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Book Club for Anatomy & Physiology Professors

by Kevin Patton

Book ClubBooks for A&P Professors

The A&P Professor Book Club is a collection of books useful and interesting to teachers of human anatomy & physiology curated by Kevin Patton.

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Human Errors book

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Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes

by Nathan H. Lents

I’ve just started reading this book by Nathan H. Lents. He’s a biology professor and you can really tell. Because we all know, if you’re a regular follower of The A&P Professor, you know that good teachers have to be good storytellers, and Nathan Lents is a good … he’s a great… storyteller, and I’m really enjoying this story he’s telling in this book.

Just to give you an idea of how he frames this story, when he talks about human errors, he’s talking about the fact that the human body is not perfect in terms of its structure and its function, that we do a lot of things, well, certainly well enough to survive as a species, but it’s not perfect. There’s still a lot of room for more efficiencies, and some parts of our body are prone to certain dysfunctions and so on.

His point that he’s making in this book is that that’s the way evolution works. A lot of us as humans, not necessarily those of us who are biologists, but humans in general tend to think of humans as sort of the quintessential organism that is the perfection of evolution, the best, most efficient, most whatever, hyperbolic being that evolution has produced. He’s pointing out that, no, that’s not how evolution works. It can’t work that way.

He’s got three categories of errors, if you want to call them that. This is what he calls him for the sake of telling his story. Three categories. The first category that he talks about are aspects of our structure and function that evolved in a world that is very different from the one we live in. Given our modern environment, given our modern culture, given our modern way of life, our diet and so on, things don’t always work out as well as they should based on the fact that we’re eating, and living, and moving around differently than we evolved to do. With evolution, it sometimes takes a very, very long time, and so therefore not everything can change as quickly as we are changing in our environment and in our habits and so on. So that’s one category of issues that he talks about.

Another category of issues that he talks about is the idea that we haven’t completely adapted to certain functions. In evolution, things keep getting redesigned as conditions change. Even though, for example, we have evolved certain structures of our skeletal system, and our muscles, and some other things that allow us to walk on two limbs rather than four limbs like our ancestors did evolutionarily speaking, even though that has happened, that doesn’t mean that it happened suddenly or that it happened in the most efficient way possible. If we were just starting from scratch and an engineer was designing things, it could be a lot more efficient and a lot less prone to some of the injuries and other dysfunctions that happen. His point is is that, yeah, we’re adapted, but not necessarily adapted in the best way.

Then, he’s got a third category of human errors, as we’re calling it in the title, that are due to really just the limits of the evolutionary process. Usually, evolution occurs in just very tiny steps, and it takes a very, very long time. Maybe in a million years certain of our structures and functions will be more efficient than they are now, but probably not. That’s because over time there are just some things that we can’t do because it’s just these tiny changes that happen one on top of the other, happen on top of the other. You can’t necessarily just jump to the most efficient formation or the most efficient arrangement that there is.

I’m not doing a very good job of explaining his story because it’s not my story. It’s his story. I think the best way to learn about this, and I think it’s something that, for me at least, it’s really informing how I understand human structure and function. It is certainly going to affect the way I tell my story coming from the angle that I’m coming from, which is just learning the basic structure and function of the body, the story I’m telling to my students. I suggest you listen to his story and see how that affects your story. The only way to do that is to get the book.

This recommendation was made in the Preview to Episode 54 of The A&P Professor podcast.

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Prime Mover

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Prime Mover: A Natural History of Muscle

by Steve Vogel

Recently, I was on a call with a listener from my office. If I’m ever talking to any of you on the phone for more than about a minute, I’m going to pull the Swiffer out and start dusting my bookshelves. I have lots of bookshelves in my office, with lots of books on them. All of which gather what seems like more than their fair share of dust. So I’d just hung up with my caller and finishing up that last shelf in the bookcase when I notice a book I’d not looked at in a long time. It’s called Prime Mover: A Natural History of Muscle and it’s written by By Steven Vogel.

And I smiled, because even though it was ten years ago, I started remembering how much I liked the book and how much it helped me with my teaching of anatomy and physiology.

As you can tell from the title, it’s all about muscle. And muscle is an important character in the story we tell our students about the human body. The whole first half of the book or so tells that story, but taking quite a bit more time and care with it than we typically do in our A&P course. So that part of the book was really helpful to me to see how this guy, who’d done a lot of research on muscles and spent a lot of time working out a good way to tell the story of muscle, laid everything out for the reader.

