The best physiology books

5 authors have picked their favorite books about physiology and why they recommend each book.

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Science of Yoga

By Ann Swanson,

Book cover of Science of Yoga: Understand the Anatomy and Physiology to Perfect Your Practice

As a mind-body science educator, Ann Swanson specializes in making complex scientific concepts simple and easy to understand. And in this dazzlingly-illustrated, comprehensive guide to how and why yoga works, she masterfully deconstructs more than two dozen basic yoga poses with detailed information on the physical and energetic components. A section on human anatomy explains various systemsincluding cardiovascular, digestive, and endocrineand a Q & A section explores common concerns such as chronic pain, stress, and mental well-being. Full disclosureAnn is a friend and colleaguewith extraordinary energy, deep compassion, and a generous heart.  

Who am I?

I’m a yoga therapist, health journalist, mother, and grandmother with a passion for helping people harness the powerful medicine of movement. Physical activity is essential to good health, and yoga can be particularly effective because it’s a holistic discipline that enhances all aspects of wellbeing—physical, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual. I started taking a weekly yoga class in my early 20s to stretch tight muscles and relieve stress from my busy job as a Washington Post reporter. Nearly 50 years later, yoga is central to my life, with practices that have helped me through several major health challenges, and kept me balanced, fit, and centered in our unpredictable world.  

I wrote...

Relax Into Yoga for Seniors: A Six-Week Program for Strength, Balance, Flexibility, and Pain Relief

By Kimberly Carson, Carol Krucoff,

Book cover of Relax Into Yoga for Seniors: A Six-Week Program for Strength, Balance, Flexibility, and Pain Relief

What is my book about?

Yoga can be profoundly healing for older adults, but finding a safe and effective practice is challenging because many commonly-taught postures are risky for seniors. This is why—for over a decade—we have collaborated with experts at Duke Medical Center to create accessible, evidence-informed practices that combine the best of current medical knowledge with the ancient wisdom of traditional yogic teachings.  

Relax into Yoga for Seniors presents a six-week gentle yoga program—with step-by-step instructions, illustrations, and downloadable audiosdesigned to guide older adults through a safe, effective and enjoyable yoga practice. We offer specifics about yoga for healthy aging, including guidelines for safe practice with age-related ailments including arthritis, heart disease, osteoporosis, hypertension, cancer, and chronic pain—plus a downloadable Teacher's Guide.

What Do You Do with a Tail Like This?

By Steve Jenkins, Robin Page,

Book cover of What Do You Do with a Tail Like This?

This science book inspired my own series of comparative anatomy books. The interactive element works beautifully. On each page, the reader sees groups of the same body part from different animals, for example, a group of noses, along with the question, “What do you do with a nose like this?” After the page-turn, the whole animals appear, along with explanations of how the individual noses uniquely function. Kids love to guess what animal the individual body parts belong to before the page turn. The collage illustrations are also stunningly beautiful.

Who am I?

I’m an award-winning author of picture books for kids. I’m also a veterinarian and science educator, and many of my books have a STEM focus. I write books that are interactive, engaging, and playful. I do this by using humor and by writing in a question-and-answer format that encourages children to think and call out answers before the page-turn. During this time when so many of us have not been able to be in the same room with the kids we read with and to, I’ve found interactive books to be the best at holding attention and connecting. I hope they work well for you, too.

I wrote...

Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons

By Sara Levine, T.S. Spookytooth (illustrator),

Book cover of Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons

What is my book about?

What would you be if your finger bones grew so long that they reached your feet? You'd be a bat! What if you had no leg bones but kept your arm bones? You'd be a whale, a dolphin, or a porpoise! This entertaining picture book will keep readers guessing as they learn about how our skeletons are like―and unlike―those of other animals.

“I've been longing for another kind of picture book: one that appeals to young children's wildest imagination in service of real evolutionary thinking...Bone by Bone, by veterinarian and professor Sara Levine, fills the niche to near perfection." - Slate

The World in Six Songs

By Daniel J. Levitin,

Book cover of The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature

It’s not really six songs, but six human needs that songs fulfill: friendship, joy, comfort, knowledge, religion, love—needs that largely define “human nature.” This book combines the perspective of a neuroscientist and musician (Dan Levitin is both), describing why songs may have arisen, and how they impact emotion, memory, and the place of an individual in a society. A song combines music with lyrics—the near relative of a poem. For me (a non-musician), the book was especially useful in clarifying the ways in which song lyrics and poems are both similar and different. Songs derive their power by combining the creative potential of language and music.

