100 books like Metazoa

By Peter Godfrey-Smith,

Here are 100 books that Metazoa fans have personally recommended if you like Metazoa. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Thinking Big: How the Evolution of Social Life Shaped the Human Mind

Paul Pettitt Author Of Homo Sapiens Rediscovered: The Scientific Revolution Rewriting Our Origins

From my list on understanding the evolution of the human mind.

Why am I passionate about this?

I went to university wanting to become a Roman specialist, but ended up going backwards in time until I landed with a bump on the hard flints of the Palaeolithic (Old Stone Age). I research aspects of the behaviour of the Pleistocene (Ice Age) indigenous Europeans – the Neanderthals – and the origins and evolution of our own species, Homo sapiens. I undertake fieldwork across Europe, and I’m particularly interested in the origins and early development of art – both on portable objects and cave walls – and the long-term evolution of our treatment of the dead. My scientific love is how we can try to get inside the mind of our most remote ancestors.

Paul's book list on understanding the evolution of the human mind

Paul Pettitt Why did Paul love this book?

Us humans are social animals par excellence, although if we scratch the surface there are evolutionary explanations for the simplest of things: why we laugh, dance, and gossip, and why humans across the world tend to have similar numbers of close friends and more distant relationships.

In Thinking Big two Palaeolithic archaeologists and an evolutionary anthropologist combine to present an explanation for how our behaviour evolved to cope with the increasing intellectual demands of growing group sizes, from small groups more characteristic of the apes to the huge, international networks that characterise the modern world.

The importance of what could be seen as the superficial things we do such as holding hands becomes breathtaking in the hands of three inspirational thinkers.

By Clive Gamble, John Gowlett, Robin Dunbar

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When and how did the brains of our hominin ancestors become human minds? When and why did our capacity for language or art, music and dance evolve? It is the contention of this pathbreaking and provocative book that it was the need for early humans to live in ever-larger social groups, and to maintain social relations over ever-greater distances - the ability to `think big' - that drove the enlargement of the human brain and the development of the human mind. This `social brain hypothesis', put forward by evolutionary psychologists such as Robin Dunbar, one of the authors of this…


Book cover of Being a Human: Adventures in Forty Thousand Years of Consciousness

Paul Pettitt Author Of Homo Sapiens Rediscovered: The Scientific Revolution Rewriting Our Origins

From my list on understanding the evolution of the human mind.

Why am I passionate about this?

I went to university wanting to become a Roman specialist, but ended up going backwards in time until I landed with a bump on the hard flints of the Palaeolithic (Old Stone Age). I research aspects of the behaviour of the Pleistocene (Ice Age) indigenous Europeans – the Neanderthals – and the origins and evolution of our own species, Homo sapiens. I undertake fieldwork across Europe, and I’m particularly interested in the origins and early development of art – both on portable objects and cave walls – and the long-term evolution of our treatment of the dead. My scientific love is how we can try to get inside the mind of our most remote ancestors.

Paul's book list on understanding the evolution of the human mind

Paul Pettitt Why did Paul love this book?

A raw and bloody gem of a book, which plunges the reader into the cold and dirty world of our deep past, not just seen but experienced by its multi-talented author.

A philosophical hankering to know what it means to be human – and what we have inherited from our evolutionary past -leads this trained veterinarian, barrister, and writer to go back to nature in a Derbyshire wood. He and his long-suffering son experience the freezing, claw-red, and skin-tearing nature of the wild, as they seek to live similarly to our prehistoric ancestors.

Drawing inspiration from the 40,000 years of the Upper Palaeolithic, in an environment similar to the Mesolithic, Foster paints a blistering, spraining, and chilling account of the demands of a more primitive life. Essential reading from the comfort of my couch.

By Charles Foster,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE ATLANTIC, KIRKUS REVIEWS, AND NEW STATESMAN

A radically immersive exploration of three pivotal moments in the evolution of human consciousness, asking what kinds of creatures humans were, are, and might yet be

How did humans come to be who we are? In his marvelous, eccentric, and widely lauded book Being a Beast, legal scholar, veterinary surgeon, and naturalist extraordinaire Charles Foster set out to understand the consciousness of animal species by living as a badger, otter, fox, deer, and swift. Now, he inhabits three crucial periods of human development to understand…


Book cover of The Ark Before Noah: Decoding the Story of the Flood

Paul Pettitt Author Of Homo Sapiens Rediscovered: The Scientific Revolution Rewriting Our Origins

From my list on understanding the evolution of the human mind.

