100 books like The Gap

By Thomas Suddendorf,

Here are 100 books that The Gap fans have personally recommended if you like The Gap. 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 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 Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior

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?

To understand human nature you need to take a deep dive into anthropology, particularly into the lives of hunter-gatherers. Because humans are the most flexible animal on this planet, it can be incredibly difficult for an outsider to tell which lessons from any one society are general and which relate to just their small part of the world. The beauty of this book is that the brilliant anthropologist who wrote it does the hard yards for you, narrating a fascinating and highly accessible trip through the lives of hunter-gatherers.

By Christopher Boehm,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hierarchy in the Forest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Are humans by nature hierarchical or egalitarian? Hierarchy in the Forest addresses this question by examining the evolutionary origins of social and political behavior. Christopher Boehm, an anthropologist whose fieldwork has focused on the political arrangements of human and nonhuman primate groups, postulates that egalitarianism is in effect a hierarchy in which the weak combine forces to dominate the strong.

The political flexibility of our species is formidable: we can be quite egalitarian, we can be quite despotic. Hierarchy in the Forest traces the roots of these contradictory traits in chimpanzee, bonobo, gorilla, and early human societies. Boehm looks at…


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 The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

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?

Best recent book examining human morality from a scientific, psychological point of view.

Darwinians used to think humans had to be selfish and immoral. Contemporary evolution argues the opposite, that humans evolved moral limits on our selfishness in order to live together. Haidt’s is the best book presenting this new evolutionary psychology.

But it goes further to connect those scientific issues with contemporary politics, explaining why people from “red” and “blue” states cannot understand each other: they each embody a short list of human moral values, but different ones. This is a great book for thinking carefully about human morality and contemporary politics. Students love it, and so do I. 

By Jonathan Haidt,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked The Righteous Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A landmark contribution to humanity's understanding of itself' The New York Times

Why can it sometimes feel as though half the population is living in a different moral universe? Why do ideas such as 'fairness' and 'freedom' mean such different things to different people? Why is it so hard to see things from another viewpoint? Why do we come to blows over politics and religion?

Jonathan Haidt reveals that we often find it hard to get along because our minds are hardwired to be moralistic, judgemental and self-righteous. He explores how morality evolved to enable us to form communities, and…


Book cover of Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

Eran Pichersky Author Of Plants and Human Conflict

From my list on how plants have had a dramatic influence on human history.

Why am I passionate about this?

After serving in the military for several years, I pursued a scientific career as a plant biologist. It was during my military service in a unit that spent most of our time in the wilderness that I discovered plants, and particularly their smells. One cannot help it–if you step or crawl on a plant, you will smell it. As a military history buff, I also learned that many wars were fought over plants, and so I decided to write a book that combines the two–explaining what these plants do, why they are so important to people, and, therefore, how plants basically drive human behavior, often to violence. 

Eran's book list on how plants have had a dramatic influence on human history

Eran Pichersky Why did Eran love this book?

I’ve always thought that the history of humans should be no different from the history of any other living organisms–what in biology is called “natural history."

Humans are a species of animals, and all physical, chemical, and biological rules apply to them. So I was delighted to finally see a history book that follows the history of humans by applying exactly this scientific approach and thus explaining, in deterministic scientific terms, our own history. 

By Jared Diamond,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked Guns, Germs, and Steel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why did Eurasians conquer, displace, or decimate Native Americans, Australians, and Africans, instead of the reverse? In this "artful, informative, and delightful" (William H. McNeill, New York Review of Books) book, a classic of our time, evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond dismantles racist theories of human history by revealing the environmental factors actually responsible for its broadest patterns.

The story begins 13,000 years ago, when Stone Age hunter-gatherers constituted the entire human population. Around that time, the developmental paths of human societies on different continents began to diverge greatly. Early domestication of wild plants and animals in the Fertile Crescent, China,…


Book cover of Plough, Sword and Book: The Structure of Human History

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?

I love this unique book. Written by a philosopher who was equally an anthropologist, it presents a bird’s eye view of the structure of human history. This is not a subject most scholars have the knowledge or the courage to tackle!

Gellner has both. He paints a picture of the three eras of human history that is hard to deny, in the process analyzing the core logic of each era for the people who lived in it. This sets the stage for understanding what a new kind of world we live in today. Gellner also had a wicked sense of humor. The book opens students’ eyes – I taught it as often as I could.

By Ernest Gellner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Philosophical anthropology on the grandest scale. . . .Gellner has produced a sharp challenge to his colleagues and a thrilling book for the non-specialist. Deductive history on this scale cannot be proved right or wrong, but this is Gellner writing, incisive, iconoclastic, witty and expert. His scenario compels our attention."—Adam Kuper, New Statesman

"A thoughtful and lively meditation upon probably the greatest transformation in human history, upon the difficult problems it poses and the scant resources it has left us to solve them."—Charles Larmore, New Republic


Book cover of The Homeless Mind: Modernization and Consciousness

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?

I have taught many books on “modernity” or the modern world. This is the one single volume I would pick for students on a deserted island. I love reading it and love teaching it.

Berger applies the most important parts of social theory in a readable way to analyze what it’s like to work, love, and live in a modern versus traditional society. He shows how modernization permanently generates “discontents.” We love it, and we hate it, and most of the critics of modernity can’t help being modern themselves.

There is a chapter on dueling, which students never forget! 

By Peter L. Berger, Brigitte Berger, Hansfried Kellner

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The authors seek to explain the social nature of the processes of modernization and the hegemony of ideas and ways of thinking that constitute the modern outlook.


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 Metazoa: Animal Minds and the Birth 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?

If you’re interested in the workings of the human imagination you have to start in our deep evolutionary past, and Metazoa does just this.

Godfrey Smith is an eminent philosopher of science, and brings his considerable experience under the ocean to understanding how the minds of shrimps, octopi, and fish probably conceive of the world.

With stunning evocations of the undersea world and his intimate encounters with these fascinating creatures, the author of Other Minds brings a battery of modern zoological and biological expertise to bear on revealing just how cognitively complex these supposedly simple creatures are. You’ll never look at them the same again.

By Peter Godfrey-Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The follow-up to the BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week Other Minds A Times and Sunday Times Book of the Year A Waterstones Best Book of 2020

The scuba-diving philosopher explores the origins of animal consciousness.

Dip below the ocean's surface and you are soon confronted by forms of life that could not seem more foreign to our own: sea sponges, soft corals and flower-like worms, whose rooted bodies and intricate geometry are more reminiscent of plant life than anything recognisably animal. Yet these creatures are our cousins. As fellow members of the animal kingdom - the Metazoa -…


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