The best Charles Darwin books

Who picked these books? Meet our 43 experts.

43 authors created a book list connected to Charles Darwin, and here are their favorite Charles Darwin books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission

What type of Charles Darwin book?


Principles of Geology

By Sir Charles Lyell,

Book cover of Principles of Geology

Robert M. Hazen Author Of The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet

From the list on planet Earth.

Who am I?

Robert M. Hazen, Senior Staff Scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Earth and Planets Laboratory and the Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth Science at George Mason University, received the B.S. and S.M. in geology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Ph.D. at Harvard University in Earth science. His most recent book is The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years from Stardust to Living Planet, which explores the intricate coevolution of the geosphere and biosphere.

Robert's book list on planet Earth

Discover why each book is one of Robert's favorite books.

Why did Robert love this book?

Lyell’s Principles, though published almost 190 years ago, is a masterful argument for the veracity of deep time. Drawing on his skills as a lawyer as much as his scientific perceptions, Lyell lays out the case for the power of gradual processes operating over vast expanses of time to change the face of our planet. His lucid, compelling case that “the present is key to the past” greatly influenced many subsequent discoveries, including Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. And, happily, various editions are freely available in facsimile on the web.

By Sir Charles Lyell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of the key works in the nineteenth-century battle between science and Scripture, Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology (1830-33) sought to explain the geological state of the modern Earth by considering the long-term effects of observable natural phenomena. Written with clarity and a dazzling intellectual passion, it is both a seminal work of modern geology and a compelling precursor to Darwinism, exploring the evidence for radical changes in climate and geography across the ages and speculating on the progressive development of life. A profound influence on Darwin, Principles of Geology also captured the imagination of contemporaries such as Melville, Emerson,…

Darwin's Dogs

By Emma Townshend,

Book cover of Darwin's Dogs: How Darwin's Pets Helped Form a World-Changing Theory of Evolution

Clive D.L. Wynne Author Of Dog Is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You

From the list on how dogs love people.

Who am I?

I have loved dogs since I was a kid and have been fascinated by a scientific approach to animal behavior since I was in college. About fifteen years ago I found a way to meld my love of dogs with my scientific expertise in animal behavior by studying how and why dogs love people. My quest to understand the human-dog relationship has taken me around the world: from hunting with native people in Nicaragua to examining the remains of a woman buried with a dog 12,000 years ago in Israel. And yes, I really do get to cuddle puppies for a living!

Clive's book list on how dogs love people

Discover why each book is one of Clive's favorite books.

Why did Clive love this book?

So (so) much has been written about Charles Darwin but this short book captures a side of the great man’s life that had been hiding in plain sight: his love of dogs. When Darwin was a youngster his father complained he “care[d] for nothing but shooting, dogs and rat-catching.” There was only one period of Darwin’s adulthood when he was not living with dogs and that was the five years he spent going 'round the world on a boat named – ironically enough – the Beagle. A love of dogs informed Darwin’s thinking on everything from marriage to his epochal theory of evolution by natural selection.

By Emma Townshend,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Anyone who has ever looked at a dog waiting to go for a walk and thought there was something age-old and almost human in its sad expression can take comfort in knowing that Charles Darwin did exactly the same thing. But Darwin didn't just stop at feeling that there was some connection between humans and dogs. A great naturalist, pioneer of the theory of evolution, and incurable dog-lover, Darwin used his much-loved dogs as evidence in his continuing argument that all animals, including human beings, descended from one common ancestor. Emma Townshend looks at Darwin's life through a uniquely canine…

Book cover of She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity

K. Lee Lerner Author Of Biotechnology: In Context

From the list on biotechnology.

Who am I?

K. Lee Lerner is an author, editor, and producer of science and factual media, including four editions of the Gale Encyclopedia of Science and the Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security. His expansive writing on science, climate change, disasters, disease, and global issues has earned multiple book and media awards, including books named Outstanding Academic Titles. An aviator, sailor, and member of the National Press Club in Washington, his two global circumnavigations and portfolio of work in challenging and dangerous environments reveal a visceral drive to explore and investigate. With a public intellectual's broad palate and a scientist's regard for evidence-based analysis, Lerner dissects and accessibly explains complex issues. 

K.'s book list on biotechnology

Discover why each book is one of K.'s favorite books.

Why did K. love this book?

