The best books on biology in the Anthropocene

Who am I?

Menno Schilthuizen is a Dutch evolutionary biologist and ecologist with more than thirty years of research experience under his belt, feeling at home in tropical rainforests as well as in urban greenspaces. He writes in a humorous and accessible manner for the general public about the ways in which the world's ecosystems are shifting and evolving under an increasing human presence. He works and teaches at Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, the Netherlands.


I wrote...

Darwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution

By Menno Schilthuizen,

Book cover of Darwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution

What is my book about?

We are marching towards a future in which three-quarters of humans live in cities, and a large portion of the planet's landmass is urbanized. With much of the rest covered by human-shaped farms, pasture, and plantations, where can nature still go? To the cities -- is Menno Schilthuizen's answer in this remarkable book. And with more and more wildlife carving out new niches among humans, evolution takes a surprising turn. Urban animals evolve to become more cheeky and resourceful, city pigeons develop detox-plumage, and weeds growing from cracks in the pavement get a new type of seeds. City blackbirds are even on their way of becoming an entirely new species, which we could name Turdus urbanicus.

Menno Schilthuizen shows us that evolution in cities can happen far more rapidly, and strangely, than Darwin had dared dream.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is readers supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction

By Chris D. Thomas,

Book cover of Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction

Why this book?

We are all so primed to view environmental change as disastrous and undesired. But Chris Thomas helps us to separate the ecological wheat from the chaff. Ecological change is a normal part of the history of life on earth and our presence indeed causes species and ecosystems to reinvent themselves. But in doing so, they create ecological novelties that we could embrace, rather than fight.


The New Wild: Why Invasive Species Will Be Nature's Salvation

By Fred Pearce,

Book cover of The New Wild: Why Invasive Species Will Be Nature's Salvation

Why this book?

Fred Pearce, veteran editor of New Scientist, takes on an exploration of what invasive species really are. In doing so, he reveals that many of our engrained opinions regarding these 'exotics' is based on flawed ecology, ecological xenophobia, and ill-founded conservatism. Sure, some invasive species should be fought to save cherished native species from extinction, but Pearce shows us that this should never be the knee-jerk reaction to any immigrant species.


Wild Souls: Freedom and Flourishing in the Non-Human World

By Emma Marris,

Book cover of Wild Souls: Freedom and Flourishing in the Non-Human World

Why this book?

This is a very important work in which the author marries philosophy and cutting-edge conservation science. Using a series of charismatic animals as her vehicles, she unravels the fuzzy thinking around the concepts of 'wild' and 'nature', leaving the reader's concepts of these, if not forever changed, then at least forever deepened.


Strange Natures: Conservation in the Era of Synthetic Biology

By Kent H. Redford, William M. Adams,

Book cover of Strange Natures: Conservation in the Era of Synthetic Biology

Why this book?

When speaking of the role of technology in nature conservation, one might envisage drones to survey habitat destruction, or endangered elephants with radio collars. But technology might go much further. In this book, the authors show how genetics could help us to re-engineer species, even entire food webs to meet the environmental challenges of the future.


Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future

By Elizabeth Kolbert,

Book cover of Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future

Why this book?

In her portrayal of the vortex of technological fixes and counter-fixes that characterise modern humans' relationship with nature, Kolbert betrays a dark sense of humor. In a deadpan manner, she describes the unforeseen consequences of human ingenuity when applied to the natural world. In the end, she leaves us with no other outlook than that worse is still to come -- unless we fundamentally change our ways.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in nature conservation, sustainability, and Anthrozoology?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about nature conservation, sustainability, and Anthrozoology.

Nature Conservation Explore 20 books about nature conservation
Sustainability Explore 20 books about sustainability
Anthrozoology Explore 94 books about Anthrozoology

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World, Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life, and Animal Intimacies: Interspecies Relatedness in India's Central Himalayas if you like this list.