The most recommended books on evolution

Who picked these books? Meet our 159 experts.

159 authors created a book list connected to evolution, and here are their favorite evolution books.
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Book cover of Practice You: A Journal

Annie Buckley Author Of The Kids Yoga Deck

From my list on yoga books to inspire creativity and joy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an artist, writer, teacher, and longtime yoga practitioner. I started practicing yoga in my early twenties during a difficult time in my life and the peace, grounding, and community that I discovered in yoga have stayed with me over the years, growing and evolving over time. One of my favorite experiences was the opportunity to teach children and teens who had never even heard of yoga before. Now I'm a professor at San Diego State University and also started and run a statewide program called Prison Arts Collective, bringing art programs to people who are incarcerated. We often include mindfulness and breathing exercises along with art. 

Annie's book list on yoga books to inspire creativity and joy

Annie Buckley Why did Annie love this book?

This isn’t technically a yoga book but is a beautiful and relatable book for adult friends of children to connect to their intuition, decompress, and express themselves (so, in essence, it is a yoga book, just not in name!). Adults including parents and teachers can find a space to connect to their inner sense of truth and play, soothing and recharging the spirit. The book has lovely loose watercolor paintings and brief but meaningful prompts throughout, inviting readers to add their own thoughts, ideas, experiences, and responses right on the pages. 

By Elena Brower,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When the way forward seems uncertain, where can we turn for guidance we can trust? For yoga luminary, meditation teacher, and artist Elena Brower, the answer has always been close at hand.

"Whenever I've needed direction, strength, or centering, I've so often turned to my own journals. Why? Because many of the answers we seek are found within ourselves."

Now, for those compelled to the pen and page, Elena invites us to gather our own wisdom through writing, self-inquiry, and reflection. Practice You is a portable sacred sanctuary to record our flashes of insight, find our ground, create and clarify…


Book cover of Virolution

David Seaborg Author Of How Life Increases Biodiversity: An Autocatalytic Hypothesis

From my list on evolution, ecology, and biodiversity.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an evolutionary biologist who wrote two books on my theory that all species increase the biodiversity of their ecosystem in a natural environment (humans are an exception to this). I am a dedicated conservationist and founder and president of the World Rainforest Fund (worldrainforest.org), a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the Earth’s rainforests. I collected reptiles and fossils when I was a child, and never out-grew my passion and love for science, biology, biodiversity, the natural world, animals, plants, ecology, and evolution. I love reading about these topics, hearing lectures on them, and learning about them. I love being in nature, traveling to natural ecosystems, and seeing wildlife. 

David's book list on evolution, ecology, and biodiversity

David Seaborg Why did David love this book?

I am working on a theory that viruses were crucial in the evolution of higher organisms and major evolutionary breakthroughs. This book is about that very topic.

It is full of incredible information and has me jumping with excitement. Seeing a scientist who shares my ideas is exciting. It is well-written and comprehensible. The examples are great. I found it thought-provoking and could hardly wait to read the part I had not yet read!

By Frank Ryan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The extraordinary role of viruses in evolution and how this is revolutionising biology and medicine.

Darwin's theory of evolution is still the greatest breakthrough in biological science. His explanation of the role of natural selection in driving the evolution of life on earth depended on steady variation of living things over time - but he was unable to explain how this variation occurred. In the 150 years since publication of the Origin of Species, we have discovered three main sources for this variation - mutation, hybridisation and epigenetics. Then on Sunday, 12th February, 2001 the evidence for perhaps the most…


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 Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think about Our Lives

Steven C. Hayes Author Of A Liberated Mind: The essential guide to ACT

From my list on understanding and shaping reality.

Why am I passionate about this?

Steven C. Hayes is Nevada Foundation Professor at the Department of Psychology at the University of Nevada. An author of 47 books and nearly 675 scientific articles. He is the developer of Relational Frame Theory, and has guided its extension to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) a popular evidence-based form of psychotherapy that is now practiced by tens of thousands of clinicians all around the world.

Steven's book list on understanding and shaping reality

Steven C. Hayes Why did Steven love this book?

We can’t understand ourselves, unless we understand our evolutionary history. In his book Evolution for Everyone, evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson outlines the principles behind our biology, history, culture, and morality. In order to understand how these processes came to be, we must view evolution through a multi-level and multi-dimensional lense, which is not only central to our modern understanding of evolution, but provides an extended evolutionary synthesis that allows evidence-based psychotherapists to view themselves as applied evolution scientists. David Sloan Wilson describes these processes and more in an accessible and engaging manner – all inside this volume.