Carl Zimmer's authoritative writing, grounded in both science and journalism, reads and captivates like a page-turner novel. Written for a general audience, Zimmer's rich exploration of the history and controversies surrounding how we pass genes and associate traits from one generation to another also offer insights into a field of science central to social and cultural issues related to ancestry, race, sexual differences, evolution, as well as inherited traits and diseases.

By Carl Zimmer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked She Has Her Mother's Laugh as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'Elegantly written, wittily constructed . . . My science book of the year.' Robin McKie, Observer, 'Best Books of 2018'

She Has Her Mother's Laugh presents a profoundly original perspective on what we pass along from generation to generation. Charles Darwin played a crucial part in turning heredity into a scientific question, and yet he failed spectacularly to answer it. The birth of genetics in the early 1900s seemed to do precisely that. Gradually, people translated their old notions about heredity into a language of genes. As the technology for studying…


By Adrian Desmond, James A. Moore,

Book cover of Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist

Bryant Wieneke Author Of The Day Albert Einstein Discovered Relativity

From the list on famous scientists, focusing on their aha! moment.

Who am I?

Albert Einstein famously said that he wanted to know God’s thoughts. At least for now, the best I can hope for is knowing the thoughts of monumental figures of science through the ages. In my short and very readable biographies, I focus on the aha! moments when Einstein, Darwin, Carson, Edison, Carver, and others had their epiphanies, when they not only envisioned how to break through longstanding barriers, but understood how to create the foundation for a better future. I believe we can all not only understand how they did it, but we can identify with these inspiring—and very humancreative acts.

Bryant's book list on famous scientists, focusing on their aha! moment

Discover why each book is one of Bryant's favorite books.

Why did Bryant love this book?

In Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist, Adrian Desmond & James Moore write almost poetically about a man whose passion for knowledge and understanding collided famously with the social norms of the time—and still do in some quarters. Their depiction of Charles Darwin provides the perfect foundation for my short biography, which focuses on the moment the notion of natural selection becomes the answer to Nature’s ultimate riddle.

By Adrian Desmond, James A. Moore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A biography of the naturalist disputes misconceptions, including Darwin's status as a true scientist, discussing how Darwin concealed his theory of evolution for twenty years, agonizing over its implications and the impact it would have on his social standing.

Marx's Ecology

By John Bellamy Foster,

Book cover of Marx's Ecology: Materialism and Nature

Thomas Kemple Author Of Marx’s Wager: Das Kapital and Classical Sociology

From the list on Marx’s Capital and its relevance today.

Who am I?

27 years of teaching social and cultural theory to undergraduate and graduate students at the University of British Columbia have shaped the way I think about challenging works like Marx’s Capital. I’ve come to approach the classics of sociology not just as systematic scientific treatises, but also as literary works with a beginning, middle, and end, and as political projects designed to seize upon the power of words for practical purposes. 

Thomas' book list on Marx’s Capital and its relevance today

Discover why each book is one of Thomas' favorite books.

Why did Thomas love this book?

This book rocked my theory-world when I finally settled down to read it, long after it was first published and everybody was talking about it. Besides developing Marx’s idea of the ‘metabolic rift’ in the social-natural metabolism, brought on by the industrial revolution, it also traces Marx’s inspiration in the soil sciences of his day, ancient materialist philosophies of nature, and the disregard or distortion of Marx’s ecology during the Soviet era and in the West.  

By John Bellamy Foster,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Marx's Ecology as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Progress requires the conquest of nature. Or does it? This new account overturns conventional interpretations of Marx and in the process outlines a more rational approach to the current environmental crisis. Marx, it is often assumed, cared only about industrial growth and the development of economic forces. John Bellamy Foster examines Marx's neglected writings on capitalist agriculture and soil ecology, philosophical naturalism, and evolutionary theory. He shows that Marx, known as a powerful critic of capitalist society, was also deeply concerned with the changing human relationship to nature. Marx's Ecology covers many other thinkers, including Epicurus, Charles Darwin, Thomas Malthus,…

Fabulous Science

By John Waller,

Book cover of Fabulous Science : Fact and Fiction in the History of Scientific Discovery

Kersten T. Hall Author Of The Man in the Monkeynut Coat: William Astbury and How Wool Wove a Forgotten Road to the Double-Helix

From the list on to think differently about the history of science.

Who am I?

The discovery of the structure of DNA, the genetic material was one of the biggest milestones in science–but few people realise that a crucial unsung hero in this story was the humble wool fibre. But the Covid pandemic has changed all that and as a result we’ve all become acutely away of both the impact of science on our lives and our need to be more informed about it. Having long ago hung up my white coat and swapped the lab for the library to be a historian of science, I think we need a more honest, authentic understanding of scientific progress rather than the over-simplified accounts so often found in textbooks. 

