Ali's 2021 favorite books

The best books I have read in 2021

In 2021, thanks to the pandemic and the work from home I have read around 50 books. The following are my top picks and I highly recommend you read them. If you like to read any of these books and you need help please contact me, I will send you a copy to your home address, leave me a message with your address please, you can find my contact information here Contact Ali.

For understanding the following books, you do not need to be an expert in the subject matter, and all you need is to spend 2 hours per day reading to finish each book in 1-2 weeks


The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race By Walter Issacson:

I love Walter and I have read most of his books. This book focuses on Jennifer Doudna's contribution to gene-editing techniques known as CRISPER. In the meantime, he provides a compelling story of the heroes of CRISPER, and he talks about all of those who did not receive recognition. Walter does not sing praises but discusses his characters from different angles. In the book he discusses a lot of the landmark discoveries in the field of genetics, however, he skips Venki Ramakrishnan's work on the function and structure of the ribosome, See my next book recommendation for more on this.

Gene Machine: The Race to Decipher the Secrets of the Ribosome by Venki Ramakrishnan

Venki got the 2009 Nobel prize in chemistry for his work on the structure and function of Ribosome. Venki did his Ph.D. n the physics department at Ohio University. 43 years later I too finished my Ph.D. in Physics at the same department and ironically at the same building (Clippinger laboratories). I met Venki and he is an amazing person. In this book, he discusses both his life story, his pivot from theoretical physics into biology, the role of luck in his success, and the brutal race that led him to Stockholm in 2009.

Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela:

This book came out in 1994, written by Mandela (aka Madiba) himself. Madiba’s stories are unparalleled, and while reading I wished I could go back in time and tell Madiba, he will prevail at the end. I learned a lot about Madiba, his life, struggles, divorces, and his iron personality. The book is a must-read.

Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst By Robert Sapolsky:

Robert is a professor at Stanford University, and he has an appointment with the department of neurosurgery where I did my postdoc. In this book, he digs deep into the relationship between biology and behavior from different angles. He starts very slow and easy, hence even if you are not a neuroscientist, you can learn a lot. Robert chooses his words carefully, and being a neuroscientist myself I can attest that even his simplifications are done to perfection. You will have a great appreciation for the complexity of our brain and behavior when you are done reading.

In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind By Eric R. Kandel:

Kandel got the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine in the year 2000, along with Arvid Carlsson and Paul Greengard. The prize was given to Kandel mainly for his work on the neural basis of memory and the prize motivation reads “for their discoveries concerning signal transduction in the nervous system

In this book Kandel both discusses his personal story, and also provides a brief summary of the landmark discoveries in neuroscience. I loved reading the book, and I hope to read it again. He starts with his childhood story in Austria; where one day strangers came knocking on Kandel's family door and ordered them to leave their house, and stay with another Jewish family. The strangers were Nazis and Kandel's family was punished for being Jewish. Kandel's father disappeared for days; when they went back to their home, all the valuables were gone. Kandel talks about this memory as being vivid in front of his eyes, it is like there is something permanent in his mind, maybe something biologically permanent? As you read further in the book, he makes returns to his childhood memory and links it to his work on the neural basis of memory.