100 books like Hierarchy in the Forest

By Christopher Boehm,

Here are 100 books that Hierarchy in the Forest fans have personally recommended if you like Hierarchy in the Forest. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Gap: The Science of What Separates Us from Other Animals

Larry Cahoone Author Of The Emergence of Value: Human Norms in a Natural World

From my list on history and science books that tell us who we are now.

Why am I passionate about this?

A philosophy professor, my central interest has always been something historical: what is going on in this strange modern world we live in? Addressing this required forty years of background work in the natural sciences, history, social sciences, and the variety of contemporary philosophical theories that try to put them all together. In the process, I taught philosophy courses on philosophical topics, social theory, and the sciences, wrote books, and produced video courses, mostly focused on that central interest. The books listed are some of my favorites to read and to teach. They are crucial steps on the journey to understand who we are in this unprecedented modern world.

Larry's book list on history and science books that tell us who we are now

Larry Cahoone Why did Larry love this book?

This is the best single book summarizing contemporary scientific knowledge on what makes humans different from other animals. It strikes a middle path between “romantics” who want to believe dolphins and primates can do everything we can and “killjoys” who try to maintain more traditional notions of human superiority.

But if there is a “gap” between us and other animals, exactly what is it? Suddendorf tracks the question from one field of possible answers to the next, from linguistics to anthropology to archaeology to primatology to cognitive science.

The book reads like a detective story – I couldn’t put it down.

By Thomas Suddendorf,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Gap as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There exists an undeniable chasm between the capacities of humans and those of animals. Our minds have spawned civilizations and technologies that have changed the face of the Earth, whereas even our closest animal relatives sit unobtrusively in their dwindling habitats. Yet despite longstanding debates, the nature of this apparent gap has remained unclear. What exactly is the difference between our minds and theirs?In The Gap , psychologist Thomas Suddendorf provides a definitive account of the mental qualities that separate humans from other animals, as well as how these differences arose. Drawing on two decades of research on apes, children,…

Book cover of A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the Baboons

Anthony Ham Author Of The Last Lions of Africa: Stories from the Frontline in the Battle to Save a Species

From my list on wild Africa.

Why am I passionate about this?

For more than two decades, I have been travelling to the wild places of this planet looking for stories. Africa in all its diversity has always been my first love. Whether I’m off the grid in the Kalahari, or scanning the far horizon of the Serengeti looking for lions, Africa feels like home to me, and I’m passionate about finding, and then telling the stories of the people I meet, and the wildlife I encounter, along the way. And driving me every step of the way is my great belief in the power of the written word and that of a good story to transform the way we think about, and interact with, the natural world. 

Anthony's book list on wild Africa

Anthony Ham Why did Anthony love this book?

Funny and wise in equal measure, A Primate’s Memoir is a window on baboon social dynamics with plenty of forays into the world of safari tourism that he observes from askance. Sapolsky has since gone on to become one of the science world’s keenest observers of human behaviour, and his portrayals of baboon and human interactions are priceless.

By Robert M. Sapolsky,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked A Primate's Memoir as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the tradition of Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey, Robert Sapolsky, a foremost science writer and recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant, tells the mesmerizing story of his twenty-one years in remote Kenya with a troop of Savannah baboons.

“I had never planned to become a savanna baboon when I grew up; instead, I had always assumed I would become a mountain gorilla,” writes Robert Sapolsky in this witty and riveting chronicle of a scientist’s coming-of-age in remote Africa.

An exhilarating account of Sapolsky’s twenty-one-year study of a troop of rambunctious baboons in Kenya, A Primate’s Memoir interweaves serious scientific…

Book cover of The Sediments of Time: My Lifelong Search for the Past

William Von Hippel Author Of The Social Leap: The New Evolutionary Science of Who We Are, Where We Come From, and What Makes Us Happy

From my list on understanding human nature.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Queensland. I’ve had the good fortune to spend my life studying humans and trying to figure out how they got that way. These are some of the best books I’ve read on this fascinating topic. They might seem to be all over the map, but understanding human nature requires approaching it from many different perspectives, and these books will get you started.

William's book list on understanding human nature

William Von Hippel Why did William love this book?

