Books for Microbiologists and Anyone Who Loves Science

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”  – Oscar Wilde

Microbiologists have an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Keep learning after you leave the lab by reading a book from this list curated by our team.

Non-Fiction

Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital by David Oshinsky

“Bellevue Hospital, on New York City’s East Side, occupies a colorful and horrifying place in the public imagination: a den of mangled crime victims, vicious psychopaths, assorted derelicts, lunatics, and exotic-disease sufferers. In its two and a half centuries of service, there was hardly an epidemic or social catastrophe—or groundbreaking scientific advance—that did not touch Bellevue.” Read more

Bloodwork: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution by Holly Tucker

“A riveting exposé of the fierce debates, deadly politics, and cutthroat rivalries behind the first transfusion experiments, Blood Work takes us from dissection rooms in palaces to the streets of Paris, providing an unforgettable portrait of an era that wrestled with the same questions about morality and experimentation that haunt medical science today.” Read more

Deep Life: The Hunt for the Hidden Biology of Earth, Mars, and Beyond by Tullis C. Onstott

“Deep Life takes readers to uncharted regions deep beneath Earth’s crust in search of life in extreme environments and reveals how astonishing new discoveries by geomicrobiologists are helping the quest to find life in the solar system.” Read more

Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters by Matt Ridley

“Arguably the most significant scientific discovery of the new century, the mapping of the twenty-three pairs of chromosomes that make up the human genome raises almost as many questions as it answers. Questions that will profoundly impact the way we think about disease, about longevity, and about free will.” Read more

I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong

“Every animal, whether human, squid, or wasp, is home to millions of bacteria and other microbes. Ed Yong, whose humor is as evident as his erudition, prompts us to look at ourselves and our animal companions in a new light—less as individuals and more as the interconnected, interdependent multitudes we assuredly are.” Read more

Infection: The Uninvited Universe by Gerald N. Callahan

“We use antibacterial soap to wash our hands, we swab doorknobs with antibacterial wipes, we pop antibiotics at the first sign of disease – all to avoid infection. But we are all infected. From before birth to after death, infection is what makes humans human.” Read more

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

“Geobiologist Hope Jahren has spent her life studying trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Lab Girl is her revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also a celebration of the lifelong curiosity, humility, and passion that drive every scientist.” Read more

Outbreak! 50 Tales of Epidemics that Terrorized the World by Beth Skwarecki

“Throughout history–even recent history–highly contagious, deadly, and truly horrible epidemics have swept through cities, countrysides, and even entire countries. Outbreak! catalogs fifty of those incidents in gruesome detail.” Read more

Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox

“Brenda Maddox tells a powerful story of a remarkably single-minded, forthright, and tempestuous young woman who, at the age of fifteen, decided she was going to be a scientist, but who was airbrushed out of the greatest scientific discovery of the twentieth century.” Read more

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem. For two thousand years, cadavers―some willingly, some unwittingly―have been involved in science’s boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. In this fascinating account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries and tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.” Read more

Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

“What happens when a person’s reputation has been forever damaged? With archival photographs and text among other primary sources, this riveting biography of Mary Mallon by the Sibert medalist and Newbery Honor winner Susan Bartoletti looks beyond the tabloid scandal of Mary’s controversial life. How she was treated by medical and legal officials reveals a lesser-known story of human and constitutional rights, entangled with the science of pathology and enduring questions about who Mary Mallon really was.” Read more

The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson

“It’s the summer of 1854, and London is just emerging as one of the first modern cities in the world. But lacking the infrastructure-garbage removal, clean water, sewers-necessary to support its rapidly expanding population, the city has become the perfect breeding ground for a terrifying disease no one knows how to cure.” Read more

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry

“At the height of WWI, history’s most lethal influenza virus erupted in an army camp in Kansas, moved east with American troops, then exploded, killing as many as 100 million people worldwide. It killed more people in twenty-four months than AIDS killed in twenty-four years, more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century.” Read more

The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus by Richard Preston

“A highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest suddenly appears in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. There is no cure. In a few days 90 percent of its victims are dead. A secret military SWAT team of soldiers and scientists is mobilized to stop the outbreak of this exotic “hot” virus.” Read more

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

“Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more.” Read more

This Is Your Brain on Parasites: How Tiny Creatures Manipulate Our Behavior and Shape Society by Kathleen McAuliffe

“These tiny organisms can only live inside another animal, and as McAuliffe reveals, they have many evolutionary motives for manipulating their host’s behavior. Far more often than appreciated, these puppeteers orchestrate the interplay between predator and prey.” Read more


Fiction

The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

“The United States government is given a warning by the pre-eminent biophysicists in the country: current sterilization procedures applied to returning space probes may be inadequate to guarantee uncontaminated re-entry to the atmosphere. Two years later, seventeen satellites are sent into the outer fringes of space to “collect organisms and dust for study.” One of them falls to earth, landing in a desolate area of Arizona. Twelve miles from the landing site, in the town of Piedmont, a shocking discovery is made: the streets are littered with the dead bodies of the town’s inhabitants, as if they dropped dead in their tracks.” Read more

The Jakarta Pandemic: A Post Apocalyptic/Dystopian Thriller by Steven Konkoly

“Cases of a highly lethal virus appear in major cities around the globe. Most ignore the warning signs. Alex Fletcher, Iraq War veteran, has read the signs for years. With his family and home prepared to endure an extended period of seclusion, Alex thinks he’s ready for the pandemic. He’s not even close.” Read more

Additional novels from Steven Konkoly’s post-apocalyptic series:

The Stand by Stephen King

“A patient escapes from a biological testing facility, unknowingly carrying a deadly weapon: a mutated strain of super-flu that will wipe out 99 percent of the world’s population within a few weeks. Those who remain are scared, bewildered, and in need of a leader.” Read more

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

“An account of the decade-long conflict between humankind and hordes of the predatory undead is told from the perspective of dozens of survivors who describe in their own words the epic human battle for survival.” Read more

Have you read a good book lately? Share your favorite titles in the comments section.

1 Comment

  1. Wilmer Tirado

    You can likely include Dan Brown’s Inferno in your fiction list.

    Reply

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