I had a vague recollection that I’d underlined a bunch of passages and dog-eared a bunch of pages, but when I thumbed through the book the other day, it was unmarked. Then I remembered that I’d stuffed a bunch of notecards in the book and jotted notes as I read instead of marking up the book.

So the fact that I took notes tells you that I found it valuable. But not just the first part of the book that really was a long and interesting story about the structure and function of muscle. The back half of the book, which focused a lot on how we use our muscles for varying tasks that humans do, was also interesting and useful. It even talked about how the domestication of certain animals has a lot to do with how we humans use our muscles.

Besides giving me an opportunity to refresh my learning of muscles, it gave me things that I could bring into my own telling of the story. It also gave me a lot of background and context that I may not bring into my course, but is there for me in case I do need it. And if I never really NEED it, it’s still an enjoyment for me. And it feeds into my joy and amazement regarding the structure and function of the body.

Regular listeners know that I’m all about approaching teaching as form of storytelling. And Steven Vogel tells a great story about muscle. And reading his version of the story helps improve my version of the story.

This recommendation was made in the Preview to Episode 53 of The A&P Professor podcast.

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Heart: A History

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Heart: A History

by Sandeep Jauhar

The title of this book seems like it would say it all, and it kinda does. But it’s a bit different–and a bit better–than I first thought by just reading the title. It’s an interweaving of Jauhar’s personal and family history, from his grandfather’s early death from a cardiac episode through his training and experience as a cardiologist, with the story of how all of humanity has understood and related to the heart–both metaphorically and as an organ.

It is fascinating to read about the people who made great breakthroughs in visualizing the heart and measuring its functions, who broke taboos or simply just overcame the fear and reluctance to make bold experiments, to develop some of the common life-prolonging cardiac procedures of today. He also uses this background to discuss the limits of health technology and the role of our own life choices in heart health.

This kind of book could potentially be dry and, well, boring. I’ve read some of those. Well, I read the first part of them, at least. But this one truly is engaging. Frequent listeners of this podcast know that I like a good story. And you know what? Sandeep Jauhar can tell a great story. For anyone teaching the biology of the heart, that is anyone teaching anatomy & physiology, this book is not only an enjoyable entertainment–it’s a great resource for enriching the stories of the heart that we share with our students.

From the editor:

For centuries, the human heart seemed beyond our understanding: an inscrutable shuddering mass that was somehow the driver of emotion and the seat of the soul. As the cardiologist and bestselling author Sandeep Jauhar shows in Heart: A History, it was only recently that we demolished age-old taboos and devised the transformative procedures that have changed the way we live.

Deftly alternating between key historical episodes and his own work, Jauhar tells the colorful and little-known story of the doctors who risked their careers and the patients who risked their lives to know and heal our most vital organ. He introduces us to Daniel Hale Williams, the African American doctor who performed the world’s first open heart surgery in Gilded Age Chicago. We meet C. Walton Lillehei, who connected a patient’s circulatory system to a healthy donor’s, paving the way for the heart-lung machine. And we encounter Wilson Greatbatch, who saved millions by inventing the pacemaker―by accident. Jauhar deftly braids these tales of discovery, hubris, and sorrow with moving accounts of his family’s history of heart ailments and the patients he’s treated over many years. He also confronts the limits of medical technology, arguing that future progress will depend more on how we choose to live than on the devices we invent. Affecting, engaging, and beautifully written, Heart: A History takes the full measure of the only organ that can move itself.

This recommendation was made in the Preview to Episode 52 of The A&P Professor podcast.

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Trail Guide to Movement

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Trail Guide to Movement: Building the Body in Motion

by Andrew Biel

This book is recommended by TAPP Radio listener Margaret Reece the preview episode for Episode 51. She writes, “I just listened to Episode 47 of your podcast and I could not agree more with you that teaching is creative story telling. I would like to recommend a book for your reading list for A&P teachers that creatively tells an important story about the human body. I just listened to Episode 47 of your podcast and I could not agree more with you that teaching is creative story telling. I would like to recommend a book for your reading list for A&P teachers that creatively tells an important story about the human body. The book is “Trail Guide to Movement, Building the Body in Motion” by Andrew Biel. It is published by Books of Discovery, Boulder Colorado. To be transparent, I have the book because the marketing group for the publisher approached me to write articles for a website that they have in development to promote another of their textbooks.

