100 books like Mother Nature

By Sarah Blaffer Hrdy,

Here are 100 books that Mother Nature fans have personally recommended if you like Mother Nature. 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 The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous

Jay Belsky Author Of The Origins of You: How Childhood Shapes Later Life

From my list on development from childhood to middle age.

Why am I passionate about this?

It was almost by accident that I became who I turned out to be as a professional, a developmental scientist interested in how early-life experiences shape who we become. Had someone asked me when I graduated from high school what were the chances of me becoming a scientist and teacher, I would have answered “zero, zero”! During my now 40+ year academic career I've come to appreciate how complex the many forces are that shape who we become. There's no nature without nurture and no nurture without nature. This emergent realization led me to learn about and study many aspects of developmental experience, like parenting and peer relations, and the role of genetics and evolution.

Jay's book list on development from childhood to middle age

Jay Belsky Why did Jay love this book?

This one does not follow children from childhood to adulthood, but rather reveals how 100s of years ago events occurred that radically changed who people interacted with, married and spent their lives relating to.

It is a bold, strikingly original, and epic account of how the co-evolution of psychology and culture created the peculiar Western mind that profoundly shaped the modern world. While Nature matters, what this volume made clear to me is how “big Nurture”, meaning cultural practices, have changed over the past 1,000 years and the dramatic implications of such change for the world we live in today.

By Joseph Henrich,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The WEIRDest People in the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A landmark in social thought. Henrich may go down as the most influential social scientist of the first half of the twenty-first century' MATTHEW SYED

Do you identify yourself by your profession or achievements, rather than your family network? Do you cultivate your unique attributes and goals? If so, perhaps you are WEIRD: raised in a society that is Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic.

Unlike most who have ever lived, WEIRD people are highly individualistic, nonconformist, analytical and control-oriented. How did WEIRD populations become so psychologically peculiar? What part did these differences play in our history, and what do…


Book cover of The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution

Stephen K. Sanderson Author Of Human Nature and the Evolution of Society

From my list on understanding the biological basis of social life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a PhD in sociology but know almost as much about anthropology. I am a comparative sociologist specializing in the study of the entire range of human societies. This gives me an advantage in knowing which social practices are universal, which are only common, and which are uncommon or not found at all. This is critical in being able to assess the basic features of human nature. For over thirty years I have been studying the literature on Darwinian approaches to human behavior, especially sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. I am one of the leading sociologists in the world today studying the biological basis of social behavior. 

Stephen's book list on understanding the biological basis of social life

Stephen K. Sanderson Why did Stephen love this book?

The author seeks to use evolutionary principles to explain why human violence within societies is uncommon whereas violence between societies, expressed mainly as war, is very common. Chimpanzees are a violent species in which both types of violence are extremely common. Males compete for dominance in violent ways and males frequently direct their violence toward females. But with respect to within-society violence humans have “domesticated” themselves, mostly by, over hundreds of thousands of years, killing the most violent and dangerous males. With respect to between-society violence, however, humans remain chimp-like. Chimps are notorious for intercommunity raiding and killing, and the anthropological and archaeological evidence shows that humans are equally notorious. Humans have therefore evolved to be both nice and nasty—and therein lies the paradox expressed in the book’s subtitle.

By Richard Wrangham,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“A fascinating new analysis of human violence, filled with fresh ideas and gripping evidence from our primate cousins, historical forebears, and contemporary neighbors.”
—Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature

We Homo sapiens can be the nicest of species and also the nastiest. What occurred during human evolution to account for this paradox? What are the two kinds of aggression that primates are prone to, and why did each evolve separately? How does the intensity of violence among humans compare with the aggressive behavior of other primates? How did humans domesticate themselves? And how were the acquisition…


Book cover of Homicide: Foundations of Human Behavior

Stephen K. Sanderson Author Of Human Nature and the Evolution of Society

From my list on understanding the biological basis of social life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a PhD in sociology but know almost as much about anthropology. I am a comparative sociologist specializing in the study of the entire range of human societies. This gives me an advantage in knowing which social practices are universal, which are only common, and which are uncommon or not found at all. This is critical in being able to assess the basic features of human nature. For over thirty years I have been studying the literature on Darwinian approaches to human behavior, especially sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. I am one of the leading sociologists in the world today studying the biological basis of social behavior. 

Stephen's book list on understanding the biological basis of social life

Stephen K. Sanderson Why did Stephen love this book?

