The best books to learn to stop worrying and love bioengineered animals

Who am I?

As an author of YA science books (as well as being an editor), my goal is to inspire teens to think deeply about our world, but especially about our relationships with animals. To be honest, I knew bubkis about bioengineering until I was writing my previous book, Last of the Giants, about the extinction crisis. My head exploded as I learned how close we are to “de-extincting” lost species. The power that genetic engineering gives us to alter animals is unnerving, and it’s critical that we understand and discuss it. Bioengineering will change our future, and teens today will be the ones deciding how.    

I wrote...

Glowing Bunnies!? Why We're Making Hybrids, Chimeras, and Clones

By Jeff Campbell,

Book cover of Glowing Bunnies!? Why We're Making Hybrids, Chimeras, and Clones

What is my book about?

With modern bioengineering, science fiction’s “what if?” has become the scientist’s “why not?” Today, we have the tools to remake animals in almost any way we want, and genetic engineering is being used to help solve a range of urgent problems related to climate change, species extinctions, conservation, disease, human health, and the food industry. But as science fiction likes to warn us, altering animals isn’t without dangers, and it raises profound ethical questions. Glowing Bunnies!? explores how genetic engineering is currently reshaping animals and our world and asks that all-important question: Given what we can do, what should we do?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of How to Build a Dinosaur: The New Science of Reverse Evolution

Jeff Campbell Why did I love this book?

It’s nice when scientists talk like regular people, with a sense of humor and simple explanations of how impossibly complex stuff works. That’s paleontologist Jack Horner, who has been the dinosaur consultant on all the Jurassic Park films. He’s currently trying to re-create a real-life dinosaur, which he makes sound like tinkering with the engine of a 1960s Mustang. Who me? Just trying to get a chicken embryo to grow into a dinosaur, to see if I can. And if it works, by the way, there’s your proof about the theory of evolution.  

By Jack Horner, James Gorman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Build a Dinosaur as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A world-renowned paleontologist reveals groundbreaking science that trumps science fiction: how to grow a living dinosaur.

Over a decade after Jurassic Park, Jack Horner and his colleagues in molecular biology labs are in the process of building the technology to create a real dinosaur.

Based on new research in evolutionary developmental biology on how a few select cells grow to create arms, legs, eyes, and brains that function together, Jack Horner takes the science a step further in a plan to "reverse evolution" and reveals the awesome, even frightening, power being acquired to recreate the prehistoric past. The key is…

Book cover of How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

Jeff Campbell Why did I love this book?

Shapiro’s title is a bait-and-switch. She immediately makes clear in big block letters: "WE CAN’T CLONE A MAMMOTH!" It’s impossible. So what is she doing? Well, we can genetically rejigger Asian elephants to resemble woolly mammoths, and that could be useful. Erzats mammoths might help restore the Siberian tundra, and bioengineered, cold-adapted elephants could expand their range north, which would help them survive climate change. Shapiro has little patience for romantic visions of restoring extinct species, but she makes a compelling—and reassuring—case for how we can use bioengineering to save endangered species while they still exist.

By Beth Shapiro,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Clone a Mammoth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An insider's view on bringing extinct species back to life

Could extinct species, like mammoths and passenger pigeons, be brought back to life? In How to Clone a Mammoth, Beth Shapiro, an evolutionary biologist and pioneer in ancient DNA research, addresses this intriguing question by walking readers through the astonishing and controversial process of de-extinction. From deciding which species should be restored to anticipating how revived populations might be overseen in the wild, Shapiro vividly explores the extraordinary cutting-edge science that is being used to resurrect the past. Considering de-extinction's practical benefits and ethical challenges, Shapiro argues that the overarching…

Book cover of Rise of the Necrofauna: The Science, Ethics, and Risks of De-Extinction

Jeff Campbell Why did I love this book?

Thankfully, people are starting to chew over the tangled ethics of fiddling with animal genetics, and Britt Wray does it well. Though focused mostly on de-extinction, her forays into morals and philosophy apply to many applications, including using this technology on people. If bioengineering makes you uneasy—and who doesn’t it?—Wray helps dissect the source of that unease and distinguishes the main practical and ethical arguments for and against genetic tinkering.   

By Britt Wray,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Rise of the Necrofauna as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR by The New Yorker and Science News

What happens when you try to recreate a woolly mammoth-fascinating science, or conservation catastrophe? Jurassic Park meets The Sixth Extinction in Rise of the Necrofauna, a provocative look at de-extinction from acclaimed documentarist and science writer Britt Wray, PhD.

