James borrell is a conservation scientist and science communicator, with a particular interest in how species adapt to changing climate.

Essential literature for World Changers

Someone once told me, that the sole reason for the success of our modern civilisation as we know it, was the advent of the printing press. Now I’m not a historian so I can’t really comment, my housemate is, but he’s not sure either.

Nevertheless, books are a treasure, a journey, an insight into a person’s mind. I’m not a writer either so I’ll leave elaborate prose to those with the know-how.

The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it.

So here is a brief run down of a few books that really changed my outlook on life.

1. The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins

Love him or loath him, this book speaks volumes. At almost 35 years old it is now firmly a classic, widely acclaimed as the most influential book since The Origin of Species. It works the elegant tale of evolution into an approachable, meaningful story. I promise that you will not see the world in the same light again.

2. The Species Seekers, by Richard Conniff

The subtitle ‘Heroes, Fools, and the Mad pursuit of Life on Earth’ really does sum up this hair-raising edge-of-your-seat rollercoaster in to lives of the greatest biologists the world has ever seen. Taking you to the farthest reaches of the world, and then beyond that as more and more was discovered. At one point it seems that the worlds greatest minds thought all great mammals must at last be known to science, only to have the Gorilla emerge from the heart of Africa. Read this and be filled with a nostalgic love for what was once a brave new world, and perhaps as our world changes and shrinks, it soon will be once again.

3. Mutant Message Down Under, by Marlo Morgan

Take all your preconceptions about Aborigines, spirituality and the meaning of life, then throw them away. You won’t need them after this book, a factual account of a journey across the outback. It comes with a warning though, you might read this book, and find it so alarmingly touching, that you will hide it away as a fond memory, daring not to keep it on your shelf as daydreams could drift hours from your day.

4. Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know, by Ranulph Feinnes

This autobiography, from ‘the worlds greatest living explorer’ (that’s official by the way) details his life’s exploits from the army to the poles. But more important than any particular adventure is his willingness to push to the very limits of human endeavour. If you want to me motivated for your Sunday morning jog, or to climb to the roof of the earth, then this is a book you should read.

5. First Contact, by Mark Anstice

The story of old fashioned adventure in the 21st century. It’s easy to cherish the idea of traditional tribes and cultures still surviving, but then to meet them through the pages of this book, will alarm you with their fragility in the face of the modern world. A book to make you question what you should think, with a great dollop of adventure and hardship thrown in.

6. The Worst Journey in the World, by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

A member of the famed Terra Nova expedition. The worst journey in the world is a gripping account of a mission to collect Emperor penguin eggs in the grip of Antarctic Winter. He questions and reflects on self-sacrifice and heroism, offering few answers. On return Cherry-Garrard was told the eggs contributed little science. Almost a hundred years on, this book is still essential reading.