Authors: Cecie Starr, Christine A. Evers and Lisa Starr
The study of any machine, living or otherwise, is a challenge unless it includes the appreciation of composite parts. Biology Today and Tomorrow without Physiology has attempted to provide just that. While consciously excluding what many would argue are the “essentials” of biology, Lisa Starr and her co-authors offer a whistle-stop tour of life on Earth, from atoms to biospheres, for those who don’t have time to memorise long descriptions of organs and biological processes. For that reason, this book cannot be considered a stand-alone study guide but it certainly presents a compelling introduction to biology, illustrated with originality and style throughout.
Employing a refreshingly novel structure, each chapter is introduced via a current media topic or cultural interest, which sets the scene for further investigation. Topics such as energy and metabolism, and population ecology are explained, rather unusually, without reference to physiology, yet the authors succeed in informing and engaging the reader. Chapters are concluded in an interactive style, with a brief summary, a “self quiz” and a critical-thinking section, and there are “digging into data” sections for those interested in pursuing original research. Deploying imaginative analogies throughout, the text is easy to follow and memorable, although some of the content could confuse non-specialist readers, who may need additional explanation to fully grasp the subject.
Contemporary in its approach, content and artwork, this book offers an undergraduate an alternative to the heavy, descriptive textbooks on many reading lists. This approach, however, may come at the expense of the breadth and detail students often require. The absence of physiology renders it incomplete for the purposes of today’s biosciences student, and with a price tag beyond the budget of many young people, it may well be passed over in favour of a more complete edition. That is unfortunate, as the artwork and diagrammatic representations are far beyond the quality found in most textbooks.
For those with an interest in biology but an aversion to weighty and prescriptive textbooks, Biology Today and Tomorrow without Physiology offers an engaging, concise look at the subject. That said, undergraduates searching for a stand-alone study text should probably look elsewhere.
Who is it for?
Students with an interest in biology and working at introductory level.
Would you recommend it?
As an introduction to biology, yes. As a core text for undergraduates, no.