In Rise of the Necrofauna, Wray takes us deep into the minds and labs of some of the world's most progressive thinkers to find out. She introduces us to renowned futurists like Stewart Brand and scientists like George Church, who are harnessing the powers of…

Book cover of Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction

Jeff Campbell Why did I love this book?

Nature is in crisis. Species are dying at record rates, and it’s easy to feel panic and despair over our world’s future—not unlike the nuclear-age anxiety that Stanley Kubrik captured so well in Dr. Strangelove. But what if, Chris Thomas suggests, this isn’t the end? New species are also evolving at record rates, and bioengineering can accelerate that process. It’s possible we could use it to help foster a revolution of evolution. It’s hard to be an optimist in times like these, but Thomas inspires hope. All we need to do is accept that saving the world means embracing change, which is of course inevitable.  

By Chris D. Thomas,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Inheritors of the Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


It is accepted wisdom today that human beings have irrevocably damaged the natural world. Yet what if this narrative obscures a more hopeful truth?

In Inheritors of the Earth, renowned ecologist and environmentalist Chris D. Thomas overturns the accepted story, revealing how nature is fighting back.

Many animals and plants actually benefit from our presence, raising biological diversity in most parts of the world and increasing the rate at which new species are formed, perhaps to the highest level in Earth's history. From Costa Rican tropical forests to the thoroughly…

Book cover of Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law

Jeff Campbell Why did I love this book?

Mary Roach is one of my favorite nonfiction writers. Funny, sarcastic, relentless: She asks the questions no one else thinks of, like why does the Pope ride in a Ford Focus? And how many langurs were in President Trump’s security detail when he visited the Taj Mahal (in India)? In Fuzz, she asks: How can we learn to live with wild animals when they can be such a pain in the ass? This book is really about human-animal coexistence, not bioengineering (though she does discuss gene drives—scary!). But Roach is so jaunty, you feel like, somehow, we’ll figure it out. Eventually. You know, before it’s too late. 

By Mary Roach,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Fuzz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What's to be done about a jaywalking moose? A bear caught breaking and entering? A murderous tree? Three hundred years ago, animals that broke the law would be assigned legal representation and put on trial. These days, as New York Times best-selling author Mary Roach discovers, the answers are best found not in jurisprudence but in science: the curious science of human-wildlife conflict, a discipline at the crossroads of human behavior and wildlife biology.

Roach tags along with animal-attack forensics investigators, human-elephant conflict specialists, bear managers, and "danger tree" faller blasters. Intrepid as ever, she travels from leopard-terrorized hamlets in…

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Radio Free Olympia

By Jeffrey Dunn,

Book cover of Radio Free Olympia

Jeffrey Dunn Author Of Radio Free Olympia

New book alert!

Who am I?

I’ve always been a child of the woods. I preferred to leave my home and wade a creek or explore a hillside. Nothing compared to the sight of a black snake or the feel of a mud puppy. School was a torture until an English teacher introduced me to Richard Brautigan and then read my first serious story to the class. Since then, this dyslexic nature lover has become a dream fisher and history miner with a Ph.D. in English Literature and Cultural Studies. Retired from forty-one years of teaching, I now write and publish cultural fiction.

Jeffrey's book list on where imagination and nature run free

What is my book about?

Embark on a riveting journey into Washington State’s untamed Olympic Peninsula, where the threads of folklore legends and historical icons are woven into a complex ecological tapestry.

Follow the enigmatic Petr as he fearlessly employs his pirate radio transmitter to broadcast the forgotten and untamed voices that echo through the wilderness. Venture deeper and encounter Baie, the founder of Wildsisters, a cranberry-infused roadhouse that offers solace to lost and wayward women. When a newborn is kidnapped, Baie and her community must unite to recover what has been stolen. Yet, their quest for justice extends beyond the realm of human characters—it must also be served for the fragile flora, the diverse fauna, and the very essence of the natural world.

Radio Free Olympia

By Jeffrey Dunn,

What is this book about?

Unleash the Power of the Wilderness in Radio Free Olympia

Discover the captivating allure of Washington's untamed Olympic Peninsula in Radio Free Olympia, an extraordinary literary masterpiece that immerses readers in a mesmerizing realm of visionaries, folklore legends, and historical icons. With an enchanting blend of magical realism and cultural fiction, the brilliant wordsmith Jeffrey Dunn artfully intertwines multiple narratives, crafting an intricate ecological tapestry that resonates deeply within the soul.

Embark on a riveting journey alongside the enigmatic Petr, a foundling whose path leads him deep into the heart of the majestic mountain rainforest. Armed with nothing but a…

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Interested in extinction, cloning, and human animal relationships?

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