This husband-wife team uses Darwinian natural selectionist thinking to account for the most important features of homicide throughout the world. A basic principle of Darwinian theory is known as kin selection, which means that people favor kin over nonkin and close kin over distant kin. In this regard, the authors show, for example, that people are much more likely to kill unrelated acquaintances and strangers than genetic kin, and that child homicide is perpetrated much more often by stepparents than by natural parents. The authors also show that there is a huge sex difference in rates of killing. Throughout the world the vast majority of killing is done by men. This is because men are competing with other men for the status and resources needed to secure mates for reproduction.

By Martin Daly, Margo Wilson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The human race spends a disproportionate amount of attention, money, and expertise in solving, trying, and reporting homicides, as compared to other social problems. The public avidly consumes accounts of real-life homicide cases, and murder fiction is more popular still. Nevertheless, we have only the most rudimentary scientific understanding of who is likely to kill whom and why. Martin Daly and Margo Wilson apply contemporary evolutionary theory to analysis of human motives and perceptions of self-interest, considering where and why individual interests conflict, using well-documented murder cases. This book attempts to understand normal social motives in murder as products of…


Book cover of Biology at Work: Rethinking Sexual Equality

Stephen K. Sanderson Author Of Human Nature and the Evolution of Society

From my list on understanding the biological basis of social life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a PhD in sociology but know almost as much about anthropology. I am a comparative sociologist specializing in the study of the entire range of human societies. This gives me an advantage in knowing which social practices are universal, which are only common, and which are uncommon or not found at all. This is critical in being able to assess the basic features of human nature. For over thirty years I have been studying the literature on Darwinian approaches to human behavior, especially sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. I am one of the leading sociologists in the world today studying the biological basis of social behavior. 

Stephen's book list on understanding the biological basis of social life

Stephen K. Sanderson Why did Stephen love this book?

The author challenges the prevailing orthodoxy that the differences between men and women, and their respective roles in the work world, are the result of differential socialization. His view is that there are important biological differences between the sexes that lead them to choose different kinds of work. Women, for example, prefer jobs that involve working with people whereas men prefer working with things. Women also frequently choose part-time work because this allows them to spend more time with their children. Men are more likely than women to compete for high-status jobs because they are naturally more competitive than women. Male-female differences have been shaped over hundreds of thousands of years by evolution.

By Kingsley R. Browne,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Does biology help explain why women, on average, earn less money than men? Is there any evolutionary basis for the scarcity of female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies? According to Kingsley Browne, the answer may be yes.

Biology at Work brings an evolutionary perspective to bear on issues of women in the workplace: the "glass ceiling," the "gender gap" in pay, sexual harassment, and occupational segregation. While acknowledging the role of discrimination and sexist socialization, Browne suggests that until we factor real biological differences between men and women into the equation, the explanation remains incomplete.

Browne looks at behavioral differences…


Book cover of The Evolution of Human Sexuality

Stephen K. Sanderson Author Of Human Nature and the Evolution of Society

From my list on understanding the biological basis of social life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a PhD in sociology but know almost as much about anthropology. I am a comparative sociologist specializing in the study of the entire range of human societies. This gives me an advantage in knowing which social practices are universal, which are only common, and which are uncommon or not found at all. This is critical in being able to assess the basic features of human nature. For over thirty years I have been studying the literature on Darwinian approaches to human behavior, especially sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. I am one of the leading sociologists in the world today studying the biological basis of social behavior. 

Stephen's book list on understanding the biological basis of social life

Stephen K. Sanderson Why did Stephen love this book?

This is a classic work taking a Darwinian perspective on human sexual behavior. A central theme is that there are sharp differences between male and female sexuality. Male sexuality is more urgent and less discriminating than female sexuality. Males also have a stronger desire than females for sexual variety. This is because males can promote their reproductive success by mating with many females, whereas sexual variety provides no real reproductive advantage for females. Males are in competition with other males for access to mates, especially mates of high reproductive value. The author takes up the question of whether the female orgasm is an adaptation or a by-product of the male organism, concluding that it is a by-product.

By Donald Symons,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Author Donald Symonds examines the differences between men and women in sexual behavior and attitudes, concluding that these differences are innate and that it is impossible to achieve identical sexualities in males and females. A central theme of this book is that, with respect to sexuality, there is a female human nature and a male human nature, and these natures are extraordinarily different, though the differences are to some extent masked by the compromises
heterosexual relationships entail and by moral injunctions. Men and women differ in their sexual natures because throughout the immensely long hunting and gathering phase of human…


Book cover of The Development of the Person: The Minnesota Study of Risk and Adaptation from Birth to Adulthood

Jay Belsky Author Of The Origins of You: How Childhood Shapes Later Life

From my list on development from childhood to middle age.