Books of Discovery textbooks are targeted to students in training as therapists. But I think this particular text would be an asset for anyone teaching introductory A&P. Trail Guide to Movement describes how to build a human body from scratch in a way that it can stand and reposition itself.
During the author’s body building process, students come away with an understanding of several concepts that they find difficult, or worse, BORING.

Among topics covered are the importance of the fascia to body movement, the use of the body’s planes and axis in descriptions of the direction of body movements, the importance of joint shape, mobility and stability, and the biomechanics of movement and posture.

The illustrations in this book by Robin Dorn of the body’s construction crew in action create an interesting story of the components necessary for human beings to do all of the things that they do.”

From the editor:

Join author Andrew Biel on a unique and fascinating journey as he helps you build — step by step — a human body in motion! Instead of dissecting the body into smaller, isolated pieces, Trail Guide to Movement takes a unique approach of building the body into larger, interconnected components. He asks the reader to join him as an active participant in building the body from scratch. The journey in this book begins by designing four key structures for movement: connective tissue, joints, muscles and nerves. Then, after applying some bio-mechanical principles, the reader puts the body to the test by exploring the concepts of posture and gait. Trail Guide to Movement is written with the same encouraging voice and subtle humor as the iconic Trail Guide to the Body, making the study of human movement easy to understand, captivating, and memorable.

This recommendation was made in the Preview to Episode 51 of The A&P Professor podcast.

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zombie book

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Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?: A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain

by Timothy Verstynen & Bradley Voytek

This book is recommended by TAPP Radio listener Mindi Fried the preview episode for Episode 47. She says, “I love this book. It is written in a very engaging way and this book was what sparked the idea for my Zombie Project. Which, if you were at HAPS [Annual Conference] and went to my workshop this year [2019], you learned a little bit more about. It’s basically trying to use the idea of zombies and what’s working and what’s not working in zombies to teach A&P. This book really goes into different parts of the brain and why they are working or not working in a zombie. So… it is a fantastic book it’s a really good read and I recommended highly.”

From the editor:

Even if you’ve never seen a zombie movie or television show, you could identify an undead ghoul if you saw one. With their endless wandering, lumbering gait, insatiable hunger, antisocial behavior, and apparently memory-less existence, zombies are the walking nightmares of our deepest fears. What do these characteristic behaviors reveal about the inner workings of the zombie mind? Could we diagnose zombism as a neurological condition by studying their behavior? In Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?, neuroscientists and zombie enthusiasts Timothy Verstynen and Bradley Voytek apply their neuro-know-how to dissect the puzzle of what has happened to the zombie brain to make the undead act differently than their human prey.

Combining tongue-in-cheek analysis with modern neuroscientific principles, Verstynen and Voytek show how zombism can be understood in terms of current knowledge regarding how the brain works. In each chapter, the authors draw on zombie popular culture and identify a characteristic zombie behavior that can be explained using neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and brain-behavior relationships. Through this exploration they shed light on fundamental neuroscientific questions such as: How does the brain function during sleeping and waking? What neural systems control movement? What is the nature of sensory perception?

Walking an ingenious line between seriousness and satire, Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep? leverages the popularity of zombie culture in order to give readers a solid foundation in neuroscience.

This recommendation was made in the Preview to Episode 47 of The A&P Professor podcast.

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Salt: A World History

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Salt: A World History

by Mark Kurlansky

If you’re worth your salt as a teacher, you’re often struggling to come up with informed answers to students questions . . . such as “is salt good or bad for you?”

In the typical A&P course, students get the message that sodium and chloride are essential to life. In fact, throughout the course they learn about many of the central roles these ions play in the function of the human body.

It’s no wonder that salt has played such a central role in human history. Which reminds me of a great book I listened to (it was the audio version) a couple of years ago. Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky ought to be on your list of “must read books for A&P professors.”

The book was recommended to me by my friend Michael Banks, who is a humanities professor turned administrator . . . it’s got to be a great science book if it is interesting to a humanities guy, eh? Well, he was right. It’s a gripping story of both the science of sodium chloride and it’s incredibly vital role to the development of human civilization. I know, it sounds nerdy to get excited over a book about sodium chloride . . . but if you read it, you’ll see why I liked it.