Kersten's book list on to think differently about the history of science

Discover why each book is one of Kersten's favorite books.

Why did Kersten love this book?

Gregor Mendel was a lone genius who, pottering with pea plants, unlocked the secrets of modern genetics; Charles Darwin boldly took on the power of the Church with his theory of evolution; chance favoured the prepared mind of Louis Pasteur…right? Well, no, not according to historian John Waller who takes a sledgehammer to the heavily mythologised historical accounts of scientific discovery that are so often found in textbooks before kindly picking up the pieces to rearrange them into a much more honest and authentic account of how science works. Physicist-turned-philosopher Thomas Kuhn once warned that trying to learn the history of science from the pages of a science textbook was no better than assuming an intimate knowledge of a foreign country and its customs after having briefly thumbed through a glossy travel brochure. If the past is indeed a foreign country, then Waller is a reliable local guide who speaks…

By John Waller,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The great biologist Louis Pasteur suppressed 'awkward' data because it didn't support the case he was making. John Snow, the 'first epidemiologist' was doing nothing others had not done before. Gregor Mendel, the supposed 'founder of genetics' never grasped the fundamental principles of 'Mendelian' genetics. Joseph Lister's famously clean hospital wards were actually notorious dirty. And Einstein's general relativity was only 'confirmed' in 1919 because an eminent
British scientist cooked his figures. These are just some of the revelations explored in this book.

Drawing on current history of science scholarship, Fabulous Science shows that many of our greatest heroes of…

Jane Austen

By Deirdre Le Faye,

Book cover of Jane Austen: A Family Record

Roy Adkins Author Of Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England: How Our Ancestors Lived Two Centuries Ago

From the list on Jane Austen.

Who am I?

I was brought up in Maidenhead in Berkshire, a town on the River Thames to the west of London. After studying archaeology at University College, Cardiff, I worked for many years as a field archaeologist. I met my wife, Lesley, on an excavation at Milton Keynes, and we have worked together ever since, both in archaeology and as authors of archaeology and history books. It was only after studying the Napoleonic period, which was when Jane Austen lived and wrote, that I understood the context of her novels and came to a much deeper appreciation of them.

Roy's book list on Jane Austen

Discover why each book is one of Roy's favorite books.

Why did Roy love this book?

Although we have some of Jane Austen’s letters and other writing, besides her novels, many more letters have been lost, and relatively little is known about her life. In 1913, nearly a century after her death, William and Richard Austen-Leigh (descendants of her brother James) published what was then known in a book called Life and Letters of Jane Austen. Much more material has been accumulated since, and in 1989 the work was extensively enlarged and revised by Deirdre Le Faye. It is essential reading for those who want to find out about Jane Austen’s life.

By Deirdre Le Faye,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book is the outcome of years of research in Austen archives, and stems from the original family biography by W. and R. A. Austen-Leigh, Jane Austen: her Life and Letters. Jane Austen, A Family Record was first published in 1989, and this edition incorporates information that has come to light since then, and provides new illustrations and updated family trees. Le Faye gives a detailed account of Austen's life and literary career. She has collected together documented facts as well as the traditions concerning the novelist, and places her within the context of a widespread, affectionate and talented family…

A Sense of the World

By Jason Roberts,

Book cover of A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveler

M. Leona Godin Author Of There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural History of Blindness

From the list on blindness and the brain.

Who am I?

Thanks to a degenerative retinal eye disease, I’ve lived on pretty much every notch of the sight-blindness continuum. While going blind super slowly I’ve engaged with the science of seeing and not-seeing as an  academic and artist for about 25 years. I like to say that there are as many ways of being blind as there are of being sighted, there are just fewer of us. Besides teaching literature and humanities courses at NYU, I’ve lectured on art, accessibility, technology, and disability at universities and institutions around the country. I love sharing stories about the brain on blindness, and hope you find my recommendations as fascinating as I do.

M.'s book list on blindness and the brain

Discover why each book is one of M.'s favorite books.

Why did M. love this book?

