What is Life? by Erwin Schrödinger

The What Is Life cover

Schrodinger (the one with the cat) wrote a popular science book in 1944 about the building blocks of life.  The book was very interesting from a historical perspective.  I had learned about genetics and such in high school as "this is the truth and here is some evidence that this is true," but that's very different from "our previous way of thinking about things doesn't make sense, so we know it probably has to be something like this, but we haven't actually seen it with our own eyes yet."  Seeing DNA as an "aperiodic crystal" (since they hadn't actually figured out what DNA was yet) makes the science part of it seem much more alive.

I'm not a big fan of the writing style.  Some of my friends remarked that a lot of his refrains were either designed to make people think of him as smart or to defend him from biologists who would criticise him since he wasn't a biologist and was writing about, among other things, biology.  In any case, his writing wasn't as simple as it could have been.

Also, when he delves into philosophy rather than science, he gets less understandable and more fuzzy.  He has some thoughts about God, free will, and determinism, and he uses some very strong language about it, but even after much musing, I can't figure out what he's saying, and I have no idea whether I agree with it or not.

Check out the book if you're interested in the history of science!