Dr. Jekyll & Mrs. Hyde had a quick post on about how she doesn't read too many science books anymore (she's a postdoc), leading to the question of what's the point of a book length treatment when the science is always progressing? That's a good question, so go over there and comment on what you think is the proper role for science books.
But it's obvious that there are some books which most scientists in a given field own, and have read, and have incorporated into their thought process.
You know, the bibles of the field.
They're the books that everyone has on their shelf, the ones you spent your book money on as a grad student, the ones you point younger scientists to when they have a question, the ones you just know in your gut will have the answer once you peruse the table of contents. Some are methodological bibles, some are conceptual bibles, and some blend the two.
For electrophysiology, I can immediately think of three main bibles. They are, in no particular order:
"Ion(ic) channels of Excitable Membranes", by Bertil Hille, currently in its third edition. If it's a question about some fundamental basic property relating to ion channel function, or you want a good overview of the squid action potential, then this is the place to start. Still a favorite, though I have to say I prefer the 1992 2nd edition, for the tactile sensation of its cover, it's wonderfully incorrect title, as well as its modest overall size. The third edition sadly fails each of these criteria.
"Single-Channel Recording", 2nd edition, edited by Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann. Maybe you've heard of them, having won the Nobel in 1991 for their development and use of the patch clamp technique. The book is largely covers methodological questions, though it's title is a misnomer; it covers a lot more than just single channel recording.
"The Axon Guide" edited by Rivka Sherman-Gold. Published by Axon Instruments (now owned by Molecular Devices), it covers a lot of basic material as well as more detailed questions in an accessible, easy manner. It was out of print for some time, and then Axon made it freely available in pdf form. You can download it from the Overlord Master Molecular Devices here. Everybody I train in patch clamp gets this, and I quiz em about it. I especially like its treatment of filters and digitization, two topics which many young biologists haven't heard much about. And series resistance. Oh the series resistance. That my friends is a post in itself.
So, what are the bibles of your field?
Yeah yeah, Maniatis, ok whatever. What else ya got? Cause that's bor-ing!