Why am I passionate about this?

I went to university wanting to become a Roman specialist, but ended up going backwards in time until I landed with a bump on the hard flints of the Palaeolithic (Old Stone Age). I research aspects of the behaviour of the Pleistocene (Ice Age) indigenous Europeans – the Neanderthals – and the origins and evolution of our own species, Homo sapiens. I undertake fieldwork across Europe, and I’m particularly interested in the origins and early development of art – both on portable objects and cave walls – and the long-term evolution of our treatment of the dead. My scientific love is how we can try to get inside the mind of our most remote ancestors.

Paul's book list on understanding the evolution of the human mind

Paul Pettitt Why did Paul love this book?

During the Bronze and Iron Ages the first texts appeared that allow us an unadulterated glimpse into the prevalent beliefs of the time, in Egypt and in Mesopotamia.

Finkel, a consummate cuneiformist and expert in the literature of Sumer, Babylon, and Assyria, presents here a jaunty, entertaining, humorous but above-all scholarly account of his new understanding of the Sumerian-derived flood story, made possible by his discovery in the archives of the British Museum a missing clay tablet – a couple of chapters – of the flood myth.

What follows is a true detective story, in which Finkel cleverly plays some mental gymnastics in order to reconstruct exactly what the Ark would have looked like. In part ancient history, historiography, theology, and just a lesson in how stories turn into myths, Finkel reveals a very different story to the one we all grew up with.

By Irving Finkel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In THE ARK BEFORE NOAH, British Museum expert Dr Irving Finkel reveals how decoding the symbols on a 4,000 year old piece of clay enable a radical new interpretation of the Noah's Ark myth. A world authority on the period, Dr Finkel's enthralling real-life detective story began with a most remarkable event at the British Museum - the arrival one day in 2008 of a single, modest-sized Babylonian cuneiform tablet - the palm-sized clay rectangles on which our ancestors created the first documents. It had been brought in by a member of the public and this particular tablet proved to…


Book cover of The First Ghosts

Paul Pettitt Author Of Homo Sapiens Rediscovered: The Scientific Revolution Rewriting Our Origins

From my list on understanding the evolution of the human mind.

Why am I passionate about this?

I went to university wanting to become a Roman specialist, but ended up going backwards in time until I landed with a bump on the hard flints of the Palaeolithic (Old Stone Age). I research aspects of the behaviour of the Pleistocene (Ice Age) indigenous Europeans – the Neanderthals – and the origins and evolution of our own species, Homo sapiens. I undertake fieldwork across Europe, and I’m particularly interested in the origins and early development of art – both on portable objects and cave walls – and the long-term evolution of our treatment of the dead. My scientific love is how we can try to get inside the mind of our most remote ancestors.

Paul's book list on understanding the evolution of the human mind

Paul Pettitt Why did Paul love this book?

As a specialist in the funerary practices of our earliest ancestors, I avidly awaited the publication of Finkel’s latest, this time deploying his considerable scholarship to the question of how Sumerians, Assyrians, and Babylonians thought of ghosts, spirits, demons, and the underworld.

You don’t need to be a believer to enjoy this intimate picture of the minds of some of the earliest known urbanites and intellectuals at a time when history was just emerging. Out of the fired clay leap stories of underworld journeys such as that of Gilgamesh, of spirits that rise up from below, of exorcisms, omens, and the shadows that lurk in the corners of the house.

To me, this is the most profound statement on early humans at their most imaginative, and if you believe it a useful manual for the prospective ghost hunter.

By Irving Finkel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'It's enthralling stuff, mixing the scholarly with the accessible and placing storytelling right at the heart of the human experience.' - History Revealed

'A fascinating journey' - Yorkshire Post

'The book is a delight to read: each chapter is as academically astute as you would expect from this author, but delivered with a light touch and entertaining writing-style that sweeps the reader through the pages.' - Archaeology Worldwide

In The First Ghosts, he has found the perfect medium for bringing the ancient Mesopotamians back from the dead... Despite the morbid theme and remote cultural milieu, this is not a sombre…


Book cover of A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans: with A Theory of Meaning

Cary Wolfe Author Of What Is Posthumanism?

