It is hard to choose a favorite among Gould’s witty elucidations on evolution. This one includes a fabulous analogy of “excellence” as found in baseball. It also includes an incredible analysis of statistics as opposed to statistical analysis.
Using the lens of art and literature, this book illuminates the conflicted identity of America as a pastoral utopia versus an industrial giant. While literary criticism is often left behind after grad school, Marx’s book—through its astute and useful observations based on centuries of serious writing—has maintained a very long shelf life for me.
The power of keen observation of natural phenomena informs this influential book, which stresses the ways in which structure and mechanics play a role in how living things find their form. What structure junky could resist discussions of spherical tetrahedrons, soap bubbles, or the delicate skeletal patterns found in radiolaria? Even though the science behind it has since been updated, Thompson’s book remains full of wonders.
A finely crafted argument making a case for natural selection and evolution that also lays out the difficulties with the theory. It is fascinating to get a sense of Darwin’s struggles at the points where there are missing pieces to the puzzle.
The book that laid the groundwork for understanding the ethical dimensions of our modern relationship to the natural environment. In one poetic chapter, the author must cut down an old oak that has been struck by lightning. As he cuts, he recounts eras of landscape history, moving backward through time as he saws through the growth rings of the tree.