Besides learning about salt, you’ll also come away with an appreciation of the interconnectedness of things.

If nothing else, it will give you a lot of anecdotes and factoids that you can use in your A&P class.

One of the questions that I often get in class is, “if salt [or sodium] is so essential to life, why is it bad for you?”

Wow, what a great teaching moment . . . I can help bring the student to a higher level of thinking by dissecting the false choice of “good” and “bad” in this case and revealing the “gray.”

This recommendation was made in the Preview to Episode 45 of The A&P Professor podcast.

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Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

by Mary Roach

Krista Rompolski recently tweeted about possibly using it with A&P students. This book has been around for a while: about 15 years. Until Krista mentioned it, I’d kinda forgotten about it.

I have used this as an assigned reading for undergraduate A&P students and they loved it. I asked them to read it, then write a couple of page about what in the book struck them the most. What was particularly interesting to me is that their picks ranged all over the place. They loved, loved, loved this book. They were as surprised as I was that an assigned reading would be so well loved.

Starts out with practicing surgery on heads in a medical school. Talks about the history of dissection, the process of decay, how bodies are used for research of all kinds–taking beyond what we might expect, various aspects of how a body might be handled for funerals, what exactly is the point of death, and just all kinds of interesting stories and useful information.

One of the things I like about Mary Roach’s books, and I’ve read several of them, relates to today’s featured word of the day on Dictionary.com: expatiate, which means to move or wander about intellectually, imaginatively, etc., without restraint.

Informative and hilarious. for me, that’s all I need and want in a nonfiction book.

This recommendation was made in the Preview to Episode 44 of The A&P Professor podcast.

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Bergman's Anatomic Variation

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Bergman’s Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Human Anatomic Variation

by R. Shane Tubbs, Mohammadali M. Shoja, and Marios Loukas

I saw this book being discussed by Mike Pascoe and others in a Twitter thread not long ago and so I had to get a copy because I was just intrigued by this book called Bergman’s Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Human Anatomic Variation.

This is the third variation of that original book. It’s been really updated a lot and it’s turned into a full color encyclopedia as opposed to the original which was not in full color, and it’s now being edited by a group of three people who have a lot of expertise in not only anatomic variation but in anatomy in general. The current editors are R. Shane Tubbs, Mohammadali M. Shoja, and Marios Loukas. What they have done is they’ve organized all kinds of previously identified variations in human anatomy that have been documented and they’ve organized it, well sort of like most anatomy atlases region by region.

But it’s broken down into 118 chapters so it’s really easy to find exactly which part of the body you’re looking for if you want to see if … What variations occur in that organ or group of organs or if you’ve found a variation and you want to see if it’s already been identified in the literature and maybe how common it is or whether anybody else but you has ever seen it. It’s a really, really, really … That’s three reallys, comprehensive reference on the variation of the human body and I think it’s a great reference for A&P teachers and/or students of anatomy and physiology.

This recommendation was made in the Preview to Episode 43 of The A&P Professor podcast.

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Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning

by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, Mark A. McDaniel

To most of us, learning something “the hard way” implies wasted time and effort. Good teaching, we believe, should be creatively tailored to the different learning styles of students and should use strategies that make learning easier. Make It Stick turns fashionable ideas like these on their head. Drawing on recent discoveries in cognitive psychology and other disciplines, the authors offer concrete techniques for becoming more productive learners.

Memory plays a central role in our ability to carry out complex cognitive tasks, such as applying knowledge to problems never before encountered and drawing inferences from facts already known. New insights into how memory is encoded, consolidated, and later retrieved have led to a better understanding of how we learn. Grappling with the impediments that make learning challenging leads both to more complex mastery and better retention of what was learned.

Many common study habits and practice routines turn out to be counterproductive. Underlining and highlighting, rereading, cramming, and single-minded repetition of new skills create the illusion of mastery, but gains fade quickly. More complex and durable learning come from self-testing, introducing certain difficulties in practice, waiting to re-study new material until a little forgetting has set in, and interleaving the practice of one skill or topic with another. Speaking most urgently to students, teachers, trainers, and athletes, Make It Stick will appeal to all those interested in the challenge of lifelong learning and self-improvement.

This recommendation was made in the Preview to Episode 42 of The A&P Professor podcast, as well as in the episode notes of many previous episodes.

