How Life Works

Philip Ball

18 January 2024
560 pages


'An essential primer on humanity’s ongoing quest to understand the secrets of life . . . Excellent . . . Ball is a terrific writer.' – Adam Rutherford, The Guardian

A cutting-edge new vision of biology that proposes to revise our concept of what life is – from Science Book Prize winner Philip Ball.

Biology is undergoing a quiet but profound transformation. Several aspects of the standard picture of how life works have been exposed as incomplete, misleading, or wrong.

In How Life Works, Philip Ball explores the new biology, revealing life to be a far richer, more ingenious affair than we had guessed. With this knowledge come new possibilities. Today we can redesign and reconfigure living systems, tissues, and organisms. We can reprogram cells, for instance, to carry out new tasks and grow into structures not seen in the natural world. Some researchers believe that ultimately we will be able to regenerate limbs and organs, and perhaps even create new life forms that evolution has never imagined.

Incorporating the latest research and insights, How Life Works is a sweeping journey into this new frontier of the nature of life, a realm that will reshape our understanding of life as we know it.

Ball is a terrific writer . . . An essential primer in our never-ending quest to understand life
Ball is a ferociously gifted science writer . . . There is so much [in How Life Works] that is amazing . . . urgent . . . astonishing.
A mind-stretching book . . . Ball is a clarifier supreme. It is hard to imagine a more concise, coherent, if also challenging, single volume written on the discoveries made in the life sciences over the past 70 years.