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The Way Life Works: The Science Lover's Illustrated Guide to How Life Grows, Develops, Reproduces, and Gets Along Paperback – November 17, 1998

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Amazon.com Review

Subtitled The Science Lover's Illustrated Guide to How Life Grows, Develops, Reproduces, and Gets Along, The Way Life Works is what happens when a biologist and artist share an interest in life from bacteria to humans, and collaborate on taking their knowledge public. The result is a most magnificent science book, devoted to the wonder and unity of the natural world. The chapters start with Patterns and Energy, continue with Information, Machinery, Feedback, and Community, and end with Evolution. Each is superbly written, delightfully illustrated, and supremely informative.

Take the chapter on energy and its explanation of ATP, a.k.a. the conversion of light energy into chemical energy. The metaphor is dance, with an illustration showing electrons as jitterbuggers in the Chloroplast Ballroom. The text explains that

as the lights spin and the band breaks into "Sugar Jump," the dancers go wild. Suddenly a bystander inspired by a couple on the floor gets dancing feet. This in turn excites a second bystander to dance and before long a chain reaction takes place, each new dancer energizing the next bystander.
It's a brilliant start to a lucid explanation of a subject that plunges many a biology student into a panic, here made so readily accessible that readers, ages 10 to 100, can come away with a working mental model of the process. And so it goes for division of cells, DNA double helixes, fermentation, and the adaptation of genes. Hoagland and Dodson have succeeded in producing that most beauteous of reference books, the resource that makes you interested in what you had thought was dull as dishwater, then, once you're hooked, raises your understanding to a high standard of comprehension. It's a truly laudatory work of science and art. --Stephanie Gold

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press; Ill edition (November 17, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812928881
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812928884
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.8 x 10.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #319,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Marco Ruiz on July 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
Style is awesome!. The graphics and analogies are so well done that almost anybody without previous biology knowledge can get the full picture of the basics (and even some level of detail) of molecular and cell biology after reading this book. The level of abstraction is so good that sometimes I had to stop to think about what I read to get the real dimension that the writers wanted to expossed. It is a real master piece describing life (as life and not as an specific species) in its full dimension. Congrats to the authors!, I have read so many books, but I can't remember one with such an in depth, simply and universal style. That book is worth far more than the $20 I paid for it.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 29, 1999
Format: Paperback
As soon as I browsed through this book at a local bookstore, I knew I had to have it. For visual thinkers, this book is a must. I've read about many biological processes for years but when I read this book I constantly find myself saying, "Aha! So that's what's happening." Very educational and enjoyable to say the least. It deserves 10 stars.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By b.vah on April 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
I've just terminated to read this book, and I think the authors have done a fantastic job. Explaining major biology themes in such a pleasant way is really wonderful. It's difficult to imagine a better introduction to biology !
The book explains what is life, how it produces energy, what is genetics,... Even evolution is covered in a very clear manner. Latest theories and thoughts about these topics are included, for example about the origin of life.
I have read some books on biology (I'm a mechanical engineer), and I think this one is the best to begin with. It's a great refreshing to see all these beautiful drawings (the work of Bert Dodson is great), and to read a text so sharp and clear (thanks to Mahlon Hoagland) !
A vital book for everybody amazed by life and biology, who feels some gap in his/her knowledge about the subject.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Geek Mom on August 15, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The illustrations and text are so clear at explaining the concepts of biology that I recommend this book to everyone I know with a high school kid. I used this as my basic text for a class for homeschoolers on cell biology. My little geek daughter has read and reread this book from the age of 8 or 9, and at the age of 12 (with some other study) got a 750 on the SAT II Biology test. Hoaglund really knows how to explain life science. I especially recommend the section explaining how life staves off entropy to allow building of complexity. I learned more from this little book than from high school Biology.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By "riclangley" on June 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book is a masterpiece. It opens up your eyes and your imagination in such a fation, you will understand many concepts that otherwise an ordinary person like myself couldnt put together sciencewise. Thanks so much to the Authors. Big talent.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 16, 1998
Format: Paperback
Not since Dr. Suess has someone managed to pack so much wisdom into an illustrated book. What McCaully's "The way THINGS work" did for the mechanical, this does for the NATURAL world: bring elegent, complex processes into focus with humor, simplicity and absolute love for the topic. Should be required reading for high school and college biology students. They'd learn more and LOVE more. The artist and author must have been telepathic to mesh together as well as thay did.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
A great book to read with wonderful cartoon illustrations. As a high school science teacher, I've also found this book invaluable for teaching hard to grasp concepts.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. Gonzalez on July 14, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book gave me far and away a much better education in the biological sciences than my 4 years as a pre-medical student at Duke University ever did. Awesome book.

My main complaint about the paperback edition is that they don't use the cover design that was on the original hardcover edition of this book when it first came out. This new design, it just plain sucks. It is plain and boring, and I hate it.
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