Solid Biomechanics, RolandEnnos, Princeton U. Press, Princeton, NJ, 2012. $60.00 (250 pp.). ISBN 978-0-691-13550-2

If you’re looking for an engaging and insightful introduction to the mechanical world of living organisms, Roland Ennos’s Solid Biomechanics may be the book for you. As the title suggests, Ennos restricts himself to introducing and exploring the mechanics of solid bodies. Still, he is able to cover a wealth of biological contexts and organisms.

Ennos is a biologist at the University of Manchester in the UK and a widely published educator, with particular expertise in the structure and design of plants and animals. His prolific research ranges over such diverse subjects as the structure and mechanical design of trees, statistical analysis in biology, adaptive origins of fingerprints in humans, and silica in grasses as a defense mechanism against herbivores.

Solid Biomechanics seamlessly links physics and biology. The basic engineering theory it covers is clearly laid out and supplemented by effectively pedagogical graphs and diagrams. The discussions of stress, strain, and torsion provide an excellent introduction to the relevant concepts; the commentary on properties of biological materials is particularly accessible. Ennos links the basic engineering theory to practical problems in the natural world by uncovering structures that provide an interesting context for the theory—an approach that will be useful in introductory courses.

The book is divided into five sections. The first is a well-constructed introduction to the properties of materials and underlying mechanical concepts. The second looks at shapes and compositions of such biological structures as polymers and human connective tissues. The third section considers the mechanical properties of structures under bending, compression, and torsion, with a significant application to bone and muscle design and behavior under stress. The fourth looks at mechanical interactions, including the anchoring of plants, a major area of the author’s own research. The brief fifth section discusses the future and limitations of research in structural biomechanics.

Ennos introduces the basic mathematics without losing the reader in complex formalisms. That feature makes Solid Biomechanics a highly accessible work for both undergraduate students in biomechanics, physics, biology, and engineering and scientists looking at the structure of living organisms. Both groups will learn how natural adaptations produce powerful and efficient structures. However, the book’s broad scope precludes the author from providing in-depth analyses or even the tools needed for them. That is not necessarily a shortfall, but instructors should be aware of the book’s broad but not deep coverage when considering it for a course.