Cover image for review post about the new natural science books, Discovering Life's Story, showing the inside of the first and second volumes.

Natural Science Book Review: Discovering Life’s Story by Joy Hakim

So often academic subjects exist in silos…for example, you spend some time studying literature and then close those books and move onto learning about natural science.  And when you are done with science, you might move on to history.  It can be challenging to find easy ways to tie all these subjects together, especially at the high school level.

That’s way I was excited to read Joy Hakim’s new books about Discovering Life’s Story as they weave history, geography, science, and art together in a narrative that will appeal to high schoolers.  You can get a glimpse inside them below.

Pinnable cover image for review post about Discovering Life's Story showing the covers of the first and second volumes.

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Who Should Read the Discovering Life’s Story series?

The Discovering Life’s Story series was written for high schoolers who want to learn more about natural science.  Adults will enjoy and learn from these books as well. I definitely did!

If you choose to do them as family read alouds, then younger children with curious minds will enjoy listening in, too.

Since the books weave in history, geography, science, art, and biography in a beautiful way, it would be helpful for readers to bring a good amount of background knowledge of these subjects to the reading of the books.

About the Author, Joy Hakim

You may know Joy Hakim as the author of the best-selling ten-volume History of US.  This American History series uses stories to engage readers and bring history to life. She is also the author of the three-volume series, The Story of Science, which uses stories to teach middle and high schoolers about how scientists developed their understanding of the universe and physics.

Ms. Hakim believes standard textbooks are boring and that it is important to bring the art of storytelling to learners. She has taught at a variety of levels and also worked as a journalist.

The biography on her website states “To productively handle information you need to research (read), process (think), and use (write).  So reading, writing and critical thinking are today’s essential skills.”  This philosophy influences how she researches and writes her books.  Her books encourage literacy, question-asking, and critical thinking.

Overview of this Natural Science Series

I was immediately struck by the beauty of the books when I opened them.  They are printed in full color and open flat so I could take my time exploring the beautiful drawings and photographs inside.  Not only is beautiful art included, but each chapter starts with quotes from scientists, writers, playwrights, poets, and others.

Each book is about 180 pages long with 12 chapters.  Within each chapter are sidebars that highlight important people and pictures and diagrams that help tell the story.  It is easy to read and digest a chapter a day.

Both books have a long suggested further reading list, source notes for each chapter, and a bibliography.  An index is included to help readers refer back to specific information.

Two page spread of Volume I of Discovering Life's Story showing a colored drawing of a rose and the title and related quotes for Chapter 9.

Volume I: Biology’s Beginnings

The first volume, Biology’s Beginnings, starts by introducing the reader to the foundations of natural science in both the Islamic and Christian Worlds during the second millennium.  Twelve chapters then lead the reader from the discovery of human anatomy in the 1500s through the discovery of viruses in the 1800s.  The focus of the book is on the discovery of details of living organisms.

Important contributors to natural science such as da Vinci, Vesalius, Leeuwenhoek, Linnaeus, Pasteur, and many that you may have not heard of are highlighted. Many women are highlighted who made significant contributions to natural science, but are often left out of traditional books about the subject.

Biology’s Beginnings follows the development of microscopes and scientific thought that lead to the knowledge of smaller and smaller organisms and body parts.  While we have learned bits and pieces of this information through our history and biology studies over the years, it was nice to have it all tied together and placed in the context of history.

Two page spread of Volume II of Discovering Life's Story showing a sidebar about and artwork by Maria Sibylla Merian.

Volume 2: The Evolution of An Idea

In the The Evolution of an Idea, Hakim turns the focus to the Enlightenment period when scientists and thinkers start to question big ideas.  Starting in the 1700s, she highlights people who dared to question the idea that all living species existed in the same form since beginning of creation and that nothing had changed.

Important contributors to natural science such as Lamarck, Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace, Mendel and many that you may have not heard of are highlighted. The reader is led through the exploration, observations, and thinking that developed the theories of evolution and natural selection. Again, we have learned much of the information included in this book, but reading it felt like a ‘behind the scenes’ of how this information came to be discovered.

The Evolution of an Idea ends in the late 1800s before many more scientific discoveries are made leaving the reader wondering if Hakim has yet another book coming in the series.

Two page spread of Volume II of Discovering Life's Story showing text, two drawings, and a sidebar about a scientist.

How to Use These Books in Your Homeschool

The Discovering Life’s Story books would be a great addition to a high school biology program.  They could be read aloud as a group with a discussion of how each chapter connects with the science students are learning.  Or the student could read them independently and make a few notes about each chapter and/or narrate the important parts of the chapter to someone else.  The author provides this short teacher’s guide for Biology’s Beginnings with discussion questions and a guided notetaking page students can use with each chapter.

These books could also be part of a literature-based World History program or just additional reading during the high school years.  They are a great way for students to weave together what they have been learning across several subjects.


Have you read any of Hakim’s books?  Which are your favorite?  Which do you look forward to trying?


*I received these natural science books, Discovering Life’s Story Volumes I and II by Joy Hakim, and a small fee in exchange for this book review.  However, the opinions expressed are solely my own.  This post also contains affiliate links for your convenience.*