Here are some books I have had sitting on the shelf next to my desk for sometime:
Niles Eldredge and Susan Pearson. Charles Darwin and the Mystery of Mysteries (2010) – This is a great biography for a younger audience (middle-school) from the man behind the traveling Darwin exhibit.
Charles H. Smith & George Beccaloni, Natural Selection and Beyond: The Intellectual Legacy of Alfred Russel Wallace (2008) – No other book on Wallace covers such a wide range of his scientific and social interests. I do wish it contained a chapter counter the anti-evolutionist claim that Darwin stole ideas from Wallace.
Eugenie C. Scott, Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction, 2nd Edition (2009, 2nd ed.) – Looking to brush up on the current state of the conflict, look no further than this comprehensive summary from the executive director of the National Center for Science Education. Includes discussion of latest tactics from anti-evolutionists (teach the controversy, academic freedom).
Adrian Desmond & James Moore, Darwin’s Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin’s Views on Human Evolution (2009) – One of the more significant contributions in the Darwin year from historians of science, this book looks at the debatable – as I’ve read in many reviews – thesis that Darwin’s ideas about human evolution were largely driven by his abolitionist tendencies, placing this in context of abolitionist and pro-slavery movements on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
Mark Laxer, The Monkey Bible: A Modern Allegory; includes The Line, a Companion Music CD by Eric Maring (2010) – This book of fiction follows the story of a young man who finds out who he really is. While the story is full of talk about transgenic organisms, ecotourism, religion, evolution, and morality- and an effort to bridge opposing viewpoints – there is far too little character development for the too many female characters. While I agree that it is important to bring the teaching of biodiversity, conservation, and evolution together, The Monkey Bible tells the reader way too fast what it should have taken the lead character the whole book to find out, only to learn that what he found out is only fiction itself.
Mary Gribbin & John Gribbin, Flower Hunters (2008) – From longtime science biographers comes a collection of shorter biographies of eleven “adventurous botanists” from the mid seventeenth century through the end of the nineteenth century, dispelling the notion of botany as a “soft” science. Not filled with history of science-shattering ideas, but a nice book to familiarize yourself with folks like Linnaeus, Banks, David Douglas, Richard Spruce, and Joseph Dalton Hooker. One female botanist is included, Marianne North.