The best human evolution books 📚

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

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Book cover of The Descent Of Man

The Descent Of Man

By Charles Darwin

Why this book?

This is the seminal book on human evolution, published by Charles Darwin twelve years after his On the Origin of Species. Don’t be put off by its length. You can skip a lot, including the huge digression on sexual selection. Focus on the early chapters, first where Darwin gives his reasons to think that human beings, Homo sapiens, are the end result of an evolutionary process, fueled by natural selection, as are all other organisms. We are descended from monkeys. Second, Darwin argues that crude Social Darwinism, life is a brutal struggle for existence, hence “might is right,”…
From the list:

The best books on human evolution and the human story

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Book cover of Darwin's Radio

Darwin's Radio

By Greg Bear

Why this book?

I guess this book is officially qualified as ‘science fiction’ but I think of it instead as great fiction that appreciates and then grabs the very edges of our current knowledge and extends them like a wild rubber band in ways that captivate. Bear takes some of the guesses and hints about what lies within the 95% of our DNA that at first seems to have no clear ‘purpose’ and imagines it is part of a sensor that is able to catalyze the creation of new versions of life in response to the kinds of dramatic stressors— climate change, etc—…

From the list:

The best novels that integrate science in accurate, or at least plausible, and creative ways

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Book cover of Burn: New Research Blows the Lid Off How We Really Burn Calories, Lose Weight, and Stay Healthy

Burn: New Research Blows the Lid Off How We Really Burn Calories, Lose Weight, and Stay Healthy

By Herman Pontzer

Why this book?

I’m so sick of popular magazines comparing our bodies to cars that burn energy at a predictable, steady rate; suggesting that daily 100 calorie cuts to our diets will add up to 10 pounds per year of weight loss; or promising that certain foods or meal patterns somehow “boost your metabolism.” Literally, none of this is true, and evolutionary biologist Dr. Herman Pontzer’s new book takes you on a methodical and humorous trip through decades of research into human metabolism and energetics to explain why. While he’s taking down one myth after the next using a robust body of scientific…
From the list:

The best popular science books to make yourself health-fad proof

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Book cover of The Immense Journey

The Immense Journey

By Loren Eiseley

Why this book?

This book is a revelation! The author (1907-1977) was a scientist (a naturalist, anthropologist, and paleontologist), and, boy, could he write. The title refers to the arc of time on this planet. There are chapters that describe and ponder fossils, evolution, so-called missing links, “the great deeps,” and so forth in the most captivating, poetic language. But the chapter to read is “How Flowers Changed the World.” I consider it the most important and insightful essay ever written on the dramatic arrival of angiosperms (flowering plants)—because he takes into account all context, and because he marvels. As we should.

From the list:

The best books about flowers

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Book cover of More Than Human

More Than Human

By Theodore Sturgeon

Why this book?

Theodore Sturgeon was one of the best science fiction writers of all time. When I began writing, I told myself I would consider myself a success if I could produce even one story as good as any of his. More than Human is quite possibly his best work. It's a story of the next stage in human evolution, the creation of a gestalt being whose sum is greater than its individual parts. And unlike most stories about advanced beings, these don't come to a bad end, nor do they take over the world. Sturgeon loved his characters and treated them…

From the list:

The best classic science fiction books that bear re-re-reading

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

Darwin and the Emergence of Evolutionary Theories of Mind and Behavior

By Robert J. Richards

Why 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…

From the list:

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

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