I’ve always dreamed of being an archeologist who somehow talks a rich philanthropist into funding a life of exploring human origins in East Africa. But my back gets sore after picking strawberries for just 15 minutes and I’m not so good with flying insects either. So I’ve left this field to others. But if you want to get a worm’s eye view of what it’s like to explore the lives of our ancestors from millions of years ago, there’s no better guide than Meave Leakey and this wonderful book.

By Meave Leakey, Samira Leakey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sediments of Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Extraordinary . . . This inspirational autobiography stands among the finest scientist memoirs."
—New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice

Meave Leakey’s thrilling, high-stakes memoir—written with her daughter Samira—encapsulates her distinguished life and career on the front lines of the hunt for our human origins, a quest made all the more notable by her stature as a woman in a highly competitive, male-dominated field.

In The Sediments of Time, preeminent paleoanthropologist Meave Leakey brings us along on her remarkable journey to reveal the diversity of our early pre-human ancestors and how past climate change drove their evolution. She offers a…

Book cover of The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature

John Iceland Author Of Why We Disagree about Inequality: Social Justice vs. Social Order

From my list on explaining political polarization.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Penn State professor of sociology and demography who is interested in social inequality, demography, and public opinion. My family moved frequently when I was growing up—I lived in Colombia, Greece, and Mexico. I attended Brown University and worked at the U.S. Census Bureau as an analyst and Branch Chief for several years before returning to academia. My interest in inequality dates back to living in different countries with different cultures, politics, and standards of living. While I have long been interested in the demographics of poverty and inequality, in more recent years I’ve become interested in political polarization and why people disagree about a variety of social issues.

John's book list on explaining political polarization

John Iceland Why did John love this book?

Pinker challenges the widely held belief that human beings are born as blank slates, shaped solely by their environment and experiences.

As a cognitive psychologist, he makes this case with a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence on evolutionary psychological adaptations. I especially appreciate how Pinker conveys a lot of complicated information so plainly. He argues that the belief in the “blank slate” has often led to misguided policies, such as in education and the criminal justice system.

By Steven Pinker,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Blank Slate as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A brilliant inquiry into the origins of human nature from the author of Rationality, The Better Angels of Our Nature, and Enlightenment Now.

"Sweeping, erudite, sharply argued, and fun to read..also highly persuasive." --Time

Updated with a new afterword

One of the world's leading experts on language and the mind explores the idea of human nature and its moral, emotional, and political colorings. With characteristic wit, lucidity, and insight, Pinker argues that the dogma that the mind has no innate traits-a doctrine held by many intellectuals during the past century-denies our common humanity and our individual preferences, replaces objective analyses…

Book cover of Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage

Wayne E. Lee Author Of The Cutting-Off Way: Indigenous Warfare in Eastern North America, 1500-1800

From my list on war beyond the state.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been writing about and teaching military history for many years (I'm a professor at the University of North Carolina), mostly focused on the pre-industrial world, and mostly about the maelstrom of the North Atlantic colonial experience (including warfare in Ireland, England, and in North America). I quickly decided that I needed to do more to understand the Native American perspective, and that also meant understanding the very nature of their societies: Not just how they fought, but how they imagined the function of war. This book is the product of constantly returning to that problem, while also putting it into a world comparative context of other non-state experiences of war. 

Wayne's book list on war beyond the state

Wayne E. Lee Why did Wayne love this book?

This one too takes on a much longer sweep of human history than most, here focusing on the role of resource competition in generating and shaping war among humans around the world. 

LeBlanc is an archaeologist who specialized in the desert Southwest of what's now the United States, and he is very concerned with the academic tendency to "pacify" the past. This is an excellent survey of the long role of war in societal competition, and the likely continued role of resource competition in wars to come.  

By Steven A LeBlanc, Katherine E Register,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Constant Battles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With armed conflict in the Persian Gulf now upon us, Harvard archaeologist Steven LeBlanc takes a long-term view of the nature and roots of war, presenting a controversial thesis: The notion of the "noble savage" living in peace with one another and in harmony with nature is a fantasy. In Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage, LeBlanc contends that warfare and violent conflict have existed throughout human history, and that humans have never lived in ecological balance with nature.