If the word “echolocation” pricked up your ears in my previous recommendation, I think you’ll love this book which is both a biography and a deep dive into how one blind person used the senses he had to become the first person to go around the world. James Holman (1786-1857) lost his sight at the age of 25 while he was an officer in the British Royal Navy. His career was cut short and he refashioned himself as an author and adventurer known as the “blind traveler.” Roberts explains how Holman used his gentleman’s walking stick not only to detect obstacles and level changes in his immediate environment, but also used the sound of the metal tip bouncing off objects to guide him through far-flung regions of the world.

By Jason Roberts,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

He was known simply as the Blind Traveler -- a solitary, sightless adventurer who, astonishingly, fought the slave trade in Af-rica, survived a frozen captivity in Siberia, hunted rogue elephants in Ceylon, and helped chart the Australian outback. James Holman (1786-1857) became "one of the greatest wonders of the world he so sagaciously explored," triumphing not only over blindness but crippling pain, poverty, and the interference of well-meaning authorities (his greatest feat, a circumnavigation of the globe, had to be launched in secret). Once a celebrity, a bestselling author, and an inspiration to Charles Darwin and Sir Richard Francis Burton,…

Darwin's Armada

By Iain McCalman,

Book cover of Darwin's Armada: Four Voyages and the Battle for the Theory of Evolution

Edith Forbes Author Of Tracking a Shadow: My Lived Experiment with MS

From the list on curious people on the hunt for new knowledge.

Who am I?

As a novelist, I am endlessly curious about people and like hearing their stories. As an erstwhile computer programmer and farmer, I also have a lifelong interest in science and natural history. When I find those two divergent interests have cross-pollinated in a single gracefully-written book, I am a very happy reader. I love books that weave together an intriguing scientific question with the human story of the scientists pursuing an answer to that question.

Edith's book list on curious people on the hunt for new knowledge

Discover why each book is one of Edith's favorite books.

Why did Edith love this book?

Almost everyone knows the name of Charles Darwin, but how many of us know about Thomas Huxley? The reality is that Darwin’s brilliant leap of insight was only one step in bringing the theory of evolution into common knowledge. People don’t readily embrace a new idea that turns their entire worldview on its head, and Darwin alone could not have overcome the inertia and outright hostility that greeted his new theory. Darwin’s Armada is a delightful account of a larger cast of characters whose scientific efforts, exploratory voyages, and intriguing personalities were part of the story of this revolution in human thought.

By Iain McCalman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Award-winning cultural historian Iain McCalman tells the stories of Charles Darwin and his staunchest supporters: Joseph Hooker, Thomas Huxley, and Alfred Wallace. Beginning with the somber morning of April 26, 1882-the day of Darwin's funeral-Darwin's Armada steps back and recounts the lives and scientific discoveries of each of these explorers, who campaigned passionately in the war of ideas over evolution and advanced the scope of Darwin's work.

The Moral Animal

By Robert Wright,

Book cover of The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology

Dennis L. Krebs Author Of Survival of the Virtuous: How We Became a Moral Animal

From the list on how we became a moral animal.

Who am I?

When I was younger, I got into a lot of trouble. Many good-hearted people helped me. In part, this inspired me to become a clinical psychologist. When I was in graduate school at Harvard, I became disillusioned with clinical psychology and inspired to figure out why people are motivated to help others. During this process, a lecturer from the Biology Department, Robert Trivers, approached me and we exchanged drafts of papers we were writing. Trivers’ ideas caused me to see altruism and morality in an entirely different, and much more valid, way. In Survival of the Virtuous I demonstrate how psychological findings on altruism and morality can be gainfully interpreted from an evolutionary perspective.  

Dennis' book list on how we became a moral animal

Discover why each book is one of Dennis' favorite books.

Why did Dennis love this book?

As an award-winning journalist and science writer, Robert Wright, the author of The Moral Animal, presents a lively, thought-provoking presentation of the theoretical framework of evolutionary psychology interwoven with tidbits about Charles Darwin’s life. 

I was impressed by his ability to provide compelling explanations for how moral sentiments and other important aspects of human psychology such as marriage, family, friendship, racism, deception, and self-deception evolved.  

By Robert Wright,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THE MORAL ANIMAL examines the significance of this extraordinary shift in our perception of morality and what it means to be human.

Taking the life of Charles Darwin as his context, Robert Wright brilliantly demonstrates how Darwin's ideas have stood the test of time, drawing startling conclusions about the structure of some of our most basic preoccupations. Why do we commit adultery, express suicidal tendencies and have the capacity for self-deception? Wright not only provides the answers to such fundamental moral questions from the perspective of evolutionary psychology but challenges us to see ourselves anew through the clarifying lens of…

Book cover of Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection

Ingo Schlupp Author Of Male Choice, Female Competition, and Female Ornaments in Sexual Selection

From the list on mate choice – in animals.

