The most recommended evolutionary biology books

Who picked these books? Meet our 71 experts.

71 authors created a book list connected to evolutionary biology, and here are their favorite evolutionary biology books.
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Book cover of Evolving Planet: Four Billion Years of Life on Earth

Steven Clark Cunningham Author Of Dinosaur Name Poems/Poemas de Nombres de Dinosaurios

From my list on dinosaurs with poetry, pop-up, and paleontology.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am, like so many other young people (yes, I still think of myself as young!), fascinated with dinosaurs and prehistory, and have been for as long as I can remember. What I really find interesting and engaging is the combination of the fact that they do not exist anymore and therefore are otherworldly with the fact that they are real and actually of this world!

Steven's book list on dinosaurs with poetry, pop-up, and paleontology

Steven Clark Cunningham Why did Steven love this book?

What I really love about this book is that 1) it is written by experts in the field, including a PhD evolutionary biologist and paleontologist, 2) it has an excellent balance of illustrations and text, and 3) it places dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures in context as it tells the story of how they evolved through time.

By Erica Kelly, Richard Kissel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Evolving Planet" is based on the new permanent exhibition of the same name at the Field Museum (opened in spring 2006). The book takes readers on an inspiring journey through 4 billion years of life on Earth, from single-celled organisms to towering dinosaurs to woolly mammoths to humans. Unique fossils, photographs, illustrations and maps help bring the story to life. It includes a pronunciation guide, glossary and index.


Book cover of The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human

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

From my list on literary Darwinism.

Why am I passionate about this?

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

Joseph's book list on literary Darwinism

Joseph Carroll Why did Joseph love this book?

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

By Jonathan Gottschall,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

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

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

Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience,…


Book cover of A Field Guide to a Happy Life: 53 Brief Lessons for Living

Matthew Van Natta Author Of The Beginner's Guide to Stoicism: Tools for Emotional Resilience and Positivity

From my list on practicing Stoicism.

Why am I passionate about this?

Matthew J. Van Natta is an author and podcaster who has been guiding people to Stoicism for over a decade. His focus is on the daily application of Stoic philosophy within the modern world. He writes fiction, drinks coffee, beer, and whiskey, and contemplates the human condition. His writings have been featured on SpiritualNaturalistSociety.org and Modern Stoicism.

Matthew's book list on practicing Stoicism

Matthew Van Natta Why did Matthew love this book?

A Field Guide to a Happy Life is an outstanding example of what a modern Stoic book can and should be. Pigliucci has taken the famous Handbook (Enchiridion) of the Roman Stoic teacher, Epictetus, and reworked it to reflect a more modern approach to the philosophy. As such, this field guide is a portable, practical guide to applying Stoic wisdom in your day to day life.

What I most appreciate about A Field Guide to a Happy Life is that the author’s update of the philosophy is clearly described in a later section of the book. This allows the reader to compare and contrast the ancient with the modern. What does it mean to adopt and adapt a two thousand year old philosophy? This unique book is both a practical philosophical guide, and a jumping off point to deeper study.

By Massimo Pigliucci,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Field Guide to a Happy Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Bursting with practical wisdom and engaging stories ... a Stoicism 2.0 for twenty-first century happiness' Skye Cleary

'A bold, contemporary updating of Stoicism for the present day' John Sellars, author of Lessons in Stoicism

Learn how to survive life's hardships and enjoy its pleasures with the modern stoic mindset.

In this enlightening book, philosopher Massimo Pigliucci offers a thoughtful and modern reinterpretation of Epictetus's 53 lessons for living a good life. Drawing on the ancient wisdom of the Stoics, this is a comforting guide that will help you reclaim the power of your emotional response and let go of the…


Book cover of The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do

Sue Palmer Author Of Toxic Childhood: How The Modern World Is Damaging Our Children And What We Can Do About It

From my list on child development and education.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a primary head teacher, then literacy consultant, I wrote many books about education but at the age of 50 I changed tack. A meeting with a researcher who’d discovered an alarming decline in young children’s listening skills led to eight years’ research on the effects of modern lifestyles on children’s development. It involved many interviews with experts on diet, sleep, play, language, family life, childcare, education, screen-time, marketing influences and parenting styles – and a great deal of reading. By the time Toxic Childhood was first published in 2006 I’d realised that, in a 21st century culture, society should be paying far more attention to child development, especially in the early years. I hope to go on spreading that message until my dying breath.

Sue's book list on child development and education

Sue Palmer Why did Sue love this book?