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Skeleton Keys: The Secret Life of Bone

by Brian Switek

Brian Switek, who has a paleobiology background, gives a little bit different perspective than I think many of us who are teaching A&P have. I think that works out great, because he’s telling the story of bone from a slightly different angle than many of us would be coming from on our own, and I think that’s going to give us a fresh perspective, and a different way of looking at many different aspects of bone.

In this book, Brian Switek is telling the story of bone, and of course, because he’s writing a book, it is more obviously written in a storytelling format than we may use in teaching, and that’s part of what makes it so interesting. But for me, the most interesting part is how he is approaching even some of the basic ideas of bone that we’re teaching in our own class. That is, the basic structure of bone, the basic function of bone, how bone interacts with other parts of our body, and what role it plays in helping us do what we do as humans to stay alive. What this book has done for me is give me some other ways to look at that story, that I will likely be incorporating in my own story of bone.

So, not only is it a good refresher of the basics of bone, but because it’s being told in a storytelling format and from a different angle than I would have come from, it’s going to be a great resource for, I think, all of us who are teaching A&P—to hear it from somebody else’s perspective. But not only that, there’s a lot of the paleobiology stuff and so on that I didn’t know, or I was just barely aware of, and didn’t realize how important it is in the story of bone. I might be adding a little bit of that into my own story in A&P.

Besides being a good addition to any A&P teacher’s professional library, this book is an excellent one to recommend to students who have an interest—or as a reading assignment for all students.

This recommendation was made in the Preview to Episode 41 of The A&P Professor podcast.

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The Secret Language of Anatomy

by Cecilia Brassett, Emily Evans, Isla Fay, forward by Alice Roberts

The Secret Language of Anatomy has been described as an initiation into the mysterious subject of anatomical terminology. Yeah, it is. I think our students would really get a kick out of this book. But so do I. So it’s really not just for the uninitiated. I think even we A&P teachers will not only enjoy it, but also look at the whole idea of anatomical terminology in new and deeper ways. Ways that will freshen and improve our teaching,

So what exactly is this little book? Well, first, it is little. Way smaller than that A&P book laying on your desk there.

But mainly, it’s a collection of drawings uncover the close relationship between the parts of the human body and the evocative names given to them by anatomists. Decoding the body’s secret language brings to life the history of anatomical terms, and explains why some words are used to describe very different organs and structures.

For example, there’s a page with a drawing of the heart with the atria labeled, alongside a sketch of a building’s floor plan with an atrium labeled. And there’s the tectorial membrane of the inner ear alongside a sketch of a tectum, that is, a roof. Don’t get me started, there’s page after page of these.

This is a cool book that should be on every A&P teacher’s desk. Not just because it’s fun for us, but I think it’d be a great teaching tool, as well.

This recommendation was made in the Preview to Episode 40 of The A&P Professor podcast.

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The Gift of Pain

by Paul Brand & Philip Yancey

Originally titled The Gift Nobody Wants, this book is the story of Dr. Paul Brand. Brand grew up in a family of British medical missionaries in India, then went to London for medical school. There, he became fascinated with the sense of pain—and was surprised how little science knew about it. His story, then, is a life-long quest to understand the physiological, clinical, and human aspects of pain.

The title is based on Brand’s realization that pain is an important alarm mechanism that protects us. It’s annoying—sometimes anguishingly so—to get our attention and hold it when we are sick our injured. Pain thus alerts to injury so that we can avoid additional injury and so that we can avoid disrupting the healing process. Brand’s life work with leprosy patients (and later, diabetic patients) who feel little or no pain in areas of their body helped him understand that the lack of pain can be a curse—thereby casting pain as truly a gift.

Besides the interesting life story of Dr. Brand and his fascinating exploration of the vital function of pain, this book is an inspiration to any health professional (or health professional in training). Brand again and again emphasizes the importance of recognizing the humanity of any sick or injured person we care for by embracing our own humanity moment by moment.

I think any A&P teacher or A&P student can benefit by reading The Gift of Pain. In fact, I’ve assigned this to my own students for reading in the past.

This recommendation was made in the Preview to Episode 39 of The A&P Professor podcast.

