The best evolutionary biology books 📚

Browse the best books on evolutionary biology as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Improbable Destinies: Fate, Chance, and the Future of Evolution

Improbable Destinies: Fate, Chance, and the Future of Evolution

By Jonathan B. Losos

Why this book?

On the surface, this fascinating story about the evolutionary journeys of diverse animal species ranging from lizards to porcupines to field mice may seem a strange choice to include in a list of books about cancer, but in fact, it holds many important lessons about how evolution works and how likely we are to get the same outcomes if we ran the tape of time again. In turn, this is vital information underpinning our new understanding of cancer as an evolutionary process within the body, which can potentially be steered through the application of clever treatment strategies to bring about…

From the list:

The best books for understanding why we haven’t cured cancer… yet

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Book cover of Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story

Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story

By Lisa Westberg Peters

Why this book?

I love the simple, evocative way this story is told through a visit to the beach and the sketching in the sand of creatures representing various stages in evolution, from the first cells to human beings, reminding us of what we share with these long-lost ancestors and what divides us from earlier life forms. This picture book for children aged 4 to 7 distills a complex subject with verve and imagination and deserves a place on your child’s bookshelf.

From the list:

The best children’s books about evolution

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Book cover of Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution

Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution

By Steve Jenkins

Why this book?

A step more sophisticated than the picture books above, Life on Earth is targeted to children ages 9 to 12. The eye-catching format and succinct text cover the diversity of life on Earth, major evolutionary transitions, and nicely illustrates the process of natural selection through a succession of illustrations of frogs as the fittest individuals are selected by their environment. Engaging and packed with information.

From the list:

The best children’s books about evolution

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Book cover of Darwin Machines and the Nature of Knowledge

Darwin Machines and the Nature of Knowledge

By Henry Plotkin

Why this book?

Plotkin’s brilliant book is about the nature and evolution of human knowledge. How do people gain and develop useful knowledge in a complex, uncertain, and changing world? Behaviorist theories of stimulus and response are inadequate. The mind must be primed to deal with complexity and uncertainty. Models from behaviorist psychology are unable to account for the acquisition of knowledge in such circumstances. Darwinian evolutionary theory helps to explain how the mind uses inherited instincts and culturally acquired habits to guide and enhance intelligence. As with the earlier work of the Darwinian psychologist and pragmatist, William James, instinct and habit are…

From the list:

The best books on the seismic implications of Darwinism for social science

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Book cover of Darwin on Trial

Darwin on Trial

By Phillip E. Johnson

Why 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…

From the list:

The best books on "the politics of evolution"

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Book cover of Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History

Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History

By Stephen Jay Gould

Why this book?

Until his death in 2002, Gould, a Harvard paleontologist, was probably the best-known natural scientist in the United States. What was not always recognized was that virtually every line Gould penned proceeded along two tracks, the scientific and the political. A leftist who started his career as a Marxist and developed into a more orthodox liberal, Gould had a genius for combining scientific lessons with political disputation and presenting that combination in lucid, interesting prose. No single book summarizes all of his political/evolutionary views. This one, in which he discusses many fascinating aspects of natural history while demolishing the views…

From the list:

The best books on "the politics of evolution"

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