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The Machinery of Life
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51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
The Machinery of Life is the best book on molecular biology I have ever read. If you have ever looked into a microscope and saw a blob an wanted to see further into that blob this is the book for you. Microscopes can only go so far. This book goes all the way down to the atom then back up to the small molecule then big molecule, then macro molecule, then even a near atomic understanding of a cell. The tone is clear and the grand architecture of the cell's machinery is masterfully explained as well as illustrated. I bought two copies. One for me and one to give to friends. This is a great book to give to your parents or grandparents who want to know what you do at work if your work in molecular/cellular biology or even immunology.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on October 14, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
David Goodsell's Machinery of Life, is by far the best introduction to molecular Biology that I have ever come across. This book approaches the daunting and at times intimidating subject of molecular biology with simplicity and eloquence. Life inside a cell is so small and hectic that most of the time it is near impossible to fully comprehend what is occurring, but Goodsell's use of images make cellular life much easier to understand. As reviewers have mentioned above the illustrations in this book are what makes it a truly magical read. The illustrations are so powerful and engaging that they help the reader take knowledge of cell and transform it into a true overall understanding of the happenings within a cell. Whether it be simple pictures of protein folding, or a more involved look at the way in which DNA winds itself within the cell, it is clear that after seeing the pictures ones understanding is significantly enhanced. In addition, Goodsell uses very simple writing in his descriptions, and provides many examples. Because of this he does a truly great job in not losing the reader in a topic which can become very dense and difficult to grasp. In all, this book is really great, if you want to know about molecular biology or just know more about it this book is for you.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The Machinery of Life (2nd Edition) is an excellent introduction to molecular biology. The book uses concise text and beautiful illustrations to reveal the mechanisms of the molecular machines in every life, making you wonder at the achievements of these invisible molecules.

The unique features of this book are the watercolor paintings that display the cellular interiors with all the molecular machines presented with scientific rigor. These paintings can be seen as the "snapshots" of the cell at high magnification (1,000,000X). The author carefully chose the composition so that the desired molecular machines and the relationship between them are clearly revealed. Some paintings are more than snapshots: they are smartly designed to show certain processes occurring in the cell, such as the death of a cell and the life cycle of a virus. These paintings can be thought as movie frames that are seamlessly fused together.

Besides these paintings, space-filling computer renderings are used to illustrate the detailed structures and functions of the molecular machines. Two kind of styles are used. One is the unique style used by the author for the Molecule of the Month series at Protein Data Bank (PDB). Molecules rendered with this style has a hand-drawing appearance, and blend seamless with the watercolor paintings. The other style is commonly used by scientists to illustrate the atomic structures and interactions of small molecules. Personally I think these renderings are too computer-like, and do not fit in very well with other illustrations. But this is a very minor complaint.

Dr. Goodsell is a master of using color to present scientific images. The colors are chosen so well that on the one hand the information is clearly communicated, and on the other hand the illustration are pleasant to eyes.

Overall, this is a wonderful book. I have been a fan for Dr. Goodsell for a long time, collecting many of his articles and drawings. And this book certainly makes me happy because of its interesting contents, beautiful illustrations, and affordable price. Anyone who is interested in the molecular biology or the visual presentation of biomolecules should read this book.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I will start with the punch line: this is a spectacular book! I stumbled across it as I was looking for a basic (read: useful, but not overwhelming) introduction to cells and their biology/biochemistry. I was not disappointed. Goodsell has managed to both convey the elegance and the complexity with which cells operate, and do so in a way that leaves one craving more information. The strength of this book is easily its readability (clear language and meaningful pictures).

All of the chapters are interesting and enjoyable, but three of them stood out to me in particular. Chapters 6, 7, and 8 (The Human Body, Life and Death, and Viruses, respectively) were my favorites. I now have a much richer appreciation for the intricate dance those cells perform to cause that motion. I also understand better the amazing repair and defense mechanisms my body employs, as well as the need for that nimble defense (bacteria and viruses are crafty organisms!). And seeing muscle cells, viruses, and repair proteins "in action" is sure to leave a lasting impression.