Who am I?

I’m a professor of cognitive psychology at UCLA, and also a poet. Growing up on a dairy farm in British Columbia, I immersed myself in the world of books. My mother showed me her well-worn copy of a poetry book written by her Scottish great-great-aunt, and I longed to create my own arrangements of words. Later, as a student at the University of British Columbia and then Stanford, my interest in creativity was channeled into research on how people think. I’ve studied how people use analogies and metaphors to create new ideas. In addition to books on the psychology of thinking and reasoning, I’ve written several volumes of poetry.

I wrote...

The Spider's Thread: Metaphor in Mind, Brain, and Poetry

By Keith J. Holyoak,

Book cover of The Spider's Thread: Metaphor in Mind, Brain, and Poetry

What is my book about?

I’ve approached creativity as both psychologist and poet, but I always kept a mental curtain drawn between the two points of view—until I wrote The Spider’s Thread. Taking poetry as a microcosm for human creativity, I explore it simultaneously from the “outside” view of a scientist and the “inside” view of a poet. I draw on the ideas of scientists— psychologists, neuroscientists, linguists, and computer scientists— as well as thinkers from the humanities—poets, philosophers, and critics. Each chapter begins with a poem (by the likes of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Theodore Roethke, Du Fu, William Butler Yeats, and Pablo Neruda), and then steps back to explore wider connections to metaphor, mind, and the human brain. 

How Your Body Works

By Judy Hindley,

Book cover of How Your Body Works

I love the way this book so clearly explains the structure and function of the body (anatomy and physiology) functions with conceptually perspicuous illustrations. It’s remarkable how the clear and intuitive the schematic illustrations teach about the body. At first, I thought that I would not like it, since the organs are not shown in their natural appearances but instead as machines, but after reading it, I loved it.

Who am I?

I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a doctor, perhaps because there were no doctors in my family, and I did not even realize that I wanted to (or could) go to medical school until I was almost done with college. Once I did realize this, however, it became immediately obvious to me that being a physician (a surgeon) was what I wanted to dedicate my life’s work to, and I have been passionate about it ever since. Probably the topics I am most passionate about after surgery are education, books, reading, poetry, etc., so this book lets both these passions dovetail beautifully!

I wrote...

Your Body Sick and Well: How Do You Know?

By Steven Clark Cunningham, Susan Detwiler (illustrator),

Book cover of Your Body Sick and Well: How Do You Know?

What is my book about?

This playful book serves up a fun and healthy collection of bite-sized treats that both educate and entertain.

Following in the Jurassic footsteps of his award-winning book Dinosaur Name Poems, the current poems share the motif of using the names of things to introduce in a safe and fun way topics that otherwise may be unfamiliar or even a little scary. The lyrical nature of the poems and the vibrant warmth of the illustrations give the traction needed to keep kids reading the poems and the “Learn More!” sections that follow each poem.

Animals in Space

By Colin Burgess, Chris Dubbs,

Book cover of Animals in Space: From Research Rockets to the Space Shuttle

This book came out right after I completed Laika, but I wish I’d been able to use it in my research (although Dubbs’ earlier book, Space Dogs: Pioneers in Space Travel was extremely useful).

If Siddiqi’s book focuses more on the human journey behind the Soviet space program, this is a parallel account of some other unwitting (and undersung) pioneers: the experimental animals who were sent ahead of humankind. We share this world with animals and they were dispatched on our behalf to test the deep waters of the heavens also. It was thought - correctly - that if they could survive, so could we. Laika may very well be the most famous of these pathfinders (at least beyond Russia), but there were many more. This book is a history of all those other animal astronauts launched into space both prior to Laika and aboard more recent missions.

Who am I?

I wrote and drew a book about the Russian dog called Laika, the first living being to go into orbit around the planet Earth. Part of the conception of this book was that I wanted to create a graphic novel that almost anyone could read - a comic for people who might not usually read comics. It had to be accessible - you didn’t have to be steeped in comics lore, geek culture or space history to find your way into it. I've been creating books, magazines, comics, and stories for both adults and children for more than thirty-five years, with work published all over the world. 

I wrote...


By Nick Abadzis,

Book cover of Laika

What is my book about?

