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I'm an engineer by training and teaching myself the basics of cell and developmental biology. I'm using Scott F. Gilbert's Developmental Biology and Alberts' Essential Cell Biology right now, and they are both great resources.

Can you recommend good books on similar topics that are written in a non-textbook format?

EDIT: For example, I found books like The Greatest Show on Earth, Extended Phenotype, and Nature via Nurture really useful to learn about the basics of evolution while I was reading Watson's Molecular Biology of the Gene. Are there similarly well-written books for cell biology, developmental biology, or biochemistry? I know this sounds broad, but I'm not asking for textbook recommendations. I'd like to read something that isn't a textbook alongside my current studies.

SECOND EDIT: I'd be like to extend this question to recommendations of broad review articles in Cell and Developmental Biology too. For example 'How do cells know where they are?' is an excellent article on different strategies cells may use to assess distance in a developing embryo.

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  • $\begingroup$ Cell Biology, Dev Bio and Bio Chem are three very vast topics. I presume you want a book separately for each one ? $\endgroup$ – Rover Eye May 2 '15 at 23:34
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, that's what I meant. $\endgroup$ – user1992705 May 3 '15 at 0:08
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    $\begingroup$ The two textbooks you mentioned are some of the best. Gilbert's is quite technical and assumes you have some background in molecular biology. It might be prudent to get a more introductory textbook in that case. $\endgroup$ – canadianer May 3 '15 at 4:47
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    $\begingroup$ Since when are book requests too broad? $\endgroup$ – AliceD May 3 '15 at 17:08
  • $\begingroup$ I don't find Gilbert's book hard to peruse at all since I've read Watson's Molecular Biology of the Gene. When I read Watson's textbook, books like The Greatest Show on Earth really helped put things in context. While I think Gilbert's Dev Bio is an excellent textbook and well-written, it has a great deal of detail. I would also like to read something that distills the key concepts. This is where something written in a non-textbook format would really help. $\endgroup$ – user1992705 May 4 '15 at 20:14
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For Biochemistry:

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For Molecular Genetics:

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For Developmental Biology:

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That last one, Life Unfolding, is really cool and I think exactly what you're looking for.

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Endless Form Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo introduces the reader to several classic embryology experiments and some key principles too.

I'll edit this answer when I find more books or reading material of this nature.

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I recommend Lehninger principles of biochemistry.

It is one of the best, most read, and referred books on Biochemistry.

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Please try reading 'Principles of development' by Lewi Wolpret. This book explains the general concepts in develpmental biology beautifully. Invertebrate models like dorsophilia and zebrafish are used as examples to simplify the concepts in developmental biology.

enter image description here

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Would you consider the New York Times a suitable level of detail (while admittedly not a book)? If so then you may want to peruse this collection: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/biology_and_biochemistry/index.html

You will have to be selective.

This was my first hit in Google searching for 'lay articles on biochemistry.' I would recommend my own textbook but it is aimed at 3rd year undergraduates, and would probably contravene the Biology SE rules.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks a lot for the NYT link. However, those articles are based more on relaying findings than explaining key principles. $\endgroup$ – user1992705 May 5 '15 at 1:55
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The Machinery of Life by David S Goodsell

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I just picked this up and haven't actually read through it yet, but it looks amazing. Very well illustrated with drawings and molecular models. It's also not overly technical. I don't have much to say in the way of a review, but there's plenty on Amazon. It sort of seems exactly like the book you're looking for.

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    $\begingroup$ I own that book, definately a nice read. David Goodsell is one of my favourite authors and a superb scientific illustrator, providing the reader with abundant and accurate representations of macromolecules atom-by-atom, which is vanishingly rare in biochemistry books. Check out "Bionanotechnology: Lessons from Nature", "Atomic Evidence" and "Our Molecular Nature" as well. $\endgroup$ – user38945 Apr 19 '18 at 9:48

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