By David Sloan Wilson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With stories that entertain as much as they inform, renowned evolutionist David Sloan Wilson outlines the basic principles of evolution and shows how, when properly understood, they can illuminate the length and breadth of creation, from the origin of life to the nature of religion. 

What is the biological reason for gossip? For laughter? For the creation of art? Why do dogs have curly tails? What can microbes tell us about morality?

These and many other questions are tackled by Wilson in this witty and groundbreaking new book. Now everyone can move beyond the sterile debates about creationism and intelligent…


Book cover of The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design

Tom Ireland Author Of The Good Virus: The Amazing Story and Forgotten Promise of the Phage

From my list on science about way more than science.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a science journalist and magazine editor. I feel really lucky to be a bioscience specialist – it really is at the forefront of solving some of the great challenges of our time, from making sustainable fuels and materials, to climate change mitigation, age-related disease, pandemics, food security, habitat restoration…plus there’s an incredible diversity of life on our planet still to be discovered. I always try to relate scientific progress to our everyday lives: it’s not just about creating new knowledge, it is about how that knowledge might improve our health, change our outlook, transform society, or protect the planet. 

Tom's book list on science about way more than science

Tom Ireland Why did Tom love this book?

Richard Dawkins is sadly now known mostly for his divisive polemics on religion and identity politics, but his early books on biology were unbelievably powerful.

The Blind Watchmaker helped flesh out, clarify, update, and expand Darwin’s theory of evolution for a massive audience, while also elegantly dismantling the common argument that life is so sophisticated that it must have been ‘designed’ by some kind of creator. 

As a young biologist, I read The Blind Watchmaker and was wowed by the way Dawkins explained how, under the right conditions, amazingly complex designs can arise from a simple system – without the need for anyone directing it or creating it.

Dawkins not only helps explain how life on Earth has advanced into the myriad forms we see on Earth today, but goes on to suggest that evolutionary systems might be at play in other aspects of our lives, like language and culture.…

By Richard Dawkins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Blind Watchmaker is the seminal text for understanding evolution today. In the eighteenth century, theologian William Paley developed a famous metaphor for creationism: that of the skilled watchmaker. In The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins crafts an elegant riposte to show that the complex process of Darwinian natural selection is unconscious and automatic. If natural selection can be said to play the role of a watchmaker in nature, it is a blind one-working without foresight or purpose.

In an eloquent, uniquely persuasive account of the theory of natural selection, Dawkins illustrates how simple organisms slowly change over time to create…


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 Sing Your Sadness Deep

Ray Cluley Author Of All That's Lost

From my list on using horror to explore loss.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a fan of horror stories since I was a child. It was never about the shock or the gore, but the sense of dread and unease such stories could build, and how they challenged society’s norms in a variety of ways. The driving force in a lot of horror is often the threat—or even the result—of some sort of loss, and that’s what I tend to explore in my own work. Whether it’s the loss of life, of love or loved ones, the loss of sanity, of reality, horror allows us to discover and/or face our fears while providing a means by which to manage them.

Ray's book list on using horror to explore loss

Ray Cluley Why did Ray love this book?

There’s so much to love about this book. Every story here is brilliant, and while sadness is the thread running through all of them, I’d say they also deal with issues of loss or the pain of losing, and the things we do to cope. I’ve loved Mauro’s writing from day one, and this collection gathers her best into a powerful volume that does indeed sing. It filled and then broke my heart. The book is worth buying for the award-winning story "Looking for Laika" alone, but there really isn’t a single story here that isn’t a masterclass in writing, and not a single one that doesn’t move the reader to feel the sadness and feel it deeply. I can’t wait for whatever Laura Mauro does next.

By Laura Mauro,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sing Your Sadness Deep as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

British Fantasy Award-winning author, and Shirley Jackson Award finalist Laura Mauro, a leading voice in contemporary dark fiction, delivers a remarkable debut collection of startling short fiction. Human and humane tales of beauty, strangeness, and transformation told in prose as precise and sparing as a surgeon’s knife. A major new talent!

Featuring "Looking for Laika," winner of the British Fantasy Award, and "Sun Dogs," a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award.

Sun Dogs

Obsidian

Red Rabbit

Letters from Elodie

The Grey Men

Ptichka

When Charlie Sleeps

In the City of Bones

The Looking Glass Girl

In the Marrow

Looking for…


Book cover of The Early Evolutionary Imagination: Literature and Human Nature

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?