The start of the second major U.S. military action in the Persian Gulf, combined with regular headlines about…

Book cover of Childhood: A Multicultural View

Meredith Small Author Of Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent

From my list on the anthropology of parenting.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an anthropologist with a background in evolutionary biology, primate behavior, and cross-cultural approaches to parenting. I taught “The Anthropology of Parenting” for 20 years at Cornell University. The book grew from interviews with anthropologists, pediatricians, and child development experts taking a different stance about parents and babies—that we should look at how babies are designed by evolution and how cultures then interfere with those expectations. My book shows there is no perfect way to raise a child but there are styles in other cultures we can borrow to make our babies, and ourselves, more at ease.

Meredith's book list on the anthropology of parenting

Meredith Small Why did Meredith love this book?

Konner is an anthropologist and physician who spent time with the !Kung hunters and gatherers studying children. This book is based on the PBS show Childhood, and it is everything you might want to know about childhood because it traverses both biology and culture. A dense read, but worth it.

By Melvin Konner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Childhood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This Channel 4 TV tie-in book by anthropologist and psychiatrist Melvin Konner takes a journey through the childhood years - from conception and birth through adolescence - showing how children experience them, how parents and societies shape them and how science is beginning to understand them.

Book cover of A New Path: To Transcend the Great Forgetting Through Incorporating Ancestral Practices into Contemporary Living

Jessica Carew Kraft Author Of Why We Need to Be Wild: One Woman's Quest for Ancient Human Answers to 21st Century Problems

From my list on surviving the collapse of civilization.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer, an anthropologist, and a mother. I spent five years researching ancient human survival skills and learning from modern wilderness survival experts about how to live the original Homo sapiens lifestyle. I became deeply invested in the importance of these skills amidst climate change and digital transformation because they connect us to our evolutionary heritage and safeguard our species’ survival into the future if and when our civilization collapses (as all past civilizations have done!) I find hope in being prepared for the possible demise of our industrial system, embracing the opportunities that arise instead of trying to preserve it at all costs. 

Jessica's book list on surviving the collapse of civilization

Jessica Carew Kraft Why did Jessica love this book?

The secret to mastering your apocalypse experience is to think of it not as surviving, but as thrivingin the way that humans did for over 300,000 years as hunter-gatherers.

This book will drop you into that mindset as you read about how far our modern civilization has deviated from our original lifestyle, and the huge price we have paid for all of our comforts, conveniences, and technological wizardry.

This book may make you want to adopt an apocalypse-ready lifestyle even in the absence of societal collapse, since the new path he proposes offers so much in terms of improved health and wellbeing, rewarding outdoor activities, and IRL interaction (enjoy more sex, he says).  

By Arthur Haines,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A New Path as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New Path takes a candid look at the contemporary lifeway of humans in an attempt to reinstate our biological norms--patterns of living that define each species on the planet. Whether one is to discuss a wolf, a caribou, or an eagle, there are features of these animal's lives that define them. Given their unique adaptations, they are tailored, through evolution, to living in a particular way (e.g., a caribou cannot enjoy the diet of a wolf). This book presents the forgotten species' norms of Homo sapiens and explains that when we deviate from these patterns, we experience sickness of…

Book cover of Hunting and Gathering

Astrid Carlen-Helmer Author Of The Demon King’s Interpreter

From my list on capturing France's most epic love stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a French-American writer with a passion for young adult stories and flawed female characters. Born and raised in France in a household without a TV, I spent my entire childhood reading avidly, which in turn led me to study Literature and Film. In fact, most of my life, I have been inspired by novels that offer windows into new worlds that open up possibilities. Some of the novels from the list below feature some of my favorite characters, and provide insights into other worlds and other times. 

Astrid's book list on capturing France's most epic love stories

Astrid Carlen-Helmer Why did Astrid love this book?

While not entirely about romantic love, Hunting and Gathering was such a huge success when it came out in France, it was hard not to include it on my list.

Set in modern-day Paris, and spanning a year, the story follows four people each struggling with their own demons, who end up sharing a roof, and who, despite their differences, learn to lean on each other. This is a truly refreshing story about love, how vast, unexpected, and healing it can be. A feel-good read! 

