100 books like The Early Evolutionary Imagination

By Emelie Jonsson,

Here are 100 books that The Early Evolutionary Imagination fans have personally recommended if you like The Early Evolutionary Imagination. 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 Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human

Joseph Carroll Author Of Reading Human Nature: Literary Darwinism in Theory and Practice

From my list on literary Darwinism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent the past thirty years leading the movement to integrate the humanities, and especially literary study, with evolutionary psychology and cognitive neuroscience. I got my PhD in comparative literature right about the time the academic literary world was being convulsed by the poststructuralist revolution (Derrida, Foucault, et co). I felt a profound antipathy to the sterile paradoxes and attenuated abstractions of that theory. I wanted a theory that could get close to the power literature had over my own imagination. The evolutionary human sciences have provided me with a basis for building a theory that answers my own need to make sense of literature.

Joseph's book list on literary Darwinism

Joseph Carroll Why did Joseph love this book?

This is the first book I always recommend to people wanting to see what literary Darwinism is about. Gottschall has a gift for charming readers, reaching out and speaking to them personally. The book is loaded with condensed research, but all that information is presented in a readily accessible, conversational style. The book is also loaded with fascinating anecdotes—stories. Gottschall makes a compelling case that the human mind naturally craves stories.

By Jonathan Gottschall,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Humans live in landscapes of make-believe. We spin fantasies. We devour novels, films, and plays. Even sporting events and criminal trials unfold as narratives. Yet the world of story has long remained an undiscovered and unmapped country. It’s easy to say that humans are “wired” for story, but why?

In this delightful and original book, Jonathan Gottschall offers the first unified theory of storytelling. He argues that stories help us navigate life’s complex social problems—just as flight simulators prepare pilots for difficult situations. Storytelling has evolved, like other behaviors, to ensure our survival.

Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience,…


Book cover of Why Horror Seduces

Joseph Carroll Author Of Reading Human Nature: Literary Darwinism in Theory and Practice

From my list on literary Darwinism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent the past thirty years leading the movement to integrate the humanities, and especially literary study, with evolutionary psychology and cognitive neuroscience. I got my PhD in comparative literature right about the time the academic literary world was being convulsed by the poststructuralist revolution (Derrida, Foucault, et co). I felt a profound antipathy to the sterile paradoxes and attenuated abstractions of that theory. I wanted a theory that could get close to the power literature had over my own imagination. The evolutionary human sciences have provided me with a basis for building a theory that answers my own need to make sense of literature.

Joseph's book list on literary Darwinism

Joseph Carroll Why did Joseph love this book?

If you love horror, or are even mildly interested in it, you will find this book a real treat. Clasen is one of the world’s leading scholars of horror. Like Gottschall, he has the knack for engaging, personable writing, with witty turns that will make you laugh, even while the hair is standing up on the back of your neck at the horror scenarios he relishes describing. Clasen is absolutely convincing about the ways in which horror taps into our inherited ancestral fears and disgusts.

By Mathias Clasen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From vampire apocalypses, shark attacks, witches, and ghosts, to murderous dolls bent on revenge, horror has been part of the American cinematic imagination for almost as long as pictures have moved on screens. But why do they captive us so? What is the drive to be frightened, and why is it so perennially popular? Why Horror Seduces addresses these questions through evolutionary social sciences.

Explaining the functional seduction of horror entertainment, this book draws on cutting-edge findings in the evolutionary social sciences, showing how the horror genre is a product of human nature. Integrating the study of horror with the…


Book cover of American Classics: Evolutionary Perspectives

Joseph Carroll Author Of Reading Human Nature: Literary Darwinism in Theory and Practice

From my list on literary Darwinism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent the past thirty years leading the movement to integrate the humanities, and especially literary study, with evolutionary psychology and cognitive neuroscience. I got my PhD in comparative literature right about the time the academic literary world was being convulsed by the poststructuralist revolution (Derrida, Foucault, et co). I felt a profound antipathy to the sterile paradoxes and attenuated abstractions of that theory. I wanted a theory that could get close to the power literature had over my own imagination. The evolutionary human sciences have provided me with a basis for building a theory that answers my own need to make sense of literature.

Joseph's book list on literary Darwinism

Joseph Carroll Why did Joseph love this book?

Saunders is an unusually acute and subtle literary critic. She is deeply immersed in the great works of American literature, and she brings those works vividly to life. She penetrates deep into the evolved motives that regulate even the most seemingly idiosyncratic works. She demonstrates that literature is profoundly shaped by our evolved human motives and emotions.