Laika was the Moscow street dog destined to become Earth's first space traveler. This graphic novel follows her journey. Nick Abadzis masterfully blends fact and fiction in the intertwined stories of three compelling lives. Along with Laika, there is Sergei Korolev, once a political prisoner, now a driven engineer at the top of the Soviet Union's space program, and Yelena Dubrovsky, the lab technician responsible for Laika's health and wellbeing. Abadzis gives life to a pivotal event in modern times, illuminating the hidden moments, both human and canine, that lie behind the written word of history.

It's All in Your Head

By Suzanne O'Sullivan,

Book cover of It's All in Your Head: Stories from the Frontline of Psychosomatic Illness

For doctors and patients alike, it is almost impossible to understand how some of the most dramatic conditions we see – seizures, paralysis, blindness – may have an underlying psychological basis. In this book, O’Sullivan explains the basis of psychosomatic illness with skill, illustrating this area of neurological practice with fascinating case studies.

Who am I?

Guy Leschziner is a professor of neurology and sleep medicine at King’s College London. He is the author of The Nocturnal Brain: Nightmares, Neuroscience and The Secret World of Sleep, and the forthcoming The Man Who Tasted Words, and is a presenter on BBC Radio 4 and the World Service.

I wrote...

The Nocturnal Brain: Nightmares, Neuroscience, and the Secret World of Sleep

By Guy Leschziner,

Book cover of The Nocturnal Brain: Nightmares, Neuroscience, and the Secret World of Sleep

What is my book about?

A renowned neurologist shares the true stories of people unable to get a good night's rest in The Nocturnal Brain: Nightmares, Neuroscience, and the Secret World of Sleep, a fascinating exploration of the symptoms and syndromes behind sleep disorders. With compassionate stories of his patients and their conditions, Dr. Leschziner illustrates the neuroscience behind our sleeping minds, revealing the many biological and psychological factors necessary in getting the rest that will not only maintain our physical and mental health, but improve our cognitive abilities and overall happiness.

The Tangled Wing

By Melvin Konner,

Book cover of The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit

Melvin Konner is an anthropologist who joined the sociobiology revolution of the 1970s.  Like Barash, his style is sheer pleasure. He ranges from biology and psychology to research on hormones.  And his tales, his evidence, are fascinating beyond belief. They are derived from research on primitive tribes like the !Kung San In southern Africa, whose way of life sheds new light on the things you and I do every day.

Who am I?

I’ve been called the Einstein, Newton, Darwin, and Freud of the 21st century by Britain’s Channel 4 TV and the next Stephen Hawking by Gear Magazine. My passion is flying over all the sciences, all of history, and a chunk of the arts and pulling it all together in a new big picture. I’ve called this approach Omnology, the aspiration to omniscience. Sounds crazy, right? But I’ve published scientific papers or lectured at scholarly conferences in twelve different scientific disciplines, from quantum physics and cosmology to evolutionary biology, psychology, information science, and astronautics. And I’ve been published in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, and many more.

I wrote...

The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History

By Howard Bloom,

Book cover of The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History

What is my book about?

The Lucifer Principle is a revolutionary work that explores the intricate relationships among genetics, human behavior, and culture to put forth the thesis that “evil” is a by-product of nature’s strategies for creation and that it is woven into our most basic biological fabric.

What Every Therapist Needs to Know About Anxiety Disorders

By Sally M. Winston, Martin N. Seif,

Book cover of What Every Therapist Needs to Know About Anxiety Disorders: Key Concepts, Insights, and Interventions

What is so great about this book is you certainly do not need to be a therapist to read it and gain an incredible amount of understanding about what it means to live with and overcome an anxiety disorder. It is precisely because it was written for therapists in mind that I would encourage anyone suffering from anxiety disorders to read it. Why? Because it approaches it from the perspective of someone who is there to offer guidance and support rather than the one living with anxiety themselves. Sometimes, it’s this third part perspective that can really help distance ourselves from the disorder in order to help ourselves overcome it. It’s a must-read.

Who am I?

A self-confessed anxiety disorder nerd, I have a deeper level of understanding beyond the textbooks and training. I grew up in Manchester, UK, and was once diagnosed with crippling anxiety; suffering from panic attacks, agoraphobia, health anxiety, and generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), as well as intrusive thoughts, obsessive-compulsive behaviours, and all the other fun stuff that comes with a nasty anxiety condition. I’m now a qualified psychotherapist and it is my mission to help as many people as I can recover from anxiety disorder and live happy, healthy lives.