By Anna Gavalda,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hunting and Gathering as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Camille is doing her best to disappear. She barely eats, works at night as a cleaner and lives in a tiny attic room. Downstairs in a beautiful, ornate apartment, lives Philibert Marquet de la Durbelliere, a shy, erudite, upper-class man with an unlikely flatmate in the shape of the foul-mouthed but talented chef, Franck. One freezing evening Philibert overcomes his excruciating reitcence to rescue Camille, unconscious, from her garret and bring her into his home.

As she recovers Camille learns more about Philibert; about Franck and his guilt for his beloved but fragile grandmother Paulette, who is all he has…

Book cover of The Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game

David Sobel Author Of Wild Play: Parenting Adventures in the Great Outdoors

From my list on bonding your children with nature.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 1972, I started an early childhood center in the Monadnock Region in New Hampshire. The focus was on child-centered education, with an emphasis on working with children outdoors. I've spent the last 50 years continuing to connect children with nature in schools, nature centers, national parks, museums, and in families. I taught graduate courses in developmental psychology, cognitive development, place-based education and have done hundreds of professional development workshops for early childhood and elementary school teachers. As a father, I focused on connecting my own children with nature. My son is a ski coach and runs an ecotourism kayaking business. My daughter is a theater director and writes grants for an environmental non-profit. 

David's book list on bonding your children with nature

David Sobel Why did David love this book?

The course I took from Paul Shepard in college was one of the most thought-provoking courses I ever experienced. Find an image of the original cover of the book and you'll see what I mean—it's a strange synthesis of a post-modern bow hunter emerging from his paleo ancestor. Shepard contends that the key to understanding human happiness is recognizing that we are genetically hunters and gatherers living in a post-modern age. Reclaiming our hunting and gathering impulses will help us lead fuller lives. He does a fascinating job, in this book, of describing what hunting and gathering culture childhoods looked like and then suggesting how we should parent our children with these old genetic impulses in mind. 

By Paul Shepard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In what may be his boldest and most controversial book, Paul Shepard presents an account of human behavior and ecology in light of our past. In it, he contends that agriculture is responsible for our ecological decline and looks to the hunting and gathering lifestyle as a model more closely in tune with our essential nature. Shepard advocates affirming the profound and beautiful nature of the hunter and gatherer, redefining agriculture and combining technology with hunting and gathering to recover a livable environment and peaceful society.

Book cover of On Hunting

Charlie Pye-Smith Author Of Land of Plenty: A Journey Through the Fields & Foods of Modern Britain

From my list on that evoke the spirit of the British countryside.

Why am I passionate about this?

I thought I was going to be a farmer, but some serious practical experience after I finished school put paid to that idea. I then focused my attention on conservation, before turning to travel writing. All of which led, eventually, to a growing interest in development issues and how people can make a living from the land. The result is over a dozen books, some of which are narrative-driven travelogues – many based on my experiences in Africa and elsewhere; and some of which focus on the nitty-gritty of agriculture, agroforestry, and related issues. My most recent book, Land of Plenty, provided a state of the nation account of British farming during the tumultuous year (for farmers, at least) when the UK voted to leave the EU.

Charlie's book list on that evoke the spirit of the British countryside

Charlie Pye-Smith Why did Charlie love this book?

On Hunting is not so much a defence of foxhunting, which the conservative philosopher came to quite late in life, as a celebration of everything associated with it, from its culture to its profound influence on rural communities and the strange veneration of the quarry species. It also helps to explain, better than any other book I have read, why significant numbers of people are so passionate about hunting. “This book will bring on its author’s head the abuse to which he has long been accustomed,” wrote the historian Raymond Carr in the Literary Review. “But even the politically correct, if they have a shred of honesty, must acknowledge the intellectual power and literary elegance that distinguish it.”

By Roger Scruton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On Hunting as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Drawing on his own experiences of hunting and offering a delightful portrait of the people and animals who take part in it, Roger Scruton introduces the reader to some of the mysteries of country life. His book is a plea for tolerance towards a sport in which the love of animals prevails over the pursuit of them, and in which Nature herself is the centre of the drama. 'A supremely witty book. ' EVENING STANDARD 'A pocket masterpiece. . . and a lyrical celebration. 'THE SPECTATOR 'This is a lovely book. . . A Classic. ' INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY 'A…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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