Some Recommended Books

Some Recommended Books

          Some of these books are books that have been the texts for this course. I list them with comments for my students, and for others who may be voyaging with us though not taking the course for credit at California State University, Los Angeles. There are many good textbooks available for the individual sciences that world building touches on. These books are intended to synthesize the information that world builders need specifically, and, in some cases, to give an overview to people who are just beginning to work in a particular area of science. These books are available from

Palmer, Douglas. (1999) Atlas of the Prehistoric World. New York: Discovery Books.
This beautiful book shows the development of life on earth from the earliest times.  It has many beautiful pictures, and is a treasure for learners of all ages.  The book also shows the positions of our drifting continents during the past 500 million years. 

  ISBN Number: 1-56331-829-6     Hardcover:  $35.00
  Also available at  Hardcover $24.50
and shipping

Ward, Peter Douglas & Donald Brownlee (2002) The Life and Death of Planet Earth: How the New Science of .Astrobiology Charts the Ultimate Fate of Our World.  New York: Henry Holt and Company.

This book is at once saddening and satisfying.  It tells the story of our world, its beginnings, and the rise and diversification of life.  Then it projects the possible course of our future, and the sliding of life backwards to more simple forms.  It gives several scenarios  for the processes that will precede the end of our world, when the expanding sun will gather the inner planets into itself.  It is an easy, enjoyable, and fascinating read.

  ISBN Number: 8-8050-6781-7     Hardcover:

Ward, Peter Douglas & Donald Brownlee (2000). Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe Copernicus Books.
This is a very interesting book that explores the evolution of our earth from the perspective of looking to see what elements and events made the evolution of complex life (animals) possible. Many circumstances, or the lack of them, would have made the development of a life bearing planet impossible. Pick up some interesting science concepts and facts while seeing how unlikely it is that we would be here at all!

  ISBN Number: 0387987010

Campbell, David G. (1992). The Crystal Desert: Summers in Antarctica Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
This is truly an enchanting book, a visit to Antarctica with a knowledgeable and thoughtful guide. Dr Campbell obviously loves this challenging land and its life forms, and he describes them vividly. He reveals the secrets of the adaptations of the plants and animals, and chronicles their life cycles. He knows the history of the continent, of the explorers who travelled to it, and of the commercial exploitation that followed. This book is a joy to read, and gives a vivid picture of an ecosystem that seems simple because it supports few species, yet reveals an amazing variety of ingenious adaptations.

ISBN Number: 69-x0-395-589

Gillett, Stephen L. (1996) World Building: A Writer's Guide to Constructing Star Systems and Life Supporting Planets. Cincinnati, Ohio. Writer's Digest Books.
This is a 'must-have' book. Dr Gillett has included and explained what we need to know about planet construction: the astronomy, the geology, and the meteorology, and how the choices that we make in those areas will affect the possibilities for living organisms on our planets. This is an interesting book with High School Level and above Math. We do need some mathematical formulas, and they are included, boxed off and explained, with diagrams. (If math frightens you, you can take on the formulas one at a time.) He defines words that will come up in further reading, and discusses the earth at various times in its history. He discusses the other planets in our solar system and includes a wealth of fascinating detail. You can order this one by phone! Enjoy!

ISBN Number: 0-89879-707-1

van Rose. Susanna. (1994) The Earth Atlas. New York, New York: Dorling Kindersley Publishing.
This is a good one. It is an illustrated book on geology, showing many pictures that explain the terms and show the sequential development of various kinds of rocks and mountains, how rivers change over time, and how erosion works. It is full of information, and the illustrations will give you inspiration, too, for your own planet. I bought this one! I think you will enjoy it. too!

ISBN Number: 1-56458-626X

Publishers Address: Dorling Kindersley Publishing.
95 Madison Avenue
New York, New York 10016      Cost: $19.95

Hoagland, Mahlon, Dodson,Bert, Hauck, Judith & Judy Hauck. (1995) Exploring the Way Life Works: The Science of Biology New York, New York: Times Books (A Division of Random House).
If you are even a little bit intimidated by organic chemistry, this book is for you. Excellent, playful illustrations and clear writing explain basic concepts that world builders need to understand. Seven chapters address patterns, energy, information, machinery, feedback, community, and evolution. There's a lot of information here, presented in ways that will make you smile. You will enjoy this book!

ISBN Number: 076371688X

See also a companion book: The Way Life Works: The Science Lover's Guide to How Life Grows, Develops, Reproduces and Gets Along    ISBN: 0812928881

Wilson., E.O. and Dan L. Perlman. (2000) Conserving Earth's BioDiversity with E.O. Wilson. Island Press. Covelo, CA.    CD-ROM: Mac and Windows

A "must have" resource for your classroom. Excellent information and presentation, very accessible and easily navigated. You and your students will love it and learn from it.

ISBN Number: 1-55963-773-0

 Teacher"s Edition: ISBN 1-55963-774-9

Cost: around $40.00,

Additional Thoughts:

There are some good books available. The Time-Life series on science is very good, well illustrated and described. If you are just starting in some area, you may find books with illustrations and drawings helpful. I do. Sometimes a book intended for children can be a really good introduction to an unfamiliar field. Trying to learn new vocabulary and new concepts together can be discouraging. Pick up ideas and basic vocabulary words in an easy format: then when you take on more difficult writing, you will feel comfortable.

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© 1997, 2003, 2004. Elizabeth Anne Viau. All rights reserved. This material may be used freely for instructional purposes but not sold for a price beyond the cost of reproduction. As a courtesy, please inform the author if you use it at Thank you!