Who am I?

I am an evolutionary ecologist with a lifelong fascination with mating behavior in animals, particularly fishes. The core of my doctoral thesis was trying to understand why some males mate with females of a different species, a behavior that I thought could not be adaptive. This was the starting point of my work on male mate choice, but also mate choice more generally. Originally from Germany, I have lived and worked in the US for a long time. Most of my work is on neotropical fishes so moving to America made sense.

Ingo's book list on mate choice – in animals

Discover why each book is one of Ingo's favorite books.

Why did Ingo love this book?

This fascinating book reflects on the development of Darwin’s thinking as he was developing his theory of Sexual Selection. Superbly detailed and well crafted this book provides astonishing insights into how Darwin was thinking and how he fleshed out sexual selection theory. The book is not just important for understanding Darwin and one of his most famous ideas, it places his thinking in the context of his time. It is a long book, but worth the read.

By Evelleen Richards,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Darwin's concept of natural selection has been exhaustively studied, but his secondary evolutionary principle of sexual selection remains largely unexplored and misunderstood. Yet sexual selection was of great strategic importance to Darwin because it explained things that natural selection could not and offered a naturalistic, as opposed to divine, account of beauty and its perception. Only now, with Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection, do we have a comprehensive and meticulously researched account of Darwin's path to its formulation one that shows the man, rather than the myth, and examines both the social and intellectual roots of Darwin's theory.…

From Life

By Victoria C. Olsen,

Book cover of From Life: Julia Margaret Cameron and Victorian Photography

Donna M. Lucey Author Of Sargent's Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas

From the list on women who broke the rules—or new ground.

Who am I?

A New York Times bestselling author, I love excavating the lives of eccentric, strong-willed women. There’s the thrill of the chase—holding handwritten letters and diaries and uncovering, bit by bit, the story of each woman—and the adventure of encountering the unexpected: Wandering through a rattlesnake-infested Montana cabin (Photographing Montana 1894-1928: The Life and Work of Evelyn Cameron); being woken by a ghost while staying at a decaying Astor mansion in the Hudson Valley (Archie and Amélie: Love and Madness in the Gilded Age); climbing 200 stone steps to reach the Royal Archives in Windsor Castle, while the recently-departed Queen Elizabeth was in the courtyard below (Victoria’s Island, in process). Such fun.

Donna's book list on women who broke the rules—or new ground

Discover why each book is one of Donna's favorite books.

Why did Donna love this book?

I adore eccentric, talented women—and Julia Margaret Cameron was surely that—and I love nineteenth-century photography. When nearly 50 years old, Cameron took up photography and created her signature art of soft-focus, emotive portraiture. She was living on Britain’s Isle of Wight, surrounded by a who’s who of Victorian England: Tennyson, Lewis Carroll, Dickens, Charles Darwin, and Queen Victoria herself who summered in a nearby palace. Cameron photographed the humblest islanders as well as some of the greatest personages of the day, and her work has inspired modern artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith. 

By Victoria C. Olsen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Acknowledged as the outstanding portrait photographer of her generation, Julia Margaret Cameron was a very late starter. She was born to English and French parents in Calcutta in 1815, five days before the Battle of Waterloo. Her father was a high-ranking civil servant in the British East India Company, and it was expected that Julia would follow the example of her sisters by connecting herself to an established Anglo-Indian professional. She did exactly that in 1838 when she married Charles Hay Cameron, a legal scholar, and settled down to the quiet life of a typical Victorian colonial matron. But beneath…

Book cover of Darwin and the Emergence of Evolutionary Theories of Mind and Behavior

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

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

Who am I?

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

Discover why each book is one of Geoffrey's favorite books.

Why did Geoffrey love this book?

I often find well-researched histories of ideas invaluable as quarries for enhanced understanding and intellectual inspiration. This book is an exceptionally useful history of some key Darwinian ideas. Its principal focus is on evolutionary theories of mind, morality, and behavior, which have massive implications for the further development of the social sciences today. Richards sketches the intellectual background of Darwin’s thought in the nineteenth century, showing how he distanced himself from utilitarian approaches to moral and psychological analysis. The contrast with Herbert Spencer is particularly pertinent. But even more so, Darwin’s anti-utilitarianism remains highly relevant today, as much of social science – especially economics – is still dominated by utilitarian ideas. This history of thought defends evolutionary approaches to morality and it is explosive in its implications.

