for a graduate class but didn't end up having to read it. I finished it anyway.

The Shame of the Nation By Jonathan Kozol Another in a growing list of Kozol books on racial issues in inner-city schools. His writing style is smooth and enjoyable but the topic is maddening. Yep, I had to read this for a graduate class.

Life of Pi By Yann Martel Several of my friends have been reading this one and suggested it to me. An interesting tale of an Indian man who finds himself adrift in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. It is  an interesting read, especially the twist at the end. I won't let the Bengal tiger out of the bag but, the whole force of the book as a work of fiction stabs through with a brief, single paragraph towards the end. Beautiful.

The Education of a WASP By Lois Mark Stalvey I read this one for a class in racism and sexism. It is an autobiographical journey of a classic, white, Anglo-Saxon protestant as her eyes are opened to the issues she thought no longer existed. She is made painfully aware that her world  has been an insulated from the realities of racism, sexism and several other "-isms".

In Cold Blood By Truman Capote A classic, American writer, this is the book that put Truman Capote in the spotlight.  This non-fiction novel describes the mass murder of a family in rural Kansas. If you're looking for splatter-gore writing, however, this is not it.

The Portable Henry Rollins By Henry Rollins If you are looking for a positive message, go somewhere else. This is most certainly not it. It is however a real and heartfelt collection of journal entries, short stories and poetry. I grew up listening to this guy shred with Black Flag and then Rollins Band. He is now almost better known for his spoken word stuff. Very heavy; very powerful.

Freakonomics By Steven Levitt and Stephan Dubner An amazingly insightful breakdown of some of the numbers involved in society and the decisions we make. The economic equivalent of the old "flap of the butterfly wing on one continent causing a hurricane on another" thing. Eyebrow lifting and chock full of cool conversation pieces.

The Third Chimpanzee By Jared Diamond Another work of geological proportions. As with his other book Guns, Germs and Steel, This one examines the evolution and origins of language and art as properties of humans. Once again, not an easy read but the material is impeccably researched and wonderfully written. Dense and absolutely fabulous.

The Secret Lives of Lobsters By Trevor Corson This one was fun...really. Not just because I'm a biology nerd. A journalist "embeds" himself in with lobster fishermen as they prove their ability to conserve as well as sustainably harvest their quarry .

Surviving The Extremes By Kenneth Kamler M.D. If you ever wondered what is going on in the body when a person pushes themselves in extreme environments. A fabulous trip through human physiology and adventure. You may second guess that career as an astronaut after reading this one. Very cool.

The Agile Gene By Matt Ridley I learned more about genetics in the first one hundred pages of this book than in 6 years of college. It includes some of the latest findings in genetics. I found the material actually easier to digest than the previous book by Matt Ridley (see below). 

**A Short History Of Nearly Everything By Bill Bryson Have you ever wondered how scientists know what they know or even what they know? Mr. Bryson, though not a science academic, wrote this book to deal with both of these questions and, consequently, has produced this book which is chock full o' scientific explanation that you don't need a degree to understand. Plus, he's a funny guy. He touches on everything from the origins of the universe to the origin of Homo sapiens. This is a good one for any curious mind. Check out A Walk In The Woods; another one of his books on the list.

The Poisonwood Bible By Barbara Kingsolver This is quite possibly the greatest book I have ever read. It's certainly up there on the list. A great book written in the voices of the four daughters and wife of a southern Baptist missionary as they move to the Belgian Congo during their "independence" movement

Watership Down By Richard Adams I don't often read books more than once. This book is exceptional in all cases. I remember the day I finished it for the first time in perfect detail. It's that good. Don't even bother with the cartoon movie from Disney.

The Blind Watchmaker By Richard Dawkins Mr. Dawkins also wrote "The Selfish Gene" which I admittedly have not read yet. This book deals with the process of evolution and the evidence of a universe without design. Not easy reading but very informative.

Neuromancer By William Gibson  If you're into scifi, I cannot recommend this book enough. Its's relationship to the realities of cyberspace given when it was written is uncanny. Very cool book. Read his other stuff too.

The Real Frank Zappa Book By Frank Zappa with Peter Occhiogrosso  Mere words cannot convey the respect I have for Frank Zappa musically and otherwise. Do yourself a favor and listen to a variety of his music (especially Hot Rats, my favorite) and find out about his life. He is even more interesting than the lame rumors about his weirdness.

Ishmael By Daniel Quinn  I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. This is one of the most insightful books on our present ecological condition from a very different perspective. PLEASE READ THIS BOOK!!!

Encounters With An Archdruid By John McPhee  This book is actually three stories. David Brower, one of the most militant conservationist in the world, takes three different men on three different wilderness adventures. The interesting part is that each of the three men are users and abusers of the environment. Staunch environmentalist meets staunch anti-environmentalist. Interesting stuff. No, they don't beat each other up.

The Naked Ape By Desmond Morris   An objective zoological assessment of Homo sapiens sapiens. This book tries to describe humans as an alien from another planet would do.

How They Do It By Robert A. Wallace  Anyone who has had me for the Reproduction and Development mini-course might be interested in where I get my information on the bizarre reproductive strategies of other organisms. This is one of my primary resources.

New Guinea Tapeworms and Jewish Grandmothers By Robert Desowitz  A very understandable book about parasites and parasitic diseases. A whole chapter on poop! Very cool.

A Walk In The Woods By Bill Bryson   This is a great book about a couple non-athletic dudes who try to hike the 2160-mile Appalachian Trail. Hilarious and meaningful.

Rule Of The Bone By Russell Banks   Not a science oriented book. Its about a young boy growing up under adverse conditions in upstate New York. Follows his coming of age. A great read!

The Monkey-wrench Gang By Edward Abbey   The chronicles of a group of "eco-terrorists" who take protection of the desert environ to the extreme by sabotaging development projects, blowing up bridges (without people on them. They don't kill people). Edward Abbey is known for his interesting and often insightful (incite-ful?) sayings. Here's a few of 'em.

The River Why By David James Duncan  Anyone who has gone fishing will appreciate this one, although you don't have to be an angler to get a kick out of this one. The fictional autobiography of a devout fly-fisherman. Hilarious.

Animal Dreams By Barbara Kingsolver This novel is about a young woman who returns to her home town in New Mexico to find a new career as, of all things, a biology teacher. She ends up doing a lot of soul searching too.

Guns, Germs and Steel By Jared Diamond A truly scary book. I got this one from Ms. Law. Not an easy read but a fabulous overview of the evolution of society and its ills.

Driving Mr. Albert:A Trip Across America with Einstein's Brain  By Michael Paterniti This story is actually true! It seems that when Albert Einstein was autopsied, the pathologist, Dr Thomas Harvey, removed Mr. Einstein's brain and just took it. This is the account of the author driving Dr. Harvey from New Jersey to California to bring the brain to Einstein's grand-daughter. Read this one, and you'll learn about more than Einstein's brain!

A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the Baboons By Robert Sopalsky  Two themes in this one. Field studies with baboons in Kenya and Dr. Sopalsky's travels around east Africa. Very humorous and informative.

The Jungle Books By Rudyard Kipling Often listed as a single story, this is actually a collection of short stories about Mowgli, a boy raised in and by the jungles of India. I was lucky to find an old edition of this one with the original illustrations. I am a huge fan of the Disney film (the original cartoon) and was glad to see how closely the film follows the short stories.

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal By Eric Schlosser
Don't get me wrong. I eat at Wendy's every once in a while but, you should be an informed eater. This is kinda scary stuff. Knowledge is power.