In recent years, my work is increasingly concerned with the interface between child development and evolutionary biology. The Nurture Assumption is a challenging book that’s attracted praise and vilification in equal measure. Judith Rich Harris argues that ‘parenting’ is less influential in children’s emotional and social development than is currently assumed and I think that’s well worth thinking about. The love and care of adults are obviously of immense importance, but children bring their own strengths into the world, not least their inborn drive to learn through play.

By Judith Rich Harris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK

How much credit do parents deserve when their children turn out welt? How much blame when they turn out badly? Judith Rich Harris has a message that will change parents' lives: The "nurture assumption" -- the belief that what makes children turn out the way they do, aside from their genes, is the way their parents bring them up -- is nothing more than a cultural myth. This electrifying book explodes some of our unquestioned beliefs about children and parents and gives us a radically new view of childhood.

Harris looks with a fresh…


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 Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy Until You're 80 and Beyond

Ed Zinkiewicz Author Of Retire to Play and Purpose: How to have an amazing time going forward

From my list on taking your retirement to a new level.

Why am I passionate about this?

Some retirement choices start out as great adventures but stall. The RV loses its sheen or the cruises begin to look alike. Some retirees actually finish the infamous to-do list or tire of golf. Some people avoid retiring because they’ve heard of those failures! My goal is to help people find meaning and purpose in the activities they undertake in retirement and avoid any pitfalls. The books I’ve chosen here have helped give me a great platform to work from. I’ve discovered that if you can be curious, reach out in empathy, and be determined to keep at the search for joy and meaning, you’ll find that retirement adventure of play and purpose.

Ed's book list on taking your retirement to a new level

Ed Zinkiewicz Why did Ed love this book?

I was a professional couch-potato. I grew up with a clear choice: Use my head or use my feet. I ignored activity in my pursuit of more cerebral choices.

Despite the urgings of my loving family, the advice of others, and by-pass surgery, I continued my sedentary ways. It was only when I held my new grandson that I began to assess who I wanted to be as a role model.

Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge got me up off the couch and into activity. I have a better life because of their encouragement and detailed plans. 

You don’t have to be sedentary like me to appreciate this book. Turns out that you should do more as you run pel-mell into your senior years. Chris and Henry show you how you can step up your game.

By Christopher Crowley, Henry S. Lodge,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Announcing the paperback edition of Younger Next Year, the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly bestseller, co-written by one of the country’s most prominent internists, Dr. Henry "Harry" Lodge, and his star patient, the 73-year-old Chris Crowley. These are the books that show us how to turn back our biological clocks—how to put off 70% of the normal problems of aging (weakness, sore joints, bad balance) and eliminate 50% of serious illness and injury.

The key to the program is found in Harry's Rules: Exercise six days a week. Don't eat crap. Connect and commit…


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

Why am I passionate about this?

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

Edith Forbes 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.


Book cover of Adaptive Markets: Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought

Stephen R. Foerster Author Of In Pursuit of the Perfect Portfolio: The Stories, Voices, and Key Insights of the Pioneers Who Shaped the Way We Invest

From my list on developing your investment philosophy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been interested in investing for over four decades since I started as a finance PhD student at Wharton. Since then my research has focused on understanding the stock market. Early on, I tried applying my research to my investing. For example, I was convinced that a recently listed stock called Google was way overvalued—was I ever wrong! That got me to reflect on my investment philosophy—what did I truly believe about how markets really behaved? That brought me back to understanding and appreciating the contributors to Modern Portfolio Theory, which led to a fun decade-long book project. Currently I enjoy writing about investing through my blog.

Stephen's book list on developing your investment philosophy

Stephen R. Foerster Why did Stephen love this book?

I also first met Andrew when I was a PhD student in the first course he taught at Wharton. I was fortunate to be his co-author decades later.

I can’t think of anyone else who is both so incredibly bright but also articulate and an engaging storyteller in so many areas. Lo’s book challenges the fundamental theory of market efficiency which suggests that security prices reflect all relevant information—in other words, that securities are always fairly priced.

Drawing on psychology, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence, he comes up with a convincing a new model, that he calls the Adaptive Markets Hypothesis.

By Andrew W. Lo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A new, evolutionary explanation of markets and investor behavior

Half of all Americans have money in the stock market, yet economists can't agree on whether investors and markets are rational and efficient, as modern financial theory assumes, or irrational and inefficient, as behavioral economists believe. The debate is one of the biggest in economics, and the value or futility of investment management and financial regulation hangs on the answer. In this groundbreaking book, Andrew Lo transforms the debate with a powerful new framework in which rationality and irrationality coexist-the Adaptive Markets Hypothesis. Drawing on psychology, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, artificial intelligence,…


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…