The philosophy of biology is a fast moving subject, as new biological discoveries are coming thick and fast. Hence even a classic like Jacques Monod's 'Chance and Necessity' looks pretty dated after 35 years. But sometimes it's good to go back to see what the important issues were at an earlier time. The book requires a little knowledge of biology, but anyone who has read a few popular science books should have no problem with this one. It's a short book, but a wide range of topics are discussed - vitalism, the second law of thermodynamics and the philosophy of mind are just a few. The reader can also see the beginnings of the idea of the electronic computer as a metaphor for biological processes.
Monod contrasts the scientific view with earlier pre-scientific ideas. Previously the purpose of life was clear but the knowledge of how it worked was pretty vague. Now the detail of the working of living things is becoming more and more precise (Necessity), but the sense of purpose seems to be receding (Chance). A recipe for despair? Monod's answer is that we do have to invent our own sense of purpose, but the scientific worldview and the quest for knowledge give us an obvious choice.