By Robert J. Richards,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Darwin and the Emergence of Evolutionary Theories of Mind and Behavior as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With insight and wit, Robert J. Richards focuses on the development of evolutionary theories of mind and behavior from their first distinct appearance in the eighteenth century to their controversial state today. Particularly important in the nineteenth century were Charles Darwin's ideas about instinct, reason, and morality, which Richards considers against the background of Darwin's personality, training, scientific and cultural concerns, and intellectual community. Many critics have argued that the Darwinian revolution stripped nature of moral purpose and ethically neutered the human animal. Richards contends, however, that Darwin, Herbert Spencer, and their disciples attempted to reanimate moral life, believing that…

Book cover of On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection

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

From the list on the politics of evolution.

Who am I?

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

Discover why each book is one of David's favorite books.

Why did David love this book?

This is one of the two or three most influential science books ever published. But unlike the case with other science books, The Origin, published in 1859, is also of profound political importance. Part of this political importance—the implications of Darwin's theory for religious explanations of the diversity of life, which I call "outside" politics—is familiar to all socially-aware citizens. But there is much less awareness of the "inside" politics of evolution—the political implications of controversies within the science of evolutionary biology founded by Darwin. Of course, to understand both the inside and outside politics, you must read much more recent books. But you should begin by reading Darwin.

By Charles Darwin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On the Origin of Species outlines Charles Darwin's world-changing theory that life on Earth had not been brought into being by a creator, but had arisen from a single common ancestor and had evolved over time through the process of natural selection.

This beautiful Macmillan Collector's Library edition of On the Origin of Species is complete and unabridged, and features an afterword by Oliver Francis. Designed to appeal to the booklover, the Macmillan Collector's Library is a series of beautiful gift editions of much loved classic titles. Macmillan Collector's Library are books to love and treasure.

Received with both enthusiasm…

Darwin and the Beagle

By Alan Moorehead,

Book cover of Darwin and the Beagle

Michael Layland Author Of In Nature's Realm: Early Naturalists Explore Vancouver Island

From the list on the history of natural history.

Who am I?

In Nature’s Realm is my third book on the theme of exploration of Vancouver Island, my home for the past thirty years, and my first focussed on the history of natural history. In it, I call upon decades of experience in mapping hitherto scarcely known parts of the world, combined with a keen fascination with the fauna and flora of the many places where I have lived and worked. I have marvelled at the work of the exploring naturalists and am fascinated with their personal histories. I find it enthralling how they each added to the sum of human knowledge of the wonders of the natural world, now so sadly threatened.

Michael's book list on the history of natural history

Discover why each book is one of Michael's favorite books.

Why did Michael love this book?

A superbly written account of, perhaps, the most famous British naturalist-explorer, Charles Darwin, on his great voyage aboard HMS Beagle to Patagonia and the Galápagos in 1831-6. The author also covers the furious aftermath, the debate resulting from Darwin’s (and Wallace’s) findings and contentious, to some seemingly blasphemous, theory on the origin of species. Profusely illustrated in colour with contemporary material. I have read and long admired several of Moorhead’s books and particularly enjoyed this one as it deals with a personal hero of mine.

By Alan Moorehead,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An account of Darwin's five-year expedition, as a naturalist on board HMS Beagle, illustrated from contemporary sources.

The Voyage of the Beagle

By Charles Darwin,

Book cover of The Voyage of the Beagle

David Horwell Author Of Galapagos Wildlife

From the list on the Galápagos Islands.

Who am I?

I grew up near Darwin’s house in Kent. Although only vaguely aware of his influence. My interest grew as I studied biology at school and geology at university. The evolutionary significance of Darwin’s finches stayed with me. I longed to sail in tropical waters like him and was fortunate enough to do so in the iconic Galápagos Islands. I was employed as a resident naturalist guide on yachts when tourism was just starting to take off. Instead of settling down to a regular job I became a tour leader. I wrote an educational book about the islands and then with a colleague Pete Oxford, the wildlife guide for Bradt.

David's book list on the Galápagos Islands

Discover why each book is one of David's favorite books.

Why did David love this book?

Darwin was chosen to accompany Captain FitzRoy on this voyage of exploration and science. Though Galápagos only represented five weeks of a five-year journey, it is the most significant chapter.