By Judith P. Saunders,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This collection of essays examines selected works in the American literary tradition from an evolutionary perspective. Using an interdisciplinary framework to pose new questions about long admired, much discussed texts, the collection as a whole provides an introduction to Darwinian literary critical methodology. Individual essays feature a variety of figures-Benjamin Franklin to Billy Collins-targeting fitness-related issues ranging from sexual strategies and parental investment to cheating and deception. Attention is paid to the physical and social environments in which fictional characters are placed, including the influence of cultural-historical conditions on resource acquisition, status-building, competition, and reciprocity. The discussion throughout the volume…


Book cover of On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction

Joseph Carroll Author Of Reading Human Nature: Literary Darwinism in Theory and Practice

From my list on literary Darwinism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent the past thirty years leading the movement to integrate the humanities, and especially literary study, with evolutionary psychology and cognitive neuroscience. I got my PhD in comparative literature right about the time the academic literary world was being convulsed by the poststructuralist revolution (Derrida, Foucault, et co). I felt a profound antipathy to the sterile paradoxes and attenuated abstractions of that theory. I wanted a theory that could get close to the power literature had over my own imagination. The evolutionary human sciences have provided me with a basis for building a theory that answers my own need to make sense of literature.

Joseph's book list on literary Darwinism

Joseph Carroll Why did Joseph love this book?

Boyd combines research on human evolution with cognitive psychology. He offers crisp and lucid summaries of the relevant research. His writing is like that of the best popular science. His marshaling of ideas from evolutionary and cognitive psychology offers an alternative to critical theories that have lost touch with science, and with much of reality.

By Brian Boyd,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A century and a half after the publication of Origin of Species, evolutionary thinking has expanded beyond the field of biology to include virtually all human-related subjects-anthropology, archeology, psychology, economics, religion, morality, politics, culture, and art. Now a distinguished scholar offers the first comprehensive account of the evolutionary origins of art and storytelling. Brian Boyd explains why we tell stories, how our minds are shaped to understand them, and what difference an evolutionary understanding of human nature makes to stories we love.

Art is a specifically human adaptation, Boyd argues. It offers tangible advantages for human survival, and it derives…


Book cover of Darwin Machines and the Nature of Knowledge

Geoffrey M. Hodgson Author Of Darwin's Conjecture: The Search for General Principles of Social and Economic Evolution

From my list on the seismic implications of Darwinism for social science.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always wondered why people choose and act in particular ways, from heroism and altruism to selfishness and greed. Human society is a kaleidoscope of changing actions and fortunes. Social science tries to explain why. But I was dissatisfied with its answers. Then I discovered writers who used evolutionary ideas to help explain social and economic change. I realized that evolution did not mean reducing everything to biology. I became fascinated by Darwin’s deeper and wider ideas about human society, cooperation, and motivation. I read widely and joined with others of similar mind. It is an exciting and rewarding intellectual landscape to explore. I strongly recommend a long visit.

Geoffrey's book list on the seismic implications of Darwinism for social science

Geoffrey M. Hodgson Why did Geoffrey love this book?

Plotkin’s brilliant book is about the nature and evolution of human knowledge. How do people gain and develop useful knowledge in a complex, uncertain, and changing world? Behaviorist theories of stimulus and response are inadequate. The mind must be primed to deal with complexity and uncertainty. Models from behaviorist psychology are unable to account for the acquisition of knowledge in such circumstances. Darwinian evolutionary theory helps to explain how the mind uses inherited instincts and culturally acquired habits to guide and enhance intelligence. As with the earlier work of the Darwinian psychologist and pragmatist, William James, instinct and habit are the enablers of intelligence, not its impediments. Knowledge is an evolutionary adaptation. This great book reveals more explosive implications of Darwinism for social science.

By Henry Plotkin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Darwin Machines and the Nature of Knowledge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bringing together evolutionary biology, psychology, and philosophy, Henry Plotkin presents a new science of knowledge that traces an unbreakable link between instinct and our ability to know. Since our ability to know our world depends primarily on what we call intelligence, intelligence must be understood as an extension of instinct. The capacity for knowledge is deeply rooted in our biology and, in a special sense, is shared by all living things.