Jonsson argues that humans are suspended between a need to see reality and an urge to mythologize. Darwin’s theory is impersonal and mechanical, but authors in the later 19th and early 20th centuries still found ways to turn evolution into morally charged dramas. Jonsson convincingly demonstrates that those same myth-making impulses shape our imaginative experience today. The literary criticism in this book is superb, and Jonsson’s own rhetoric has classic power.

By Emelie Jonsson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Darwinian evolution is an imaginative problem that has been passed down to us unsolved. It is our most powerful explanation of humanity's place in nature, but it is also more cognitively demanding and less emotionally satisfying than any myth. From the publication of the Origin of Species in 1859, evolution has pushed our capacity for storytelling into overdrive, sparking fairy tales, adventure stories, political allegories, utopias, dystopias, social realist novels, and existential meditations. Though this influence on literature has been widely studied, it has not been explained psychologically. This book argues for the adaptive function of storytelling, integrates traditional humanist…


Book cover of Symbiotic Planet: A New Look At Evolution

David Seaborg Author Of How Life Increases Biodiversity: An Autocatalytic Hypothesis

From my list on evolution, ecology, and biodiversity.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an evolutionary biologist who wrote two books on my theory that all species increase the biodiversity of their ecosystem in a natural environment (humans are an exception to this). I am a dedicated conservationist and founder and president of the World Rainforest Fund (worldrainforest.org), a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the Earth’s rainforests. I collected reptiles and fossils when I was a child, and never out-grew my passion and love for science, biology, biodiversity, the natural world, animals, plants, ecology, and evolution. I love reading about these topics, hearing lectures on them, and learning about them. I love being in nature, traveling to natural ecosystems, and seeing wildlife. 

David's book list on evolution, ecology, and biodiversity

David Seaborg Why did David love this book?

This book presents the fascinating, radical view that symbiosis is crucial in evolution and common and central to it. I am fascinated by symbiosis. This book influenced my theory that all species increase biodiversity, the theory about which I wrote the two books I am featuring here. This book, by one of the two originators of the Gaia Hypothesis, educates the reader on the importance of symbiosis in evolution, which, in my view, is a major mechanism of evolution. It tells how our cells were built by symbiosis.

By Lynn Margulis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Although Charles Darwin's theory of evolution laid the foundations of modern biology, it did not tell the whole story. Most remarkably, The Origin of Species said very little about, of all things, the origins of species. Darwin and his modern successors have shown very convincingly how inherited variations are naturally selected, but they leave unanswered how variant organisms come to be in the first place.In Symbiotic Planet, renowned scientist Lynn Margulis shows that symbiosis, which simply means members of different species living in physical contact with each other, is crucial to the origins of evolutionary novelty. Ranging from bacteria, the…


Book cover of Chance in Evolution

Brendan Sweetman Author Of Evolution, Chance, and God: Understanding the Relationship Between Evolution and Religion

From my list on religion, evolution, and chance.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a teacher, philosopher, writer, Professor of Philosophy, and holder of the Sullivan Chair in Philosophy at Rockhurst University, Kansas City, Missouri, USA. I'm the author/editor of sixteen books on such topics as religion and science, religion and politics, contemporary European philosophy, and political philosophy. I'm particularly interested in how religion and science, especially evolution, can be shown to be compatible with each other, as well as in developing an argument that there is no chance operating in nature (including in biology). My book and the books below explore these fascinating topics from almost every possible angle, and should whet readers’ appetites for further thinking about these intriguing matters!

Brendan's book list on religion, evolution, and chance

Brendan Sweetman Why did Brendan love this book?

This collection of essays takes a different position to mine on the question of chance in evolution. This book boldly approaches the study of evolution with the assumption that there is a large element of chance, contingency, and randomness in the process. Bringing together biologists, and philosophers of science, it explores many aspects of the theory as well as its implications for the existence of life on earth, and especially for the emergence of Homo sapiens. Along the way, the authors tackle such topics as genetic drift, mutation, and parallel evolution. By engaging in collaboration across biology, history, philosophy, and theology, the book offers a comprehensive overview of the history of chance in evolution and at the same time prompts readers to push further the central question as to what the existence of genuine chance would mean for our understanding of nature.  

By Grant Ramsey (editor), Charles H. Pence (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Humans, however much we would care to think otherwise, do not represent the fated pinnacle of ape evolution. The diversity of life, from single-celled organisms to multicellular animals and plants, is the result of a long, complex, and highly chancy history. But how profoundly has chance shaped life on earth? And what, precisely, do we mean by chance? Bringing together biologists, philosophers of science, and historians of science, Chance in Evolution is the first book to untangle the far-reaching effects of chance, contingency, and randomness on the evolution of life. The book begins by placing chance in historical context, starting…