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Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning

by James Lang

Research into how we learn has opened the door for using cognitive theory—that is, what I usually call learning science—to facilitate better student learning. But that’s easier said than done.  A lot of books about cognitive theory introduce radical but impractical theories, failing to make the connection to the classroom. In Small Teaching, James Lang presents a strategy for improving student learning with a series of modest but powerful changes that make a big difference—many of which can be put into practice in a single class period. These strategies are designed to bridge the chasm between primary research and the classroom environment in a way that can be implemented by any faculty in any discipline, and even integrated into pre-existing teaching techniques. Learn, for example:

  • How does one become good at retrieving knowledge from memory?
  • How does making predictions now help us learn in the future?
  • How do instructors instill fixed or growth mindsets in their students?

Each chapter introduces a basic concept in cognitive theory, explains when and how it should be employed, and provides firm examples of how the intervention has been or could be used in a variety of disciplines. Small teaching techniques include brief classroom or online learning activities, one-time interventions, and small modifications in course design or communication with students.

I like the fact that this book is a quick and easy read, explaining important ideas very clearly. A&P professors get a lot of practical tips for making small changes to our courses that can powerful effects on student success.

This recommendation was made in the Preview to Episode 38 of The A&P Professor podcast.

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Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk

by Massimo Pigliucci

More and more parents are refusing to vaccinate their children for fear it causes autism, though this link can been consistently disproved. And about 40 percent of Americans believe that the threat of global warming is exaggerated, despite almost universal consensus in the scientific community that manmade climate change is real.

Why do people believe bunk? And what causes them to embrace such pseudoscientific beliefs and practices? Noted skeptic Massimo Pigliucci separates the fact from the fantasy in a really entertaining exploration of the nature of science, the borderlands of fringe science, and—borrowing a famous phrase from philosopher Jeremy Bentham—the nonsense on stilts.

Presenting case studies on a number of controversial topics, Pigliucci cuts through the ambiguity surrounding science to look more closely at how science is conducted, how it is disseminated, how it is interpreted, and what it means to our society. The result is in many ways a “taxonomy of bunk” that explores how science and culture intersect. As I’ve mentioned in previous episodes, such intersections of science and culture are brought up in my own teaching of human anatomy & physiology. So this book is especially helpful for clarifying how that can be done effectively.

No one—not the public intellectuals in the culture wars between defenders and detractors of science nor the believers of pseudoscience themselves—is spared Pigliucci’s cutting and thorough analysis.

In a nutshell, Nonsense on Stilts is a timely reminder of the need to maintain a line between expertise and assumption. Yeah, it’s timely—even though it was first published almost a decade ago!

This recommendation was made in the Preview to Episode 37 of The A&P Professor podcast.

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The Core Concepts of Physiology: A New Paradigm for Teaching Physiology

by Joel Michael, William Cliff, Jenny McFarland, Harold Modell, Ann Wright

This book offers physiology teachers a new approach to teaching their subject that will lead to increased student understanding and retention of the most important ideas. By integrating the core concepts of physiology into individual courses and across the entire curriculum, it provides students with tools that will help them learn more easily and fully understand the physiology content they are asked to learn.

The authors present examples of how the core concepts can be used to teach individual topics, design learning resources, assess student understanding, and structure a physiology curriculum.

Although focusing specifically on physiology, I think it’s useful for those of us teaching combined anatomy and physiology. Besides giving a good foundation of concepts to be used in the physiology parts of the A&P course, it lays out the principles of teaching in a concept-based approach.

This recommendation was made in the Preview to Episode 35 of The A&P Professor podcast.

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Members of the American Physiological Society click here for a free digital copy of this book.

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The Physician

by Noah Gordon

Although this is a work of historical fiction, it contains a lot of factual information about what was known (or not known) about human structure, function, pathology, and health care during the European Dark Ages / Islamic Golden Age. So it will be of great interest to most A&P professors, I think. Even if you’re not reading it for the science history, it’s a great story.

An orphan leaves Dark Ages London to study medicine in Persia in this “rich” and “vivid” historical novel from a New York Times–bestselling author (The New York Times).

A child holds the hand of his dying mother and is terrified, aware something is taking her. Orphaned and given to an itinerant barber-surgeon, Rob Cole becomes a fast-talking swindler, peddling a worthless medicine. But as he matures, his strange gift—an acute sensitivity to impending death—never leaves him, and he yearns to become a healer.

Arab madrassas are the only authentic medical schools, and he makes his perilous way to Persia. Christians are barred from Muslim schools, but claiming he is a Jew, he studies under the world’s most renowned physician, Avicenna (Ibn Sina). How the woman who is his great love struggles against her only rival—medicine—makes a riveting modern classic.