Why am I passionate about this?

It was almost by accident that I became who I turned out to be as a professional, a developmental scientist interested in how early-life experiences shape who we become. Had someone asked me when I graduated from high school what were the chances of me becoming a scientist and teacher, I would have answered “zero, zero”! During my now 40+ year academic career I've come to appreciate how complex the many forces are that shape who we become. There's no nature without nurture and no nurture without nature. This emergent realization led me to learn about and study many aspects of developmental experience, like parenting and peer relations, and the role of genetics and evolution.

Jay's book list on development from childhood to middle age

Jay Belsky Why did Jay love this book?

This book tells the story of the ground-breaking Minnesota Longitudinal Study, the first to document developmental effects of infant-mother attachment security/insecurity and so much more, a contribution to understanding that greatly shaped my own career.

The book shares discoveries which emerged in following more than 200 children growing up under high-risk conditions from birth to adulthood. In so doing it illuminates whether, how, and why early-life experiences foster problematic development or resilience in the face of adversity.

By L. Alan Sroufe, Byron Egeland, Elizabeth A. Carlson , W. Andrew Collins

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The definitive work on a groundbreaking study, this essential volume provides a coherent picture of the complexity of development from birth to adulthood. Explicated are both the methodology of the Minnesota study and its far-reaching contributions to understanding how we become who we are. The book marshals a vast body of data on the ways in which individuals' strengths and vulnerabilities are shaped by myriad influences, including early experiences, family and peer relationships throughout childhood and adolescence, variations in child characteristics and abilities, and socioeconomic conditions. Implications for clinical intervention and prevention are also addressed. Rigorously documented and clearly presented,…


Book cover of Attachment: The Fundamental Questions

Jay Belsky Author Of The Origins of You: How Childhood Shapes Later Life

From my list on development from childhood to middle age.

Why am I passionate about this?

It was almost by accident that I became who I turned out to be as a professional, a developmental scientist interested in how early-life experiences shape who we become. Had someone asked me when I graduated from high school what were the chances of me becoming a scientist and teacher, I would have answered “zero, zero”! During my now 40+ year academic career I've come to appreciate how complex the many forces are that shape who we become. There's no nature without nurture and no nurture without nature. This emergent realization led me to learn about and study many aspects of developmental experience, like parenting and peer relations, and the role of genetics and evolution.

Jay's book list on development from childhood to middle age

Jay Belsky Why did Jay love this book?

How parenting—and other factorsshape infant-parent attachment security/insecurity and the effects of attachment on child, adolescent, and adult development has been the subject of extensive study for more than 4 decades.

This edited volume takes stock of what developmental scholars have learned as well as what challenges to attachment theory and research remain to be addressed. The contributors to this edited volume are all well-recognized experts in the field.

By Ross A. Thompson (editor), Jeffry A. Simpson (editor), Lisa J. Berlin (editor)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The ongoing growth of attachment research has given rise to new perspectives on classic theoretical questions as well as fruitful new debates. This unique book identifies nine central questions facing the field and invites leading authorities to address them in 46 succinct chapters. Multiple perspectives are presented on what constitutes an attachment relationship, the best ways to measure attachment security, how internal working models operate, the importance of early attachment relationships for later behavior, challenges in cross-cultural research, how attachment-based interventions work, and more. The concluding chapter by the editors delineates points of convergence and divergence among the contributions and…


Book cover of Children of the Great Depression: Social Change in Life Experience

Jay Belsky Author Of The Origins of You: How Childhood Shapes Later Life

From my list on development from childhood to middle age.

Why am I passionate about this?

It was almost by accident that I became who I turned out to be as a professional, a developmental scientist interested in how early-life experiences shape who we become. Had someone asked me when I graduated from high school what were the chances of me becoming a scientist and teacher, I would have answered “zero, zero”! During my now 40+ year academic career I've come to appreciate how complex the many forces are that shape who we become. There's no nature without nurture and no nurture without nature. This emergent realization led me to learn about and study many aspects of developmental experience, like parenting and peer relations, and the role of genetics and evolution.

Jay's book list on development from childhood to middle age

Jay Belsky Why did Jay love this book?

Whether and how childhood adversity shapes human development is a question that has long intrigued scientists and citizens.