Book cover of Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution

Geoffrey M. Hodgson Author Of Darwin's Conjecture: The Search for General Principles of Social and Economic Evolution

From my list on the seismic implications of Darwinism for social science.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always wondered why people choose and act in particular ways, from heroism and altruism to selfishness and greed. Human society is a kaleidoscope of changing actions and fortunes. Social science tries to explain why. But I was dissatisfied with its answers. Then I discovered writers who used evolutionary ideas to help explain social and economic change. I realized that evolution did not mean reducing everything to biology. I became fascinated by Darwin’s deeper and wider ideas about human society, cooperation, and motivation. I read widely and joined with others of similar mind. It is an exciting and rewarding intellectual landscape to explore. I strongly recommend a long visit.

Geoffrey's book list on the seismic implications of Darwinism for social science

Geoffrey M. Hodgson Why did Geoffrey love this book?

This clearly written and well-researched book shows that human evolution is as much about culture as it is about genes. Both evolve. And both involve the Darwinian principles of variation, selection, and replication of key bits of information. Robert Boyd and Peter Richerson are among the leading contributors to our understanding of how genes and culture co-evolve. The work rebuts exclusively gene-based accounts, and it shows how human evolution operates on multiple levels. Darwinian ideas remain paramount because they provide the over-arching framework in which both genetic and cultural evolution interact and guide human behavior. This book shows how a Darwinian evolutionary approach can rescue the theory of culture in social science from its many vagaries and past wrong turns.

By Peter J. Richerson, Robert Boyd,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Not by Genes Alone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Humans are a striking anomaly in the natural world. While we are similar to other mammals in many ways, our behavior sets us apart. Our unparalleled ability to adapt has allowed us to occupy virtually every habitat on earth, and our societies are larger, more complex, and more cooperative than any other mammal's. In "Not by Genes Alone", Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd argue that only a Darwinian theory of cultural evolution can explain these unique characteristics. "Not by Genes Alone" offers a radical interpretation of human evolution, arguing that our ecological dominance and our singular social systems stem…


Book cover of Last And First Men

K.K. Edin Author Of The Measurements of Decay

From my list on exploring philosophy through fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a lawyer and novelist with a Master’s degree in philosophy. I read philosophy and its history to seek wisdom, knowledge, morality, meaning, and the means by which to think well. That is also why I read fiction. And a great philosophical novel can do what a treatise cannot: it can enlighten by style, perspective, the elicitation of empathy, by poignancy and aesthetic awe, and other qualities unique to good fiction. Although I could not possibly represent all the great philosophical novels in this short list, I’ve tried to present a meaningful cross-section. I hope you find these novels as enjoyable and meaningful as I have.

K.K.'s book list on exploring philosophy through fiction

K.K. Edin Why did K.K. love this book?

Last and First Men is an imagined history of the human race over two-billion years into the future. The beauty of this work is its ability to give the human race meaning and significance, whereas most other works of such scope instead seek to dwarf humanity and its significance under the scale of the universe. Stapledon achieves this by infusing his narrative with compassion, and with an underlying admiration for the process of evolution. Moreso than Darwinian evolution, the process humanity undergoes is more aligned with Hegelian, idealist dialectical movements, and implicitly evokes many questions about the nature of consciousness, our place in the universe, and what is essential about humanity. Though I cannot quite say why, the book has a refreshingly optimistic quality. I read this book shortly after being diagnosed with cancer, and it brought me much vitality.

By Olaf Stapledon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of the most extraordinary, imaginative and ambitious novels of the century: a history of the evolution of humankind over the next 2 billion years.

Among all science fiction writers Olaf Stapledon stands alone for the sheer scope and ambition of his work. First published in 1930, Last and First Men is full of pioneering speculations about evolution, terraforming, genetic engineering and many other subjects.


Book cover of Darwin on Trial

David F. Prindle Author Of Stephen Jay Gould and the Politics of Evolution

From my list on the politics of evolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

While growing up as a budding intellectual, two of my passions were social science (in other words, politics), and natural science, particularly biology. For decades, I thought of those as two unconnected fields of knowledge. I studied politics in my professional capacity as a government professor, and I read nature and wildlife studies as a hobby. Then, one day in 2000, I picked up a copy of a book by Stephen J. Gould, a Harvard paleontologist. It struck me that in every sentence he was combining science and politics. It was an on-the-road-to-Damascus moment. Since then, I have studied and written about the politics of evolution.  

David's book list on the politics of evolution

David F. Prindle Why did David love this book?