His journal takes us around the world as Darwin describes the natural history of the tropics and their relationship to the earth. He realised that isolated forms on archipelagos distil the process of natural selection. He was fascinated by the reptiles, especially the unique marine iguanas. Later the study of collected bird species brought him closer to his ideas on evolution.

Having lived on the islands, I am impressed by how much he observed in such a short time. He taught me how geology, climate and flora and fauna all play an important role in the natural world. It made me realise the value of patient observation.

By Charles Darwin,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Voyage of the Beagle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With an Introduction by David Amigoni.

Charles Darwin's travels around the world as an independent naturalist on HMS Beagle between 1831 and 1836 impressed upon him a sense of the natural world's beauty and sublimity which language could barely capture. Words, he said, were inadequate to convey to those who have not visited the inter-tropical regions, the sensation of delight which the mind experiences'.

Yet in a travel journal which takes the reader from the coasts and interiors of South America to South Sea Islands, Darwin's descriptive powers are constantly challenged, but never once overcome. In addition, The Voyage of…

The Evolution of Beauty

By Richard O. Prum,

Book cover of The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin's Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World

Deena Emera Author Of A Brief History of the Female Body: An Evolutionary Look at How and Why the Female Form Came to Be

From the list on capturing the magnificence of female biology.

Who am I?

I have spent my career studying the evolution of female biology. My PhD thesis was on the evolution of pregnancy and menstruation. I am currently a researcher at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging studying the evolution of menopause. I also inhabit a female body and have a personal interest in understanding how and why my own body works the way it does. As a lifelong teacher who has taught high school, college, and graduate students, I am passionate about sharing what I know with other women. I hope you enjoy these fascinating books about the female body and its amazing evolutionary history. 

Deena's book list on capturing the magnificence of female biology

Discover why each book is one of Deena's favorite books.

Why did Deena love this book?

The Evolution of Beauty is a passionately written manifesto about the role of female choice in driving the diversity of beauty in the animal world.

Prum revisits Charles Darwin’s original ideas about mate choice and beauty that were looked down on by Darwin’s contemporaries and forgotten by his successors. Prum, an ornithologist, uses exquisite descriptions of bird ornamentation and behavior to argue that beautiful traits like the peacock’s tail arise simply because the beholders of these traits—usually female—find them pleasurable to look at.

While most of the book is about birds, he delves into how mate choice may have transformed the human species. Prum tackles a controversial topic with humor, beautiful prose, and descriptions of bird beauty and behavior that will astonish you.

The Evolution of Beauty

By Richard O. Prum,

What is this book about?

A major reimagining of how evolutionary forces work, revealing how mating preferences—what Darwin termed "the taste for the beautiful"—create the extraordinary range of ornament in the animal world.

"A delicious read, both seductive and mutinous.... Minutely detailed, exquisitely observant, deeply informed, and often tenderly sensual."—New York Times Book Review

In the great halls of science, dogma holds that Darwin's theory of natural selection explains every branch on the tree of life: which species thrive, which wither away to extinction, and what features each evolves. But can adaptation by natural selection really account for everything we see in nature?
     Yale University…

Book cover of Charles Darwin's on the Origin of Species

Pamela S. Turner Author Of How to Build a Human: In Seven Evolutionary Steps

From the list on children’s books about evolution.

Who am I?

Life really is stranger than fiction, and some of the stuff served up by evolution is outrageously bizarre. There are one-celled creatures that make rats want to cozy up to cats, a parasitic worm that turns snails into “disco zombies” and an ape that communicates across continents by pushing keys to create rows and columns of pixels. I’m fascinated by all of these creatures and love writing books for children about evolutionary biology, especially the evolution of intelligence. Besides authoring How to Build a Human, I’ve written about the evolution of intelligence in dolphins (The Dolphins of Shark Bay) and crows (Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World’s Brightest Bird).

Pamela's book list on children’s books about evolution

Discover why each book is one of Pamela's favorite books.

Why did Pamela love this book?

If you want to understand evolution, it certainly helps to know how and where the theory of evolution originated. This picture book rendition of Darwin’s classic work – the foundational text of all modern biology – explains Darwin’s explorations, the process of natural selection, and the common descent of all living things. The direct quotes from Darwin’s own writings are a nice touch, as are the charming illustrations. It doesn’t hurt that the writer/illustrator is a molecular biologist. 

By Sabina Radeva,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Charles Darwin's on the Origin of Species as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A picture book adaptation of Charles Darwin's groundbreaking On the Origin of Species, lushly illustrated and told in accessible and engaging easy-to-understand text for young readers.

