The A&P Professor Book Club is a collection of books useful and interesting to teachers of human anatomy & physiology curated by Kevin Patton.
Click on each book cover for more details.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
by Rebecca Skloot
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
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.
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.
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.
Understanding How We Learn: A Visual Guide
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: May 31, 2019 at 21:02 pm