Reading has always been an important activity in my life. I have a desire to learn and evolve as a person and a contributing member of society. In a world where information overflow is at our fingertips thanks to the internet I enjoy disconnecting from time to time to read a good ol’ fashion book. As I’m sure many will agree there is satisfaction in physically turning page by page through a good book, even more so when that book is able to impart some new wisdom on a topic or change your way of thinking about a subject. It is my personal belief that reading and being open to new ideas is important for personal growth and the mental well being of any intellectual person. With reading and literature being so important to me I would like to share with you as my readers a list of the books I believe are the most useful for understanding the human body and how it functions.
The list below is subdivided by topic, each list is further ordered from books for those with basic to advanced understanding of the subject matter.
Molecular Biology/Cell Biology
Although separate subdiciplines of biology Cell and Molecular biology are so closely related that I decided to list books on these topics together.
Molecular Biology Made Simple and Fun, 4th edition
by Clark and Russell
This is by far the easiest to read book on the topic I have read thus far. As an overview of relevant information on genetics from a molecular biology standpoint this books stands out.It makes light of the topic and uses humor to help comprehension and memorization of otherwise complex subject matter. Start here when approaching Molecular Biology and you will not be disappointed.
Essential Cell Biology
by Alberts et al
This book is a great introduction to Cell Biology. It provides some of the best diagrams I have seen on the topic and provides a functional understanding of cell biology without a ton of advanced detail. In my opinion this makes it perfect as an introduction textbook (most recent edition being the 3rd).
Molecular Biology of the Cell
by Bruce Alberts
This is the most common Molecular/Cell Biology book you will find used in classes today and possibly the most complete. The standard printing of Molecular Biology of the Cell 5th edition does not include the final five chapters in text but instead includes them on CD so I much prefer the reference edition which includes all chapters in paper form. Be warned it is a massive book with the reference edition coming in at 1728 pages. This book does touch on biochemistry as well however the topics are so closely related that I consider this a good thing.
Biochemistry Primer for Exercise Science (Primers in Exercise Science)
by Michael Houston
Not only is this book a great introduction to biochemistry, it’s an affordable introduction. Published in 2006, the 3rd edition (and latest as of this writing) is great for laying the foundations for understanding nutrition and other topics which rely heavily on biochemistry. It is well laid out and the language as well as topic depth are suitable for those first being introduced to the topic.
Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry
by Albert Lehninger et al
This is the biochem text I prefer. It goes into depth without becoming a chemistry textbook and has decent artwork. The 5th edition was released in 2008 however the 4th would serve most people just as well.
Atlas of Human Anatomy
by Frank H. Netter
This is one of my favorite textbooks. The artwork is amazing and the organization makes searching and learning easy (5th ed). Though it shows much more contrast in the art than exists in the human body this allowed me to easily memorize key details I wouldn’t be able to otherwise memorize had I only looked at a text like Gray’s (which I’m no fan of). As Netter’s is an atlas it won’t be the only anatomy book you need but for me it has been an important one.
Essential Clinical Anatomy
by Keith L. Moore et al
As I mentioned I am not a fan of the Gray’s Anatomy textbook, it’s a given everyone is different but for me Essential Clinical Anatomy finds a good balance between readability and detail. It may not be the most complex or complete anatomy textbook out today but for most people it will in my opinion prove to be the most useful. The 4th edition released in 2010 does have some labeling errors and a few descriptions are less than eloquently explained but given the amount of information condensed into 736 pages, this text will be more than enough for most coaches and clients.
by Linda S. Costanzo
This is the only physiology textbook you will ever need outside of doctorate level studies. The explanations are clear and diagrams take any guess work out of what you have just read. At only 512 pages it isn’t the mammoth 1120 page Medical Physiology by Guyton and Hall but it covers the topic very well in a much more understandable fashion than the latter mentioned option (BRS by the same author is more popular but I prefer the approach used in this text).
Science of Nutrition, The (2nd Edition)
by Janice Thompson et al.
Let me start out by saying this book is not groundbreaking, but with that in mind it is solid at building a foundation in the basic scientific aspects of nutrition. It isn’t graduate school level but it is great for someone that has an interest in the topic and wants a broad overview. It does cover metabolic processes, as per every nutrition and biochemistry textbook ever printed however it also covers the non-scientific concerns such as weight management, lifecycle nutrition and food safety.
Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism
by Sareen Gropper and Jack Smith
Those whom have asked me about books on nutrition know this is one I recommend time and again for those interested in a more advanced understanding of the topic. This book is thorough in its explanations and fairly easy to read for anyone with a scientific background, it does cover a great deal of nutritional biochemistry as to be expected from a text with a name such as this one. Where as Lehninger is covers nearly any biochemistry related issue imaginable this text zeros in on nutritional specifics and areas often overlooked by nutrition books. I especially found the chapter on Body Fluid and Electrolyte Balance to be interesting. If I had to recommend one nutrition book Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism (currently as of this writing 5th edition released I 2008) would be the one.
Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning
by – National Strength & Conditioning Association
This is an obvious choice for anyone preparing for their CSCS exam, however as the title suggests it really is a valuable text which covers all of the basics of strength and conditioning. Sure it can be used for CSCS exam prep but further it can be used as a reference when you start to skew from the essentials as most do from time to time. No one resource is perfect but this is one of the most trustworthy sources of info to date. As of this writing it is in its 3rd edition.
Science and Practice of Strength Training
by Vladimir Zatsiorsky
Let me start by saying Zatsiorsky is the man, with over 25 years as strength and conditioning coach for many of the elite athletes in Russia and as a professor of kinesiology at Penn State. I really have respect for what he has done not only as a coach but a scientist.
Science and Practice of Strength Training (2nd edition published in 2006) is an amazing book focused on strength training for athletes, the book covers training for most sports in great detail and the science of how muscle, strength and performance go hand in hand. This is easily one of the most important training based books to have for any athlete or trainer.
by Mel C. Siff
One of the most talked about scientifically based training books in recent memory. Some use it as a training bible while others search the vast pages of it for contradiction as if to discredit the late Dr. Mel Siff. This book has been one I have picked up over and over since I purchased it in 2004 (6th Ed.).
It is hard to read and dry but it is factual. Supertraining is one of those books that every big name coach and serious athlete needs or probably already has on their shelf. If you purchase one book from this list it should be this one. From basic strength training concepts to flexibility and sport specific training, this textbook covers it all.
Athletic Taping and Bracing
by David Perrin
Though this review is based on the second edition of this book the 3rd edition of Athletic Taping and Bracing is available for pre-order via amazon at the time of this writing. As athletes and trainers injury is inevitable and this book is the go-to resource for anyone wanting to know how to properly use taping and bracing to facilitate recovery and prevent injury. Divided by bodypart this book covers the ins and outs of strains, sprains and other injuries and how to tape/brace for the best result in each case.
I could have included many other books in this list if I were to go beyond the science behind the methodologies. Books such as Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 or Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength are great and I believe anybody lifting weights should read those and others, however the books that made my list if well studied will allow you to more accurately judge which of the methodologies are best suited for you and analyze why those you have tried did or did not work. In essence they lay a foundation which will help you separate the wheat from the chaff. I hope these suggestions help some of you delve a little deeper into how the human body works and what you can do to help improve upon your approach to fitness.