This recommendation was made in the Preview to Episode 34 of The A&P Professor podcast.

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Improbable Destinies: Fate, Chance, and the Future of Evolution

by Jonathan B. Losos

A friend from my long-ago zoo-keeping days, Jonathan Losos has produced a major new book overturning our assumptions about how evolution works.

Earth’s natural history is full of fascinating instances of convergence: phenomena like eyes and wings and tree-climbing lizards that have evolved independently, multiple times. But evolutionary biologists also point out many examples of contingency, cases where the tiniest change—a random mutation or an ancient butterfly sneeze—caused evolution to take a completely different course. What role does each force really play in the constantly changing natural world? Are the plants and animals that exist today, and we humans ourselves, inevitabilities or evolutionary flukes? And what does that say about life on other planets?

Jonathan Losos reveals what the latest breakthroughs in evolutionary biology can tell us about one of the greatest ongoing debates in science. He takes us around the globe to meet the researchers who are solving the deepest mysteries of life on Earth through their work in experimental evolutionary science. Losos himself is one of the leaders in this exciting new field, and he illustrates how experiments with guppies, fruit flies, bacteria, foxes, and field mice, along with his own work with anole lizards on Caribbean islands, are rewinding the tape of life to reveal just how rapid and predictable evolution can be.

Improbable Destinies will change the way we think and talk about evolution. Losos’s insights into natural selection and evolutionary change have far-reaching applications for protecting ecosystems, securing our food supply, and fighting off harmful viruses and bacteria. This compelling narrative offers a new understanding of ourselves and our role in the natural world and the cosmos.

I think we A&P professors should be up to date in the current and emerging thinking in evolution to be fully informed about human biology.

This recommendation was made in the Preview to Episode 33 of The A&P Professor podcast. It’s a story (really, a series of stories) well told by a guy who has always been a great storyteller.

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The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell

by Rachel Herz

Why do some people like a certain aroma and others hate it? Is smell personal or cultural? How does it affect our choices and our actions?

The Scent of Desire is the definitive psychological study of the importance of smell in our lives, from nourishment to procreation to our relationships with other people and the world at large. Located in the same part of the brain that processes emotion, memory, and motivation, this most essential of senses is imperative to our physical and emotional well-being. It was crucial to our ancestors’ existence and it remains so today, profoundly shaping our emotional, physical, and even sexual lives.

One of the world’s leading experts on the psychology of smell, Rachel Herz investigates how smell functions, what purpose it serves, and how inextricably it is linked to our survival in this compelling, surprising, delightfully informative appreciation of the wonders of this sadly neglected sense.

This recommendation was made in the Preview to Episode 31 of The A&P Professor podcast. It’s one of my favorite books related to A&P. It has a lot of interesting biology of smell and olfactory perception and is a fun read!

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by Richard Restak

What if there were a pill that could change you from an introvert to the exuberant extrovert you always wanted to be? A capsule to make you more assertive, creative, or intelligent? What is you could “design” your own brain? Who would you be? Only a few years ago such possibilities seemed the stuff of science fiction, but in today’s laboratory remarkable new advances in brain research are making such transformations a reality.

In Receptors, famed neuropsychiatrist Richard Restek leads us on an exhilarating–and sometimes disquieting–scientific adventure into this bold new frontier. He shows us how break-through discoveries are enabling neuroscientists to decode the mysteries of the human brain, holding out the exciting possibility of relieving, and ultimately even curing, conditions such as memory loss, depression, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, and even Alzheimer’s disease. He documents the likelihood that in the very near future, it will be possible to alter our own brains, to choose the personality we want. How we cope with such godlike power is one of the fascinating questions he poses in this challenging and thought-provoking book.

From the levitating ointments of medieval “witches” to the magic mushrooms of southern Mexico, from the LSD of the psychedelic age to the latest discoveries of today’s psychopharmacologists, Dr. Restak provides a vivid and lucid account of humanity’s unceasing effort to understand and harness the powers of the mind–and the possibility that solutions to some of the brain’s deepest mysteries may be close at hand.

This recommendation was made in the Preview to Episode 31 of The A&P Professor podcast. Also, listen to Episode 29 for Kevin’s update in how receptors are involved in forming memories. I used to require my A&P students to read this book—and they loved it! You will, too!