From my list on philosophy, ethics, animals, and us.

Why am I passionate about this?

Before there was an interdisciplinary academic field called “Animal Studies,” I was involved in these issues as an animal rights activist. Back then, the question of the animal was not taken seriously in academia as a free-standing problem (like gender or sexuality or race). It was important to me to build that—not just to take seriously the lives of animals, but also to show how the animal issue opens onto a much broader set of fundamental questions about the human and its place in relation to ecology, technology, and the non-human world. That’s why the book series I founded is devoted not to Animal Studies, but to Posthumanism.

Cary's book list on philosophy, ethics, animals, and us

Cary Wolfe Why did Cary love this book?

Reading this book completely changed how I think about the world around me.

Actually, I should say “worlds,” because Uexküll explores, both lyrically and scientifically, how the umwelt (often translated as “lifeworld”) of each animal is unique, likening each one to a separate “soap bubble,” each with its own particular character, but nonetheless all connected, as if in a giant symphony.

I admire those rare books of historical importance that manage to remain contemporary, and this book has lost none of its relevance since its original publication in 1934. A touchstone for major contemporary philosophers such as Giorgio Agamben, Gilles Deleuze, and Peter Sloterdijk, Uexküll’s famous foray is widely viewed as one of the founding texts of contemporary theoretical biology, biosemiotics, and posthumanist thought.

By Jakob von Uexkull, Joseph D. O'Neil (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Is the tick a machine or a machine operator? Is it a mere object or a subject? With these questions, the pioneering biophilosopher Jakob von Uexkull embarks on a remarkable exploration of the unique social and physical environments that individual animal species, as well as individuals within species, build and inhabit. This concept of the umwelt has become enormously important within posthumanist philosophy, influencing such figures as Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Deleuze and Guattari, and, most recently, Giorgio Agamben, who has called Uexkull "a high point of modern antihumanism."
A key document in the genealogy of posthumanist thought, A Foray into the…


Book cover of Bitch: On the Female of the Species

Lisa McClain Author Of Divided Loyalties? Pushing the Boundaries of Gender and Lay Roles in the Catholic Church, 1534-1829

From my list on how we got so confused about women, gender, and Christianity.

Why am I passionate about this?

I do what I do for completely self-interested reasons. I am a woman, wife, and mother; a history professor specializing in the Catholic Church and gender; and a Christian (Episcopalian). I used to compartmentalize those roles. I was a Christian at church, a secular scholar at work, etc. It was exhausting. I was frustrated by conflicting messages about gender and faith from my family, profession, and religion. I wanted to be true to all aspects of my identity in all situations, but how? History is full of people who’ve questioned and adapted at the intersections of gender and religion. I learn from their journeys and add another piece of the puzzle.

Lisa's book list on how we got so confused about women, gender, and Christianity

Lisa McClain Why did Lisa love this book?

Cooke’s hilarious, spot-on exploration of how we humans create our understandings of female nature and capabilities may seem an odd starting point, but bear with me.

Cooke exposes how scientists and scholars for centuries have mis-reported and normalized views about males and females that have little to do with actual science and much to do with the gendered attitudes of the scientists. We all have presumptions about gender roles we don’t question.

But to explore the intersections of gender and faith we need to become aware of our pre-conceptions and how we got them. From Dick the sage grouse to elder female leadership within orca pods, you’ll be laughing while gob-smacked at the shaky biological foundation of many of our gender presumptions about what is “natural” for males and females.

By Lucy Cooke,

Why should I read it?

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


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 Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World

Loretta Graziano Breuning Author Of Habits of a Happy Brain: Retrain Your Brain to Boost Your Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin, & Endorphin Levels

From my list on the animal mind.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m the founder of the Inner Mammal Institute and author of many books on the mammalian neurochemistry we’ve inherited. I started this research because the psychology I’d been taught wasn’t working for my students or my children. It wasn’t even working for the children of psychology professors! I knew we were missing something big. I started studying animals, and suddenly everything made sense. We have the same neurochemicals controlled by the same limbic system as other mammals, which is why the social behavior of animals is eerily familiar.  Here are five books that shaped my insight into the mammal brain in all of us. But I must mention the wildlife videos of David Attenborough as well. They made a huge contribution to my understanding of animal impulses, which is why my first book is dedicated to him. Attenborough was not just a talking head; he was the prime mover in the drive to record animal behavior in the wild.

