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Acclaimed volume from CSHL Press makes Choice magazine’s ‘25 Outstanding Academic Titles’ list

James Darnell
Author Dr. James Darnell

RNA: Life’s Indispensable Molecule by James Darnell (CSHL Press) makes Choice’s top-25; regarded a must-read for students and professional scientists

Cold Spring Harbor, NYRNA: Life’s Indispensable Molecule by Dr. James Darnell of Rockefeller University received instant critical acclaim when it was published this past summer by Cold Spring Harbor Press.  Now the book has been named one of 2011’s “25 Outstanding Academic Titles” by Choice magazine.

More than 35,000 librarians, faculty, and key decision makers rely on Choice for collection development and scholarly research. Choice reaches most undergraduate college and university libraries in the United States.

Darnell book coverIn RNA: Life’s Indispensable Molecule, Darnell provides a comprehensive and captivating account of RNA research, illuminated by his own life-long and celebrated engagement in the field. Darnell describes how scientists explored fundamental questions about the biochemical and genetic importance of RNA—how mRNAs are generated and used to produce proteins, how noncoding and catalytic RNAs mediate key cellular processes, and how RNA molecules likely initiated life on Earth.

With a scope extending from the early 20th century to the present day (pdf), and with the clarity expected from an accomplished textbook author, he conveys the intellectual context in which these questions first arose and explains how the key experiments were structured and answers obtained.

The book is geared toward scientists from the graduate level on up, and “will particularly appeal to active investigators in RNA biology, educators of molecular biology and biochemistry, and science historians,” says Dr. John Inglis, executive director and publisher of Cold Spring Harbor Press.

Making the annual Choice list is yet another accomplishment of the CSHL Press, which since 1933 has been at the forefront of academic publishing for the sciences. The Press publishes monographs, technical manuals, handbooks, review volumes, conference proceedings, scholarly journals and videotapes. These examine important topics in molecular biology, genetics, development, virology, neurobiology, immunology and cancer biology. Manuscripts for books and for journal publication are invited from scientists worldwide.

The following are excerpts from reviews of the new Darnell volume:

“At first blush, we would think anyone in the current…RNA science pantheon could write a book like this, but once one takes a look and sees the richness of erudition, the poignancy of detail, the measured nuances, and—most of all—his elegant writing, combined with the underlying perspective of history, I cannot think of anyone in our RNA community who could have done it more attractively. …No one could have written the eukaryotic RNA story as well as Jim Darnell. …This book…will not be supplanted by as glorious a book on RNA anytime soon.” 

“Darnell has been at the forefront of molecular biology throughout his illustrious career. He leaves no stone unturned in this comprehensive but clear text…The real value of this work, aside from its extraordinarily readable style, is that it covers the history of RNA biology from the early pioneers to the present…The text is supported by high-quality, highly informative figures…up-and-coming students and seasoned researchers alike will gain significant insight into this central field.”

RNA: Life’s Indispensable Molecule allows undergraduates and graduate students alike to envision, grasp, appreciate and spark fascination of the historical evolution of the importance of RNA in the context of cellular and developmental biology. After reading this book, I have restructured my course for Harvard undergraduates and it’s now the only required reading outside primary literature.”
 —John Rinn, Harvard University

“In sum, Darnell has succeeded in writing an appealing and cogent account of the rise of RNA molecular biology and its continued centrality in research today. This is an excellent book that should be required reading for graduate students and more senior investigators alike.”

Written by: Public Affairs | | 516-367-8455

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About the Author

James E. Darnell, Jr., M.D. has been Vincent Astor Professor at The Rockefeller University since 1974. His career has included poliovirus research with Harry Eagle at the National Institutes of Health, research with François Jacob at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, and academic appointments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Columbia University. He has mentored over 120 doctoral students and postdoctoral scientists. From the very beginning of his first lab at MIT, Darnell, his students and postdocs have studied RNA, its synthesis, processing, and transcriptional regulation.

Darnell is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has received numerous awards, including the 2003 National Medal of Science and the 2002 Albert Lasker Award for Special Achievement in Medical Science. He is the coauthor, with S.E. Luria, of General Virology (Wiley) and the founding author with Harvey Lodish and David Baltimore of Molecular Cell Biology

About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Founded in 1890, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has shaped contemporary biomedical research and education with programs in cancer, neuroscience, plant biology and quantitative biology. Home to eight Nobel Prize winners, the private, not-for-profit Laboratory employs 1,100 people including 600 scientists, students and technicians. The Meetings & Courses Program annually hosts more than 12,000 scientists. The Laboratory’s education arm also includes an academic publishing house, a graduate school and the DNA Learning Center with programs for middle and high school students and teachers. For more information, visit