I´m so, so sorry, I´ve been terrible at keeping up with my weekly posts, not just to your frustration, but also my own. If you´ve been wondering what´s been keeping me from finally writing something worthwhile your time – it´s the complexity of the new topic I´ve chosen. It´s one of the pillars of modern genetics and it´s making my brain hurt to understand the experiments. Thankfully, I´m in good company, because it took the scientific community over 40 years to wrap their heads around it and I´ve only been trying for 3 weeks now. I´ll keep at it, but till I can finally understand what the hell Barbara McClintock did in her cornfields and can explain it in a way that won´t make you, my dear reader, want to bang your head against a wall, I have some reading suggestions for you!
I was on a climbing trip about two months ago, heading to the Arapiles, the “best climbing location in the southern hemisphere”, if you believe the rumors spread about it here in Oz. It is a terrific place to go, and I fell in love with the color and the texture of the rock. But it´s a long car ride from Melbourne to the crag, so naturally, I overpacked in terms of trip reading. Two months later, I am pleased to announce that I´ve enjoyed all of the books more than enough to want to share the experience with you.
First of all, there is “The Last Unicorn”. No, I´m not into fictional writing all of a sudden. Instead, it´s a (non-fiction) adventure story of a bloke going on a very long hike into the Vietnam rainforest in order to find one of the most elusive creatures on the planet, the saola. If you´ve never heard of this animal before, that´s good enough a reason to pick up this book and read. It´s also a great hiking tale, filled with the usual hardships that tend to befall a semi-unprepared Westerner in a rainforest, spiced up with tales of natural history and conservation issues. Also, a book that made it onto the summer reading list of “Nature” is always going to be worth your time.
“Where Song Began” should have also made the “Nature” summer reading list. Have you ever wondered why Australian birds are so insanely cocky and aggressive? If you´ve never been in Oz before, probably not, but living here has taught me one thing: birds can be scary. Alfred Hitchcock “The Birds” kind of scary. The crazy thing? It´s all because of sugar. A tale on the evolution of songbirds, which turns the current concept of bird evolution (quite literally) on its head. (You´ll get that joke after you´re halfway through the book.) Unfortunately, European pigeons will seem even more unbearably boring than you ever thought they could be after this read.
Last but not least, I had the doubtful pleasure of being introduced to John Gray. As a scientist, reading his book “Straw Dogs” made my blood boil the first couple of chapters in. Step-by-step, he exposes the influence of religion and belief underlying my own scientific thinking. Every sentence has the potential to make your stomach (and your world) turn. If you consider yourself an enlightened, rational-thinking human being (and maybe even have a tendency towards arrogance like Richard Dawkins), it´s time for you to pick up this book. Read at your own risk, and when you do: take notes, and keep an open mind. It may be possible that this book can change your life.
Those would be my reading suggestions for you! Let me know if you enjoyed them as much as I did. And I promise: by the time you´ve read all three of these books, I should be done banging my head against walls in order to understand basic biological concepts. 😉