Many people are curious about the Human Genome (Project). The completion of the first draft probably represents bioinformatics’ coming of age as a discipline. The first couple of books are aimed at the intelligent layperson.

A gossipy and insightful account of the race to sequence the genome can be found in “The Sequence” by Kevin Davies [Weidenfeld; ISBN 0297646982]. Matt Ridley’s “Genome” [Fourth Estate; ISBN 185702835X] is both an interesting layperson’s introduction to the issues raised by the bioinformatic revolution and an overview of its biology and enormous scope. If I remember rightly, Ridley’s book received a slightly snooty review from Walter Bodmer. This is understandable, since his and Robin McKie’s excellent “pre-genomic” guide to the Human Genome Mapping Project, “The Book of Life” [Oxford Paperbacks; ISBN 0195114876] was undeservedly in a remainders bin when I bought my copy a couple of years ago.

If you are a non-biological scientist (or a non-scientist) and are hooked by these, why not go back to the “real beginning” of the race and read James Watson’s entertaining and indiscreet memoir of his and Francis Crick’s determination of the structure of DNA, “The Double Helix” [Penguin; ISBN 0140268774]—now updated with an introduction by media don Steve Jones.

Nigel Barber at Peterborough Regional College in the UK recommends Gary Zweiger’s “Transducing the Genome” [McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing: ISBN 0071369805]. The summary at Amazon makes it sound a tad pretentious, but all the reviews seem pretty positive so it might be worth a read.

If you are a quantitative scientist and would like a deeper knowledge of contemporary (molecular) biology, but you want to acquire it as painlessly as possible you could try the following:

  • Donna Rae Siegfried’s Biology for Dummies [Wiley; ISBN 0-7645-5326-7] is fun, well thought out and a lot more informative than the title might suggest. If only all biology textbooks were this entertaining and unpretentious.
  • If you already have some biological knowledge and would like to get a grip on modern biomolecular science then Richard J. Epstein’s Human Molecular Biology is an elegant, colourful and detailed guide.

There are two classic competing texts in cell and molecular biology which Maximilian Haeussler reminds me to include: Alberts et al‘s Molecular Biology of the Cell [Garland Science: ISBN 0815340729] and Molecular Biology of the Gene [Benjamin Cummings: ISBN 0321248643].

Bioinformatics Books

I’ve divided suggested reading into books of general interest, those best suited to people coming from a computational/mathematical background and books for biologists interested in bioinformatics. Links to other lists of bioinformatics books follow this section of suggested reading.

General Introductions

Computational/Mathematical aspects

Applying bioinformatics in biological research

Fiction