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The traditional biology degree will include, general biology, physiology, biochemistry, and genetics. Anything listed after genetics with the exception of the anatomy section can be considered electives, and you can go on to graduate level texts. I would assume that by the time you read biochemistry you have a knowledge of organic chemistry.

NEEDS TO BE ADDED: Evolutionary, Plant, and Ecology books. I do not know nor do I pretend to know anything about those subjects. If someone could add those books that would be great.

General Biology[]

General Biology consists of a brief introduction to two main fields of biology, Cellular and Evolutionary. Both Reece and Sadava do a wonderful job of introducing these concepts. You can start with either Evolutionary or Cellular, but a basic knowledge of general chemistry would help with cellular. Both these books also contain units introducing general physiology, which would also be good to go over, but not required.

  • Reece, Urry, Cain, Wasserman, Minorsky, and Jackson - Campbell Biology
    • Cellular (Unit 1, 2, 3)
    • Evolutionary (Unit 4, 5, 6, 8)
    • Physiology (Unit 7)
  • Sadava, Hillis, Heller, and Berenbaum - Life: the Science of Biology
    • Cellular (Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
    • Evolutionary (Part 6, 7, 8, 10)
    • Physiology (Part 9)


After an introduction to biology, you are now ready to learn some physiology. Physiology is actually very quantitative, but it is a very rewarding and interesting field. Physiology is broken into many different sub fields. I will attempt to organize them in autodidactic order.

Basic Introductory Anatomy and Physiology[]

This is a section on anatomic sciences and basic physiology. At my school this is mainly taken by nurses and other allied health students. It is good to read through if you are rusty. I have also included some texts that are used by medical students. This section can be skipped if you have no interest in human anatomy, or you just want to learn "traditional" biology.

Read Tortora and Martini, using Netter and Rohen as image references.

  • Tortora - Principles of Anatomy and Physiology
  • Martini, Timmons, and Tallistsch - Human Anatomy
  • Netter - Atlas of Human Anatomy
  • Rohen - Color Atlas of Anatomy
  • Moore, Agur, and Dalley - Clinically Oriented Anatomy (Read last, this is typically used for medical school anatomy)

Extra References (These were previously listed before I edited this wiki. I have no idea of their quality.)

  • Standring - Gray's Anatomy: The Anatomical Basis of Clinical Practice
  • Drake, Vogl, Mitchell - Gray’s Atlas of Anatomy
  • Tank - Grants Dissector (This is typically used as a lab manual in cadaver dissection. You won't need this unless you are in a lab setting. )

General Animal Physiology[]

General Animal Physiology is very similar to human physiology. This type of class is traditionally for biologists, but everyone can benefit from a good dose of general physiology. My go to text for this would be Sherwood. It is a fantastic and enjoyable read. I have not read Hill, but I heard it is good also.

  • Sherwood, Klandorf, and Yancey - Animal Physiology: From Genes to Organisms
  • Hill, Wyse, and Anderson - Animal Physiology

Medical Physiology[]

If you are a premed, nursing major, or someone interested in biological research dealing with humans, a grasp of medical physiology is essential. These are the texts that are used in most medical schools. If you read these, you will probably have more knowledge of human physiology than medical students! (Since they don't read texts, only outlines.) The most comprehensive and in depth physiology book that I know would have to be Boron. Hall comes in a close second, but I would read both. Reading through Mathews Biochemistry or Lehninger Biochemistry at the same times as physiology will help immensely.

  • Boron and Boulpaep - Medical Physiology
  • Hall - Guyton and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology
  • Costanzo - Physiology (Use this for summaries / quick review)


When reading biochemistry, a reading of a molecular biology text would also be very helpful in gaining more understanding. Voet is a demanding text, but if you get through it you will have an absolutely amazing grasp of biochemistry. Voet has a focus also on structural biology, which is a great field. Read Berg or Lehninger and then go on to Voet and you will enough knowledge to start reading biochemistry journals. By this time, I hope you have a good understanding of organic chemistry.

Read The Molecules of Life for an introduction to the structures of biological molecules and the physical chemistry behind biochemical interactions.

  • Kuriyan, Konforti, and Wemmer - The Molecules of Life
  • Berg, Tymoczko, and Stryer - Biochemistry [5th Edition]
  • Nelson and Cox - Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry 
  • Garrett and Grisham - Biochemistry
  • Voet and Voet - Biochemistry (Very dense with information)


The two introductory books you should look over are Pierce and Brooker. These will give you a good base in genetics. After those you can move on to Lewin, which is a high level text.

  • Pierce - Genetics: A Conceptual Approach
  • Brooker - Genetics: Analysis and Principles
  • Lewin - Genes IX (Graduate level)

Molecular Biology[]

There is one king of molecular biology, and that is Alberts - Molecular Biology of the Cell. I have also included some other books that could be used as supplements.

  • Alberts, Bray, et al - Essential Cell Biology
  • Alberts, Bray, et al - Molecular Biology of the Cell (Extended version of Essential Cell Biology)
  • Geoffery, Cooper, Hausman - The Cell, A Molecular Approach

Microbiology, Immunology,and Virology[]

A very interesting topic, Microbiology, Immunology, and Virology are closely related to pathology. The standard text for microbiology would be Brock Biology of Microorganisms. Brock will give a good basis of microbiology, after that go on to Murray and Gladwin. Murray and Gladwin will give you the medical microbiology information. I also included some Immunology and Virology books in here too.


