A Summer Reading List for Science Teachers

Summer can be a time to read enjoyable books that can give you lesson ideas you can take back to the classroom.

By Lynsey Peterson


summer science reading list

During the summer, I enjoy my time off, but can’t help but let my thoughts wander back to the classroom. At the beach, I collect shells and evidence of plants and animals for classification lessons.  At the lake, I wonder about nonpoint pollution from the surrounding land. On mountain hikes, I find unusual rocks and minerals for labs. The curse and joy of being a teacher is that we’re never really off of the job. Even my summer reading is linked to my chosen profession. 

I never have enough time to read during the school year, so I love to catch up on my reading list during the summer. The following are books that you will enjoy, but will also increase your understanding of science and biology. Then, you can take your new-found knowledge back to the classroom with some fresh inspiration for lessons that incorporate these topics.

1. A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold is one of my all-time favorite books. I first read this one in college, and I still have the same copy, all dog-eared and worn.  I love that the chapters are interrelated but also independent. It allows you to read and meditate on one each night before bed. It’s the best book available on conservation biology as far as I’m concerned.

2. An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales by Oliver Sacks is a wonderful look into neurological disorders, such as Tourette’s syndrome. The stories are easily readable and help readers to understand more about the complexities of the human mind. 

3. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson changed the way we think about chemicals and food chains. Her work is still applicable today as we witness unintended consequences of chemical exposure.

4. The Diversity of Life by Edward O. Wilson chronicles Earth’s biodiversity and the threats that humans pose. You could pair this up with On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin and get a much deeper understanding of evolution.

5. Why Elephants Have Big Ears: Understanding Patterns of Life on Earth by Chris Lavers gives fascinating biological explanations that you’ll use in class discussions from now on.

6. Not Exactly Rocket Science by Ed Yong is a compilation of contemporary scientific discoveries that is well written and easy to understand. Ed Yong also writes a blog by the same name as the book at Discover Magazine.

7. Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson is a humorous and informative look at the history of the universe, including that of living things. If you enjoy this book, try some of Bill Bryson’s other books.

8. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond has changed the way that I think about humanity. It has also changed the way that I teach environmental issues and human evolution.

9. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan is a look at the food chains that sustain human beings in the modern world.  An excellent introduction into the organic and local food movements.  

10. The Botany of Desire: A Plant's Eye View of the World also by Michael Pollan makes you think differently about agriculture and human selection of food crops.  A must-read for plant enthusiasts.

11. Why Don't Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom by Daniel T. Willingham incorporates scientific understanding of the brain into education and gives teachers ways to use that knowledge to better engage students in learning.