Are you a fan of literature?

Whether you have a background in science and are looking for your next great read for those wait times between gel runs, or are an experienced literature enthusiast looking to better understand aspects of molecular biology and biochemistry, this list is for uracil.

C.A.Q. – Commonly Asked Questions (or in Science: Condition Adverse to Quality – but don’t worry, the Biochemist’s Booklist is here for that literature quality control.)

1. How do you rate the books?

Instead of the age-old star based methods, the Biochemist’s Booklist prefers to assign a component that better describes the literature itself, whether it be molecular, enzyme, chemical, or tools used in common laboratory procedures for molecular biology.

2. What if I don’t know anything about biochemistry or molecular biology?

To that we ask: Have you read some of the most globally popular books?

3. How do I navigate the booklist?

For ease of use, all additions to the Biochemist’s booklist are in the same format:

  • Title and Author and Dedication: TITLE by AUTHOR (Dedication). The dedication is the initials of the person, who out of the 7.6 billion people in the world, considers this to be their favourite book. Statistically they are not alone in this opinion, so you should check it out!
  • Book Review: Biochemistry-associated “NOUN” that is this literature’s soul twin.
  • Descriptor: A description of that soul twin defining factor given in a brief and (hopefully) easily understandable format that gives you that warm nostalgic feeling for the book, and (hopefully) it’s scientific counterpart.

A Biochemist’s Booklist

– A –

Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
Assays – laboratory techniques for detecting and quantifying macromolecules and their activity. Just like the adventures of our favourite English detective, there are multiple, and using them you can find out just about anything.

A Midsummer’s Nights Dream by William Shakespeare (K.G.)
Protein Disulfide Isomerases – these proteins induce folding in other protein with disulfide bridges, using its own disulfide bridges. Talk about a play within a play.

Animal Farm by George Orwell
Photorespiration – starting off with good intentions, photorespirations tries to eliminate the toxins formed when plants fix O2. But as it cycles through, all of the energy used for this revolution causes harm on the overall system, and we end up where we first started. These will take you on a path of transition, intent, and futility that is unmatched.

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Rabies lyssavirus – the Rabies virus actually has a very slow, long trip, before it can cause the central nervous system effects and eventual death it is known for.

– B –

Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez (M.B)
Synaptic Clefts – the synaptic cleft is like the transitional period between one neurons life through an axon into its new axon, much like the immigrant experience. Rapidly leaving behind a new life can be challenging, but with friends like a myelin sheath the path is less rough.

– C –

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
Okazaki Fragments – In Catch 22, we have initiation of topics, jokes, characters – all left incomplete until later added upon. Once it all comes together, the plot lines come together and become something greater than the individual pieces.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman (S.P.)
Crassulacean Acid Metabolism – Everything seems one way, but turn off the lights, and everything goes in reverse. In CAM plants, CO2 will be temporarily stored as malate in night so that during the day it can convert it into products of photosynthesis. Just as in Coraline, the door to that bright and sunny world, the stomata, is closed, and the plant must use its reserves until it opens again, just like how Coraline must use her acquired knowledge of the hope present in her normal world until she can again escape.

– D –

Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne
Phylogenetic Tree – The first of the Magic Tree House series takes two siblings, Jack and Annie, on an epic prehistoric adventure back into the time when Dinosaurs ruled the earth. As with all the Magic Tree House adventures, we become a part of the family and are cast back in time with Jack and Annie where we are asked to branch out in terms of our understanding of science, animals, history, geography and art – drawing the connections between all aspects of life that got us to where we are today.

– E –

The English Patient by Micheal Ondaatje
Peroxisome – this small membrane organelle responsible for the catabolism of fatty acids and the reduction of the volatile reactive oxygen species among other things, is a world unto its own. Like the story of the unidentified burned man being nursed back to care, the peroxisome unravels the long-chain fatty acids bit by bit, quenching volatile poisons that come up along the way. The English Patient isolates us onto the small villa in Italy where each of the characters have a specific role, coming together to detoxify our perspective. As the cell would be incomplete without the peroxisome, so would our lives without this story.

– F –

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Colony hybridization – taking parts from different pieces and stitching them together to see what happens is something that scientists often experiment with, and not just the scientists of literature. Thankfully, we won’t have to go grave digging, and can transfer DNA from multiple cell colonies onto a membrane incubated with DNA or RNA probes in order to test for a desired DNA fragment. Dr. Frankenstein might not have been able to predict what he would get out of his creation, but he did find insight into the physiology of what makes us human and the humanity that makes us more than just our physiology.

– G –

Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut
Missense Mutation – like a bunch of missense mutations, this collection of characters stranded on the Galapagos Islands all have something slightly different about them, but their genes are still passed along and they manage to repopulate the earth, albeit with a few changes.

The Guardian a Newspaper (D.G.)
Leaky Gating – the currents of news are like sodium and potassium channels, in constant flux and full of facts that keep your day electrified.