On the Origin of Species revolutionized our understanding of the natural world. Now young readers can discover Charles Darwin's groundbreaking theory of evolution for themselves in this stunning picture-book adaptation that uses stylish illustrations and simple text to introduce how species form, develop, and change over time.


By William Beebe,

Book cover of Galapagos: World's End

Tui De Roy Author Of A Lifetime in Galápagos

From the list on humanity and nature in the Galapagos Islands.

Who am I?

I was born in Brussels, Belgium, but my parents followed their dream to live a pioneering life close to nature, settling in the Galapagos Islands when I was just two years old. The raw yet gentle nature of these islands, combined with my parents’ artistic eyes and naturalist interests, plus contact with visiting scientists, taught me everything I needed to know to become the islands’ only resident nature photographer and writer at an early age. Although my travels have taken me to the remotest corners of all seven continents, with publications about many of them, Galapagos draws me back like an irresistible magnet. These islands made me who I am; they are my spiritual home.

Tui's book list on humanity and nature in the Galapagos Islands

Discover why each book is one of Tui's favorite books.

Why did Tui love this book?

Almost one hundred years ago an extraordinary naturalist explored Galapagos for a few short weeks. The big surprise for me was that both his candid writing style and his boundless enthusiasm made me feel as though I was seamlessly transported into a Galapagos of yesteryear, when hardly anybody lived here. His exceptional eye for detailed observation may have surpassed even Darwin’s. His ability to convey his constant sense of wonder and discovery makes this book as fresh today as ever, except that some of the scenes he so vividly described are no more — succumbed to modern human activity in Galapagos — like being intimidated during his pioneering dives not by the masses of sharks, but by the toothy giant groupers that shadowed him at close range.

By William Beebe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Galápagos is a glorious book. It is high romance, exact science, fascinating history, wild adventure."—Nation
The Galápagos Islands are famed for their remarkable wildlife, including land and marine iguanas, land tortoises, four-eyed fish, and flightless cormorants and albatross. In 1835, Charles Darwin observed variations among the islands' species that inspired him to formulate the theory of natural selection. Eighty-eight years later, in 1923, a scientific expedition sponsored by the New York Zoological Society followed in Darwin's wake. Led by renowned biologist and explorer William Beebe, the scientists visited the the islands to study and obtain specimens of indigenous plants and…

Why Peacocks?

By Sean Flynn,

Book cover of Why Peacocks?: An Unlikely Search for Meaning in the World's Most Magnificent Bird

Elizabeth Gehrman Author Of Rare Birds: The Extraordinary Tale of the Bermuda Petrel and the Man Who Brought It Back from Extinction

From the list on birds and life.

Who am I?

I never had a particular interest in birds until I heard about David Wingate and the cahow; I’m just a reporter who was smitten by a compelling story. I often write about science and the environment, as well as travel and other topics, for publications including the Boston Globe, Archaeology, and Harvard Medicine, and while working on Rare Birds I got hooked on these extraordinary creatures and the iconoclastic obsessives who have become their stewards in the Anthropocene era. You don’t have to care about birds to love their stories — but in the end, you will.

Elizabeth's book list on birds and life

Discover why each book is one of Elizabeth's favorite books.

Why did Elizabeth love this book?

GQ writer Flynn and his wife and two kids are minding their own business on their surburban Durham “faux farm” when a friend calls to ask if they want to add a peacock to the two chickens that wander their yard. They end up with three of the kaleidoscopic birds, and Flynn’s chronicle of the family’s first year with Carl, Ethel, and Mr. Pickle takes readers on an implausibly relatable journey from the bird’s place in history, culture, and myth through its evolutionary biology and breeding habits to its endangered status in the wild, offering sardonically hilarious and harrowingly poignant life lessons along the way.

By Sean Flynn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An acclaimed journalist seeks to understand the mysterious allure of peacocks-and in the process discovers unexpected and valuable life lessons.

When Sean Flynn's neighbor in North Carolina texted "Any chance you guys want a peacock? No kidding!" he stared bewilderedly at his phone. He had never considered whether he wanted a peacock. But as an award-winning magazine writer, this kind of mystery intrigued him. So he, his wife, and their two young sons became the owners of not one but three charming yet fickle birds: Carl, Ethel, and Mr. Pickle.

In Why Peacocks?, Flynn chronicles his hilarious and heartwarming first…