My only complaint is that the letter designations in most of the pictures are too small and do not stand out. I had a bit of trouble finding several of them in some of the busier pictures. I am sure that if I had a more significant background in biology, I would have had an easier time recognizing pieces called out in the figure captions, but the extra time spent searching the beautiful pictures was by no means wasted!

(this review is for the corrected, second edition - the one from 2010)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
If you are looking for a book that will help you understand molecular biology, David Goodsell's The Machinery of Life, is the book for you. This book uses detailed and clear images to illustrate what goes on inside a cell. These images also include great captions to explain the process that is being depicted. In addition to the wonderful images, Goodsell's use of analogies, simple terms, and in depth explanations make The Machinery of Life a book that could easily be read by beginners in the Biology department. Once you pick up this book, you will not be able to put it down because the pictures are very captivating, as well as the narration.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Machinery of Life was an interesting, and descriptive book that gave a great introduction to molecular biology. It has great pictures for an overall overview of the molecules that orchestrate the processes of life. The book does a great job in introducing the types of molecules in the cells. The pictures are vivid and give a clear idea of what is happening or what something looks like. The text was easy to read and didn't contain too many difficult words. I feel like I learned more from reading this book than I did when I read the 2000 page biology textbook. This book hits the important topics and gives amazing pictures that create a clearer understanding.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I am a current student at Wake Forest University, and this was the textbook used in my First Year Seminar Class. This book is basically an overview of every little part in the cell. It will show you all of different machines, but it does lack in going in to depth of each. I do not think Goodsell wrote this book with the intention of doing that. I think that he is just giving an insight in to the cell so that we can dig deeper in our own research. Overall, this is a great book for introductory cell biology.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Reading this book has been a great experience. The frequent detailed and annotated drawings that span the whole page and often even two pages are very intricate and mesmerizing. The replication cycle of a virus in a human cell stretches over two adjacent pages and is explaned in a very comprensible manner in the extensive notes below. A journey through a part of the enormous human cell following the assemby of antibodies spans several pages of large colorful drawings with interesting annotation that are sometimes a little overwhelming. The illustrations of E. coli (as the one shown on the cover) is simply beautiful and intriguing.

Throughout the book the drawings are kept in consistent scale which makes it very easy to compare proteins and biochemical machines.
The text starts with a clear introduction to the main components of any cellular machine. The introduction serves well to prepare even readers just starting out in cellular biology to appreciate the explanations that follow on.

The book never felt like a lecture even though often more than just purely descriptive information was provided. With the book covering many different types of cellular machines both in microbes and human cells, and exposing mechanisms related to all kinds of interaction with these machines, it serves as a very lively and motivating introduction that luckily doesn't stop at the surface.

Sometimes I would have preferred to be given a little more information on how exactly this or that protein performs certain tasks. However, considering the complexity of many of the processes shown, this is not actually a bad thing.
This book has sparked my interest to read up on some of the presented processes, e.g. protein folding, structure and function. Having read this book -- and often simply looked at the illustrations therein for minutes -- I know that learning more about this fascinating hidden world can be very enjoyable and is absolutely worth the time (and money) spent.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I learned more from this little slim book then I have from chapters and chapters and chapters of cell bio books. The author has fabulous computer-generated space-filling models that really make it clear how the cell works. The illustrations are the best part of the book, but the writing is also very good. It's full of common-sense, molecular biology thinking, and really gives you INTUITIVE insight into what is really a very complex topic.

I do wish the text didn't look like it had been generated from a bad Unix manual. A little decent typography would have helped the readability and approachability to be better. That said, it's a minor complaint. Buy this book. Excellent.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The Machinery of Life by David Goodsell is an amazing textbook on Molecular Biology. However it is only as amazing, as how many biology terms you already know. The book has amazing pictures that show great diagrams of molecules, viruses, etc.; but half of the time you aren't really sure about what he is saying because he assumes that you already have a quite a bit of knowledge about biology. For those looking to learn Molecular Biology in a more in-depth way, and already knows some of it, then this is the book for you!
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