– H –

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Agarose Gel Electrophoresis – Akin to how an agarose separates DNA into distinguishable bands, so does the sorting ceremony sort it’s mass of new pupils into definitive groups. Akin to Harry, Ron and Hermione’s great quest through the trap door under Fluffy, the DNA fall from the pipette into the well where it is challenged with resistance that it faces to prove itself unique amongst the rest.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Expression vector – like a plasmid, the Tom Riddle’s diary instructs Ginny to carry out its will, infecting her with his thoughts and plans – much like foreign DNA is able to be transcribed, producing its own RNA or proteins in a foreign host cell.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Thermal cycling – As the time-turner of PCR, thermal cycling allows the annealing, denaturation, and elongation, followed by the denaturation, annealing, elongation followed by the…well you get the point. We cycle through the same situation with each round adding another layer of complexity.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
Affinity chromatography – separates a molecule from a mixture by its ability to bind specifically to an immobilized ligand. Whether it’s Harry and Cedric grabbing onto the floating bodies of Ron, Gabrielle, and Cho at the bottom of the lake, or their unison hold of the Triwizard cup, they both distinguish themselves from all of the young Wizards across the world in the challenges the Triwizard tournament throw at them.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Edman degradation – is a stepwise removal and identification of the N-terminal residue of a polypeptide, much in the same way Dolores Umbridge systematically takes apart every unique aspect of Hogwarts that makes it the school we know and love, identifying every possible rule that could be made to govern its students.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (A.E.B.)
Enantiomers – Snape might look the same, but we have come to know the two-different sides of him. All the same, we still can’t just superimpose him into one complete character, there is always those parts that just don’t match up.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Electron Transport Chain – Even though they try to share the load of carrying the horcruxes, Harry, Ron and Hermione all feel the burden of it and have to fight it and against each other to finally overcome it. This passing around mimicked how membrane-associated electron carriers pass around the negatively charged electron from reduced co-enzymes to molecular oxygen so as to recover free energy for the overall beneficial synthesis of ATP.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Autoimmune disorders – A journey with an intent to clean. Going away with the best intentions to clean out the damage, however in doing so, they realize the damage their own depravity has caused. If only our own self-reactive immune cells had such self-awareness.

– I –

Iliad by Homer
Metal ion catalysis – as the war trudges on and aggravation is high, interference by the more powerful Gods is required – they supply the added charge that is need to get over the transition state of war, and end the struggle. Electrostatically, much more complicated than the overall picture.

– J –

Jailbird by Kurt Vonnegut
Lipoprotein – moving fluidly between past and present, capitalism and communism, Walter Starbuck swirls at the whim of a larger organization to which he is subject to and an intricate part of; like a protein imbedded in a membrane with its own purpose, and yet, confined to the rules of hydrophobicity.

– L –

Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Positive feedback regulation – Self-amplifying, the children on the island create their own chaos, inducing greater and greater chaos.

– M –

Matilda by Roald Dahl
Pasteur Effect – when grown under anaerobic conditions, yeast have increased sugar consumption. Matilda doesn’t eat much sugar. She tries to stay healthy because she read about it and despite living under conditions that one would think could cause educational stunting, she consumes knowledge from books like it was oxygen.

– O –

On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
Evolution. Literally, the origin of evolutionary literature.

– P –

Paradise Lost by John Milton
Levorotary – is a way of describing the rotating plane of polarized light, counter-clockwise from the point of view of the observer. This story will turn you on the axis of what you have previously known about the story of creation and make you question how you perceive the world.

– S –

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Daniel Handler
The cytosol electrochemistry – Fleeting positives, mostly negatives. No matter how much those Beaudelaires travel back and forth, like all the ions in their flux, no amount of transport can let them escape the negative of Count Olaf.

– U –

Ulysses by James Joyce
Ribosomal drop-off – Have you ever been reading and then oh where is that noise coming from ATGCGCGGGCATGC I could go for a cup of coffee CTGUUATCGCTAGTC is the oven on, where did I leave my homework, I think it’s in my bAGCATCTTG…….
Loved the spontaneity and complicatedness of James Joyce’s stream of consciousness? Ribosomes don’t read things straight through either.

– V –

Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Exonucleases – one bite at a time and even when you think it couldn’t possible take another bite, it does. While the exonuclease might not be chewing through all of your favourite snacks, it is hydrolytically cleaving the nucleotides from a polynucleotide strand – which kind of looks like a caterpillar in and of itself!

– W –

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Nonmediated transport – with no energy input, these substances will move through simple diffusion. If there is no gradient, they might not move at all. They will just exist. When they do move, it will be in response to the environment, not a greater power or control mechanism.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
B-lymphocyte activation – Water for Elephants is the story of one man’s past in a travelling circus. Miscommunication at every turn induced troubles in friendship, until they learn to be on the same page. Only then are they able to leave the flawed circus for an adventure in the wide- open world. B-lymphocytes must remain in the secondary lymph organs, either the spleen or lymph nodes until they are activated through binding with an antigen. Only once the antigen fits do the B-cells go and recirculate in the rest of the body.

– Z –

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Persig
Translation – at its core, translation is the process of transforming the simple yet ambiguous string of nucleotides that is our DNA into something with greater purpose. While only a compilation of four nucleotides with the same mechanical structure and properties, in translating it into an amino acid sequence, we get complexity, function, and practical meaning. Quality control and attention to detail is key if you want to keep the process moving and in good order.

– # –

1984 by George Orwell
Reaction Oxygen Species – Winston Smith is a “free radical.” Left to his own resources he could break down the walls of the thin membrane that is Big Brother.