The clearest and most comprehensive creationist critique of evolutionary biology. Johnson, a retired law professor, marshals every possible argument like a prosecuting attorney, employing reasoning and evidence that is either masterful and convincing, or deceitful and outrageous, depending upon your point of view. To Johnson, the biologists who work in the tradition of Darwin are not scientists, but propagandists in a political movement, using fake data and spurious arguments to bamboozle the public. His purpose is to clear the way for readers to be convinced that a huge, invisible, omnipotent, supernatural designer (no, don't call him God) authored the millions of organisms that have existed on Earth for 3.8 billion years. Is this a scientific critique or a political polemic?

By Phillip E. Johnson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Is evolution fact or fancy? Is natural selection an unsupported hypothesis or a confirmed mechanism of evolutionary change?
These were the courageous questions that professor of law Phillip Johnson originally took up in 1991. His relentless pursuit to follow the evidence wherever it leads remains as relevant today as then.
The facts and the logic of the arguments that purport to establish a theory of evolution based on Darwinian principles, says Johnson, continue to draw their strength from faith--faith in philosophical naturalism.
In this edition Johnson responds to critics of the first edition and maintains that scientists have put the…


Book cover of Climbing Mount Improbable

Mark Burgess Author Of Smart Spacetime: How information challenges our ideas about space, time, and process

From my list on mind bending scientific discovery and courageous rethinking.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a scientist and technologist, trained in theoretical quantum physics, who became an Emeritus Professor of Network Technology from Oslo’s metropolitan university. I’ve strenuously tried to communicate the wonder of science to students and industry throughout my career. I’ve been privileged to know some of the great movers and shakers of science in my lifetime and it always gives me great pleasure to open someone’s mind to new ideas. These books have been an integral part of my own intellectual journey. I hope these recommendations will inspire the youngest and the oldest readers alike.

Mark's book list on mind bending scientific discovery and courageous rethinking

Mark Burgess Why did Mark love this book?

This selection is as much about its author as the book itself. It is one of a series of books, written in Dawkins superbly approachable style, on the subject of Darwinian evolution.

Dawkins began writing with his groundbreaking book The Selfish Gene. Unfortunately, the latter was rewritten so many times as to lose its initial impact, and this overshadowed the much better book The Extended Phenotype due to the forces of popular science publishing.

This newer book, with illustrations by his then-wife Laila Ward (of Dr Who fame) is a fine example from the man who brought us the Selfish Gene theory of forward evolutionary selection and multi-scale thinking. It’s a wild ride, written by a great writer and explainer whose role in modern science writing should not be underestimated.

By Richard Dawkins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The human eye is so complex and works so precisely that surely, one might believe, its current shape and function must be the product of design. How could such an intricate object have come about by chance? Tackling this subject-in writing that the New York Times called "a masterpiece"-Richard Dawkins builds a carefully reasoned and lovingly illustrated argument for evolutionary adaptation as the mechanism for life on earth.

The metaphor of Mount Improbable represents the combination of perfection and improbability that is epitomized in the seemingly "designed" complexity of living things. Dawkins skillfully guides the reader on a breathtaking journey…


Book cover of Orchid: A Cultural History

Erica Hannickel Author Of Orchid Muse: A History of Obsession in Fifteen Flowers

From my list on orchid history and culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I wrote Orchid Muse: A History of Obsession in Fifteen Flowers. I’m a historian, a master gardener, and I’ve grown a few hundred orchids for over half my life. I love collecting stories of orchids because, well, they’re fascinating, and they offer a deeper connection to the pastime I love best.

Erica's book list on orchid history and culture

Erica Hannickel Why did Erica love this book?

A truly great addition to orchid history by a great master of botanical history at large. Endersby sets orchid culture in all of its larger historical contexts and adds intrigue and flare by following orchid fiction through the ages. It’s funny to boot! I'll be referring back to this book for years to come.

By Jim Endersby,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

At once delicate, exotic, and elegant, orchids are beloved for their singular, instantly recognizable beauty. Found in nearly every climate, the many species of orchid have carried symbolic weight in countless cultures over time. The ancient Greeks associated them with fertility and thought that parents who ingested orchid root tubers could control the sex of their child. During the Victorian era, orchids became deeply associated with romance and seduction. And in twentieth-century hard-boiled detective stories, they transformed into symbols of decadence, secrecy, and cunning. What is it about the orchid that has enthralled the imagination for so many centuries? And…


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