Loretta's book list on the animal mind

Loretta Graziano Breuning Why did Loretta love this book?

Macaque monkeys are machiavellian, get it? This is a proper academic survery of macaque social behavior in the wild. I was amazed to learn that social climbing behaviors is not just a chimp thing, and not just a male thing. Female monkeys are shameless social climbers, and this promotes the survival of their genes just like biologists tell us. Monkeys cooperate as well as compete, but they calculate when to cooperate and with whom. In short, they cooperate when it promotes their genes. When the calculating behavior of humans gets you down, it’s helpful to know how monkeys do the same thing. A similar book on a different species is Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind, by Cheney and Seyfarth. Yet another is The Lemurs' Legacy: The Evolution of Power, Sex, and Love. I studied one primate after another and kept seeing the same basic patterns,…

By Dario Maestripieri,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Judged by population size and distribution, Homo sapiens are clearly the most successful primates. A close second, however, would be rhesus macaques, who have adapted to - and thrived in - such diverse environments as mountain forests, dry grasslands, and urban sprawl. Scientists have spent countless hours studying these opportunistic monkeys, but rhesus macaques have long been overshadowed in the public eye by the great apes, who, because of their greater intelligence, are naturally assumed to have more to teach us about other primates and about humans as well. Dario Maestripieri thinks it is high time we shelve that misperception,…


Book cover of The Whisperings Within

Howard Bloom Author Of The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History

From my list on on changing the way you think.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been called the Einstein, Newton, Darwin, and Freud of the 21st century by Britain’s Channel 4 TV and the next Stephen Hawking by Gear Magazine. My passion is flying over all the sciences, all of history, and a chunk of the arts and pulling it all together in a new big picture. I’ve called this approach Omnology, the aspiration to omniscience. Sounds crazy, right? But I’ve published scientific papers or lectured at scholarly conferences in twelve different scientific disciplines, from quantum physics and cosmology to evolutionary biology, psychology, information science, and astronautics. And I’ve been published in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, and many more.

Howard's book list on on changing the way you think

Howard Bloom Why did Howard love this book?

In an easy, breezy style, Barash introduces you to sociobiology, the most mind-blowing perceptual lens since Charles Darwin’s 1857 introduction of evolution. Like Hawkins and Thomas, Barash reveals everything from the operation of genes to the culture of the Inuit in the impossible wastes of the arctic.  And he shows you, once again, how the findings of widely separated sciences fit into a spectacular big picture.

By David P. Barash,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The whisperings within [Hardcover]


Book cover of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

Lars Chittka Author Of The Mind of a Bee

From my list on animal intelligence – from aliens to octopuses.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a Professor of Sensory and Behavioural Ecology at Queen Mary College of the University of London and also the founder of the Research Centre for Psychology at Queen Mary. I've been fascinated by the strange world of insects since childhood and after taking the first glance into a beehive, I was hooked – I instantly knew that I was looking into a form of alien civilization. Since becoming a scientist, I have explored their strange perceptual worlds as well as their intelligence, and most recently the question of their consciousness. I hope you find wonderful insights in the books that I have suggested and a new respect for the animal minds that surround us. 

Lars' book list on animal intelligence – from aliens to octopuses

Lars Chittka Why did Lars love this book?

This captivating book dismantles the prevalent notion that various facets of human intelligence are exclusive to our species.

Through a compelling array of examples spanning the animal kingdom, the author illuminates how skills like crafting tools, understanding mental perspectives, recognizing oneself, and even exhibiting cultural practices are not confined to humans and their nearest kin. Instead, these abilities have independently emerged in a diverse array of other creatures.

Consequently, the book serves as a stimulating challenge to the idea of human superiority, offering numerous indications that when an animal's environment demands it, evolution is inclined to yield intelligent behavior in a myriad of manifestations.

By Frans de Waal,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hailed as a classic, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? explores the oddities and complexities of animal cognition-in crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, chimpanzees, and bonobos-to reveal how smart animals really are, and how we've underestimated their abilities for too long. Did you know that octopuses use coconut shells as tools, that elephants classify humans by gender and language, and that there is a young male chimpanzee at Kyoto University whose flash memory puts that of humans to shame? Fascinating, entertaining, and deeply informed, de Waal's landmark work will convince you to rethink everything you…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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