20 May 2013

A shelf of living science


  • The Mystery of the Periodic Table by Benjamin D. Wiker
  • Always Inventing: A Photobiography of Alexander Graham Bell by Tom L. Matthews
  • Bomb by Steve Sheinken
  • Ordinary Genius: Albert Einstein by Stephanie Sammartino McPherson
  • The Chemical History of a Candle by Michael Faraday
  • A Little History of Science by William Bynum
  • A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking with Leonard Mlodinow
  • Dr. George Washington Carver by Shirley Graham and George D. Lipscomb
  • Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity by Robert Cwiklik
  • Uncle Tungsten by Oliver Sacks
  • The Mould in Dr Florey's Coat by Eric Lax
  • Michael Faraday: Father of Electronics by Charles Ludwig
  • Isaac Newton: Inventor, Scientist and Teacher by John Hudson Tiner
  • George Washington Carver: Man's Slave becomes God's Scientist by David Collins
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • Longitude: The true story of a Lone Genius who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of his Time by Dava Sobel
  • A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionised the Cosmos by Dava Sobel
  • A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock by Evelyn Fox Keller
  • The Monk in the Garden: The Lost and Found Genius of Gregor Mendel, Father of Genetics by Robin Marantz Henig
  • The Boy Scientist: From Gallileo to Einstein and with Do-It-Yourself Experiments Included by John Lewellen

This shelf may not be a pretty as the previous two, but it contains some particularly interesting books. I've been doing a bit of planning for Jemimah's secondary school science, so our shelves of living science books are getting a bit of attention right now.

Have any of you gone textbook-free through to Year 12? I'm going to try.



  1. Did you read the YR5 bio of Isaac Newton in Great Astronomers? How does that compare with the one you listed? I liked it at first and then we were lost by the end.

  2. What a great list! My son is very interested in science and it can be a challenge to find appropriate living books for him to read.

    Now I just need something about the Puritans. :)

  3. This is an interesting concept - no textbooks. I sort of like the idea of textbook free { in my mind }, but absolutely terrified of it in practice. I dunno, maybe I just love textbooks and rely upon them a bit too much? I can see how it might be possible - if one had a really good range of living books, well up until the senior years, then you might have to get one. Something to think about as I travel on.

    How do you envision year 11 and 12 being played out in the book department?

  4. Have you read The Mystery of the Periodic Table yet? I have it on my Book Depository wishlist but have been nervous of getting it in case it isn't as good as I hope it is.

  5. I have. I used it this year, AO6 for science, and it is marvellous. Highly recommended.

  6. I'm going to come visit and steal some of those...and no. I'm an ex-science teacher, so I have stacks of textbooks!

    Oh and you guys would love A Chemy Called Al (and it's maths buddy A Gebra Called Al) by Wendy Isdell!!!

  7. Thanks Jeanne and Ingi. Am off to place an order for those books. The Chemy Called Al is on special ... who can resist that!

  8. I found your list interesting and will certainly purchase some of them I don't have. I have not tried the textbook free approach but certainly do supplement with 'living' books.

    Does it concern you that some of the facts in the some of the books you have listed are debated? Do you plan to discuss these? Are you planing on giving them to her to read or will you read them together aloud?

    Will you supplemnt your studies with multi media as well, such as DVD's? I am assuming you will do a lot of first hand investigations. It sounds exciting!

    Sorry if you have answered these questions elsewhere. I have been thinking about science in highschool a lot and have been tempted by the idea of doing my own curriculum instead of using textbooks, my online search brought me here. I found your plans very interesting.

  9. Oh and another question are you trying to line this up with the new Australia Curriculum and/or NSW BOS syllabus (not sure if you are in NSW)? That would be very exciting to see someone do this or is your priority following the AO agenda (which I think has been adapted some to fit in with the US system??).

  10. Kelsey, I'm in Victoria, and have no plans to coform to the ANC unless I absolutely have to. I do look at what is in the NSW science texts, in case my daughter chooses to go to school at some stage, but my priority is to cover science in a logical and interesting order using CM principles. AO are currently working on a living science plan, but it is still in the works,
    I do cover controversial issues in science with my daughter, especially when it comes to evolution. You'll find further posts on this.


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