Ever since the beginning of recorded time (well, since the 1960s), the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Leicester has given all new students a reading list (pdf) of “good books” we think they would benefit from reading. Whether they read them is not assessed directly, and the idea of a reading list is one of the few things about our degree which has not changed since the beginning. But giving students a printed list of books in the week they arrive at university is a bit, well, 1960s. Do they read any of them, or even remember having received the list in the hurly burly of fresher’s week? To be honest, we didn’t really know, so we asked them – and it turns out that they don’t. In response, we put together Project SOAR, which has two parts – a face to face book group for our students, and a website available to everyone: SciReadr.com.
Books on the website are organized according to our degrees (Biochemistry, Genetics, etc). Sadly, we no longer offer a Botany or Plant Science degree, although these subjects do feature in our teaching of course. And a number of books on the site will be of interest to those with a botanical mindset, such as The Naturalist on the River Amazons by W.H. Bates, and The Power of Movement in Plants by Charles Darwin. However, it has not escaped our attention that these botanical offerings are not, shall we say, particularly contemporary! Will they compete for student attention with the Richard Dawkins and Steve Jones offerings on the site? I fear not.
So if you feel it is important to stress the significance of modern plant science, or the fascination of botany, on young minds, we would appreciate it if you would leave your suggestions for suitably engaging books in our Suggestion Box. Let’s catch ’em while they’re young.