This unique, richly illustrated textbook explores the deep patterns in how life operates.


  • Learn what all living things have in common with each other
  • Understand how living things function, diversify, and evolve over time
  • Learn how asking questions leads to scientific discoveries through careful observation

This book explores the deep patterns of how life grows, develops, reproduces, evolves, and survives. A collaboration between a scientist and an artist led to captivating illustrations that make complicated biological concepts more easily accessible to students. This book can be used as a source of biological models to or used to support better understanding of living organisms and difficult biology concepts.

One of the most valuable portions of the book for teaching is Chapter 2, “Patterns”, which focuses on sixteen features that characterize how living things function. Many of these patterns are similar to—and helped inform—the patterns and design principles emphasized in tools created by the Biomimicry Institute and Biomimicry 3.8. The visuals and examples in the book help students understand these patterns.

From the publisher:

The Way Life Works is the perfect answer for any instructor seeking a more concise, meaningful, and flexible alternative to the standard introductory biology text. Organized around one central idea – the amazing unity that underlies biological diversity – this book presents biology’s basic concepts and applications through a brilliant interweaving of incisive explanations, imaginative analogies, and stunning visual graphics. The process of science is strongly emphasized, and specific historical and current research is presented to elucidate the achievements of scientific exploration and the roles of curiosity and observation in initiating the scientific process. Easily adaptable to multiple teaching styles, this irresistably [sic] readable, innovative, and engaging new textbook is guaranteed to inspire both teachers and students alike.

Image: Jones & Bartlett Learning / Copyright © - All rights reserved

While this book is now out of print, used copies are commonly available for purchase online. It was published in multiple editions with virtually identical content. The textbook edition, Exploring the Way Life Works, was published in 2001 by Jones & Bartlett Learning. The original book, for general audiences, was published in 1995 and 1998 as The Way Life Works by Times Books