I wrote...

Untangle Your Anxiety: A Guide To Overcoming An Anxiety Disorder By Two People Who Have Been Through It

By Joshua Fletcher, Dean Stott,

Book cover of Untangle Your Anxiety: A Guide To Overcoming An Anxiety Disorder By Two People Who Have Been Through It

What is my book about?

Do you struggle to understand your anxiety? Are your days often consumed by worries that have no clear answers? Perhaps you don't feel like your usual self? Untangle Your Anxiety was written by psychotherapist and best-selling author, Joshua Fletcher (@anxietyjosh), and the owner of Instagram's largest anxiety community, Dean Stott (@DLCanxiety), to help you overcome excessive anxiety. Having both been diagnosed in the past with anxiety disorders, then successfully overcoming them, Josh and Dean have written this honest and powerful self-help book as a reassuring aid in your recovery.

Anatomy of Movement

By Blandine Calais-Germain,

Book cover of Anatomy of Movement: Exercises

Initially published in 1990, this book stands the test of time. Anatomy of Movement Exercises describes the body mechanics inherent in our functional and daily movements. The illustrations and explanations are very clear and the author's understanding of anatomy, physiology, and movement is astonishing. This book is perfect for anybody with a movement practice who wishes to better understand exactly what is going on as they move.

Who am I?

As a lifelong asthmatic I’ve been working with the body for as long as I can remember. Childhood activities included getting lost in the woods, camping, and roller-skating, and grown-up life has included the professions of a modern dancer, choreographer, yoga therapist, and occupational therapist. If you can learn to slow down and find safety in your body, you can always manage to find your way home.

I wrote...

Yoga Bones: A Comprehensive Guide to Managing Pain and Orthopedic Injuries Through Yoga

By Laura Staton,

Book cover of Yoga Bones: A Comprehensive Guide to Managing Pain and Orthopedic Injuries Through Yoga

What is my book about?

Yoga Bones - A Comprehensive Guide to Managing Pain and Orthopedic Injuries Through Yoga explains the common conditions causing bodily pain and the easy and fun ways to self-manage through yoga. Beautifully photographed and illustrated, Yoga Bones discusses conditions such as sciatica, lumbar herniations, and hip replacements among many others. By targeting specific areas of the body, Yoga Bones helps to identify problem areas and use yoga as a roadmap for developing self-care. Yoga Bones also offers lifestyle insight such as breathing, anti-inflammatory nutrition, stress-reduction, mindfulness, and the importance of leisure - teaching us to slow down and feel the powerful effects of self-care.

The Shallows

By Nicholas Carr,

Book cover of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

Nicholas Carr of The Atlantic magazine wrote that Google's rich database of information has changed the way we think by taking away our deep research and focus, while affecting our cognition and weakening our ability to think critically. This provocation sparked a very useful debate that continues to this day. In this book, he focuses on attention, knowing that the depth of our thinking is directly related to it. He concludes that in our Net environment, thinking becomes more superficial.

Who am I?

During my life, I’ve been told that I was not a true engineer, not a true banker, not a true CEO, not a true entrepreneur, not a true teacher… But one day an executive told me: “I want to work with you because you’re not a true consultant.” I then realized it is was a privilege not to be a true something! I like to call myself a corporate philosopher. Fellow of the BCG Henderson Institute, and co-founder of Cartoonbase, I split my time between the worlds of academia and business. I have published several other books on various subjects such as language, mathematics, humor, or fallacies.

I wrote...

Be Logical, Be Creative, Be Critical: the Art of Thinking in a Digital World

By Luc de Brabandere,

Book cover of Be Logical, Be Creative, Be Critical: the Art of Thinking in a Digital World

What is my book about?

AI and human intelligence. Fine, but who is programming who? The power of the computer should not come as a surprise since it was designed with the purpose of enabling humans to amplify their reasoning skills. But we should be aware that, if it allows us to think ahead, the computer influences our way of thinking as well. Thinking is clearly no longer what it used to be and, in my new book coauthored with Lina Benmehrez, I invite you to rediscover the art of thinking in a digital world through logic, creativity and sound argumentation!

This essay takes us back to ancient Greece where logical and critical thinking were first formalized. It also reminds us of more recent developments in cognitive sciences that include creative thinking. 

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