  • Madigan, Martinko, Bender, Buckley, Stahl, and Brock - Brock Biology of Microorganisms
  • Murray, Rosenthal, and Pfaller - Medical Microbiology
  • Gladwin, Trattler, and Mahan - Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple


  • Abbas, Lichtman, and Pillai - Cellular and Molecular Immunology
  • Sompayrac - How the Immune System Works
  • Owen - Immunology
  • Murphy - Janeway's Immunobiology
  • Abbas and Lichtman - Basic Immunology


  • Flint, Enquist, Racaniello, and Skalka - Principles of Virology (Volume I and II)
  • Acheson - Fundamentals of Molecular Virology
  • Norkin - Virology: Molecular Biology and Pathogenesis
  • Carter and Saunders - Virology: Principles and Applications


Pathology, what happens when physiology goes wrong, well sort of. There is one undisputed king of pathology. No one dares to dethrone the king, that is, Robbins and Cotran Pathological Basis of Disease. Also known as Big Robbins, or Big Boy Robbins. A standard in pathology and medical programs, this 1400 page tome is typically replaced for a condensed version, but we are not sissies, this is where you will have an insane amount of knowledge. Reading the full version will give you such a basis for mechanisms of disease. Along with Robbins, Rubin's is also extremely recommended to read. Robbins does go more in depth, but Rubin's does contain some "zebra" diseases. They both complement each other VERY well.

  • Kumar, Abbas, and Aster- Robbins and Cotran Pathological Basis of Disease
  • Strayer and Rubin - Rubin's Pathology: Clinicopathologic Foundations of Medicine
  • Zaher - Pathology Made Ridiculously Simple (Read this before Robbins and Rubin's to "warm up.")


If I had a dollar for every time someone said they were interested in neuroscience, I'd be a very rich man. Now is your time to prove it. The classic text is Purves, but I prefer Kandel. You should read both. Having taken Electricity and Magnetism will definitely help. I have included some other fun books that are enjoyable to read,

  • Kandel, Schwartz, Jessell, Siegelbaum, and Hudspeth - Principles of Neural Science
  • Purves, Augustine, Fitzpatrick, Hall, LaMantia, and White - Neuroscience
  • Carlson - Foundations of Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Pinel - Biopsychology
  • Dayan and Abbott - Theoretical Neuroscience: Computational and Mathematical Modeling of Neural Systems (DO NOT attempt to read this unless you have taken Multivariable Calculus, Differential Equations, Linear Algebra, Electricity and Magnetism, and a Probability course that uses calculus.)

Biostatistics and Probability[]

A good basis in statistics and epidemiology is strongly recommend. It makes research and journal reading make sense, and it is a way to prove your data. A background in probability theory will also help. I would recommended Urdan first, then move on to Zar and Sokal. Throw in Gordis for a good background in epidemiology. A knowledge of probability is required for some high level genetics and bioinformatics courses.

  • Urdan - Statistics in Plain English
  • Zar - Biostatistical Analysis
  • Gordis - Epidemiology
  • Sokal and Rohif - Biometry: The Principles and Practices of Statistics in Biological Research
  • Bertsekas and Tsitsiklis - Introduction to Probability

Plant Biology[]

Deservedly so, the classic text is Raven. Stern makes a good supplement for Raven; both these texts should both bring you to an intermediate knowledge level. You can refer to Taiz for further study on plant physiology. For the enthusiast gardener, Capon is the most accessible text that is still thorough.

  • Raven - Biology of Plants
  • Stern - Introductory Plant Biology
  • Taiz - Plant Physiology
  • Capon - Botany for Gardeners

Special Topics[]

Advanced Cell and Developmental Biology[]

Here I would use Molecular Biology of the Cell by Alberts along with Cell & Molecular Biology by Karp

  • Alberts, Bray, et al - Molecular Biology of the Cell
  • Karp - Cell & Molecular Biology

Signal Transduction[]

  • Marks, Klingmüller, Müller-Decker - Cellular Signal Processing: An Introduction to the Molecular Mechanisms of Signal Transduction

Cancer Biology[]

  • Weinberg - The Biology of Cancer

Required Reading[]

  • Mukherjee - The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
  • Skloot - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
  • Watson - The Double Helix
  • Darwin - The Origin of Species
  • Darwin - The Voyage of the Beagle
  • Velleman - How to Prove it: A Structured Approach
  • Polya and Conway - How to Solve it: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method
  • Hammack - Book of Proof
  • Oakley - A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science
  • Nesse - Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine

The Cell (Old)[]

  • Essential Cell Biology - Alberts, Bray, et al
  • Molecular Biology of the Cell - Alberts (expanded version of Essential Cell Biology)
  • The Cell, A Molecular Approach - Geoffery, Cooper, Hausman
  • Lippincott’s Illustrated Reviews: Biochemistry - Champe
  • Basic Immunology: Functions and Disorders of the Immune System - Abbas
  • Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple - Gladwin, Trattler and Mahan

High Yield Information (Old)[]

  • BRS Gross Anatomy
  • BRS Physiology
  • BRS Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Genetics
  • BRS Cell Biology and Histology
  • BRS Neuroanatomy