This book tells the story of a great sociologist mining archival data about children who grew up during economically troubled times in America in order to underscore how the past is—and is notprologue. Perhaps its greatest contribution is in illuminating the environmental conditions and life experiences that determined whether children eventually thrived or failed. In so doing, this work shaped the field of developmental studies, including my own work, for decades to come.

By Glen H. Elder, Jr.,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Children of the Great Depression as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Explores the familial and intergenerational implications and consequences of drastic socio-economic change, as experienced by Oakland, California residents born in 1920-21


Book cover of Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution

Jennifer Banks Author Of Natality: Toward a Philosophy of Birth

From my list on birth, one of our greatest underexplored subjects.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a family that was focused on people, poetry, and politics. My parents both worked with children with disabilities in Massachusetts and my mother ran a daycare center in our house. As a reader, student, poet, and then editor, I’ve drawn on those experiences and expectations, and have searched through books looking for their echoes. Since 2007, I've edited books at Yale University Press where I'm currently Senior Executive Editor. I have a BA from Cornell University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. I've also worked in various publishing roles at ICM, Continuum, and Harvard University Press.

Jennifer's book list on birth, one of our greatest underexplored subjects

Jennifer Banks Why did Jennifer love this book?

This remarkable book is undoubtedly one of the most ambitious and omnivorous prose accounts of birth in the English language.

I encountered it early in my research on birth, when I was hungering for books that explored it as a topic of broad human concern and that went beyond the strictly personal. In critiquing the “institution” of motherhood, and the exploitation that has accompanied it for many women, Rich simultaneously unearths the power within birth – its fertile creativity – and imagines new ways of understanding it.

Rich is a wonderful stylist who uses what she calls an “odd-fangled” approach. I’ve loved this book for its “odd-fangledness” but also for how Rich combines critique with love, anger with reverence.

By Adrienne Rich,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Of Woman Born as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Of Woman Born, originally published in 1976, influential poet and feminist Adrienne Rich examines the patriarchic systems and political institutions that define motherhood. Exploring her own experience-as a woman, a poet, a feminist and a mother-she finds the act of mothering to be both determined by and distinct from the institution of motherhood as it is imposed on all women everywhere. A "powerful blend of research, theory, and self-reflection" (Sandra M. Gilbert, Paris Review), Of Woman Born revolutionised how women thought about motherhood and their own liberation. With a stirring new foreword from National Book Critics Circle Award-winning writer…


Book cover of God and Jetfire: Confessions of a Birth Mother

Vanessa McGrady Author Of Rock Needs River: A Memoir About a Very Open Adoption

From my list on adoption and what it means to be a family.

Why am I passionate about this?

I don’t just write stories, I study them. I’ve noticed that nearly every major hero/ine’s journey and epic tale has an adoption component. From Bible stories and Greek myths (adoption worked out well for Moses, not so much for Oedipus) to Star Wars through This Is Us, we humans are obsessed with origin stories. And it’s no wonder: “Where do I come from?” and “Where do I belong?” are questions that confound and comfort us from the time we are tiny until we take our final breath. As an adoptive mother and advocate for continuing contact with birth families, I love stories about adoption, because no two are alike. They give us light and insight into how families are created and what it means to be a family—by blood, by love, and sometimes, the combination of the two.

Vanessa's book list on adoption and what it means to be a family

Vanessa McGrady Why did Vanessa love this book?

Deciding to place a child for adoption is one of the most excruciating decisions in the human experience. When Amy Seek, a promising architecture student, becomes pregnant, she’s not yet ready to become a parent. But she’s also not ready, completely, to hand over her child to a perfectly lovely family. Her tale of love, heartbreak, and acceptance is a reminder to parents and non-parents of all circumstances that there are lots of ways to make a family—and in this case, it was the best, most perfectly imperfect option. I think this is a really important book for everyone in the adoption triad (birth parents, adoptive parents, adoptees) to read, because it really gets up close and uncomfortably personal with the struggle some birth mothers undergo, despite the unlimited love they have for their babies. 

By Amy Seek,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

God and Jetfire is a mother's account of her decision to surrender her son in an open adoption and of their relationship over the twelve years that follow. Facing an unplanned pregnancy at twenty-two, Amy Seek and her ex-boyfriend begin an exhaustive search for a family to raise their child. They sift through hundreds of "Dear Birth Mother" letters, craft an extensive questionnaire, and interview numerous potential couples. Despite the immutability of the surrender, it does little to diminish Seek's newfound feelings of motherhood. Once an ambitious architecture student, she struggles to reconcile her sadness with the hope that she's…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in motherhood, natural selection, and mothers?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about motherhood, natural selection, and mothers.

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