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The Silent Teacher: The Gift of Body Donation

by Dr. Claire Smith

One single body donation could affect the lives of around ten million patients. Body donation is an amazing gift which enables doctors and healthcare professionals to understand the human body. Surgeons can refine existing surgical skills and develop new procedures to create better treatment for you. Dr Claire Smith goes through every aspect of donating a body, clearly describing what happens to a body once it has been donated, how it is used, how bodies are reassembled and then placed in coffins before cremation.

My first thought in reading this book is how my family may learn how the bodies of some of our loved ones—who were human body donors—were part of medical science and education. And to better understand the decision I’ve made to become a human body donor. But as I read the book, I couldn’t help but think how valuable this would be to A&P teachers, whether do human dissection or not, to help their students understand how anatomy is investigated and how medical and other health professionals are trained in some institutions. I think it’s also beneficial for A&P students, especially those looking forward to their first experience with a human body donor.

This recommendation was made in the Preview to Episode 30 of The A&P Professor podcast. Also, listen to Episode 29 for Kevin’s conversation with Aaron Fried, in which Fried discusses human body donors as our silent teachers.

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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. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance. This phenomenal New York Times bestseller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.

This book was recommended by Aaron Fried in Episode 30 of The A&P Professor podcast.

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The Anatomist

by Bill Hayes

The classic medical text known as Gray’s Anatomy is one of the most famous books ever created. And is well known to most A&P teachers.

In this adept work of creative nonfiction, Bill Hayes uncovers the extraordinary lives of the seminal volume’s author and illustrator while providing a “scalpel’s-eye” view into the ingenuity of the human body. It’s a story that many A&P teachers will enjoy—and find that it deepens their appreciation of anatomical illustration in general. It certainly will give context and background that can be shared with A&P students.

I was most fascinated with the story of the Henry Vandyke Carter, the illustrator of Gray’s Anatomy. That story gave me even greater appreciation of the amazing quality and accuracy of the images in the original book.

This book has been around for a while, but its a timeless story that does not lose its value. Listen to Episode 29 of The A&P Professor podcast for Kevin’s conversation with Aaron Fried, in which Fried discusses this book in the context of human body donors and anatomical illustrations made from human specimens.

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Internet Surf and Turf-Revealed: The Essential Guide to Copyright, Fair Use, and Finding Media

by Barbara Waxer and Marsha Baum

Make sure you and your students understand whose turf they are on when they surf the Internet for media! This one-of-a kind book provides important, easy-to-understand information on copyright laws and the fair use doctrine as they relate to Internet media. You and your students will also learn how to search for public domain media.

Over the years, I’ve used this book time and again to make sure I’m doing things properly and to help my own students develop skills informed by academic integrity.

This book has been around for a while, but its lessons remain valuable  Listen to Episode 28 of The A&P Professor podcast for Kevin’s conversation with author Barbara Waxer, in which she answers questions about using media such as illustrations, videos, and other content specifically in A&P courses.

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Understanding How We Learn: A Visual Guide

by Yana Weinstein  Megan SumerackiOliver Caviglioli

Educational practice does not, for the most part, rely on research findings. Instead, there’s a preference for relying on our intuitions about what’s best for learning. But relying on intuition may be a bad idea for teachers and learners alike.

This accessible guide helps A&P teachers to integrate effective, research-backed strategies for learning into their classroom practice. The book explores exactly what constitutes good evidence for effective learning and teaching strategies, how to make evidence-based judgments instead of relying on intuition, and how to apply findings from cognitive psychology directly to the classroom.

Including real-life examples and case studies, FAQs, and a wealth of engaging illustrations to explain complex concepts and emphasize key points, the book is divided into four parts:

  • Evidence-based education and the science of learning
  • Basics of human cognitive processes
  • Strategies for effective learning
  • Tips for students and teachers.

Written by “The Learning Scientists” and fully illustrated by Oliver Caviglioli, Understanding How We Learn is a rejuvenating and fresh examination of cognitive psychology’s application to education. This is an essential read for all A&P professors, designed to convey the concepts of research to the reality of a teacher’s classroom.

Although general in scope—aimed at students and teachers of all levels and disciplines—this book’s advice is directly and easily applicable to the anatomy and/or physiology course. Listen to Episode 27 of The A&P Professor podcast for Kevin’s conversation with the book’s authors!

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Last updated: October 24, 2019 at 11:56 am

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