Ever since the beginning of recorded time (well, since the 1960s), the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Leicester has given all new students a reading list (pdf) of “good books” we think they would benefit from reading. Whether they read them is not assessed directly, and the idea of a reading list is one of the few things about our degree which has not changed since the beginning. But giving students a printed list of books in the week they arrive at university is a bit, well, 1960s. Do they read any of them, or even remember having received the list in the hurly burly of fresher’s week? To be honest, we didn’t really know, so we asked them – and it turns out that they don’t. In response, we put together Project SOAR, which has two parts – a face to face book group for our students, and a website available to everyone: SciReadr.com.
Books on the website are organized according to our degrees (Biochemistry, Genetics, etc). Sadly, we no longer offer a Botany or Plant Science degree, although these subjects do feature in our teaching of course. And a number of books on the site will be of interest to those with a botanical mindset, such as The Naturalist on the River Amazons by W.H. Bates, and The Power of Movement in Plants by Charles Darwin. However, it has not escaped our attention that these botanical offerings are not, shall we say, particularly contemporary! Will they compete for student attention with the Richard Dawkins and Steve Jones offerings on the site? I fear not.
So if you feel it is important to stress the significance of modern plant science, or the fascination of botany, on young minds, we would appreciate it if you would leave your suggestions for suitably engaging books in our Suggestion Box. Let’s catch ’em while they’re young.
Nick Harberd’s “Seed to Seed: The Secret Life of Plants” (2003) was also on the reading list at some point but it seems to have been lost over the years – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Seed-Secret-Life-Plants/dp/074758561X# Nick was at the John Innes and is now the Sibthorpian Professor at Oxford, and the book is an interesting journey through the science of Arabidopsis. With diary types of entry, and ramblings between the field and lab., the volume certainly makes the potentially obscure science very easy to come to grips with, taking a novel and personal approach.
Thanks for that Pat, I’ll add it to the list.
This one is on my list to read ‘when I have some spare time!’ so though I cannot testify as such I think it could appeal to students: Richard Mabey (2010) Weeds: How vagabond plants gatecrashed civilisation and changed the way we think about nature
Also whilst the following recommendation is really a story verging on fairytale (and not of the scary brothers Grimm ilk) I think it conveys the importance of plants: Jean Giono (1995) The man who planted trees
Thanks for the recommendations Zoë. Let us know what the Richard Mabey is like 🙂
I love The man who planted trees, but not as much as the story around the story with so many people believing it to be true: