The most recommended hunter gatherer books

Who picked these books? Meet our 43 experts.

43 authors created a book list connected to hunter gatherers, and here are their favorite hunter gatherer books.
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Book cover of Childhood: A Multicultural View

Meredith Small Author Of Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent

From my list on the anthropology of parenting.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an anthropologist with a background in evolutionary biology, primate behavior, and cross-cultural approaches to parenting. I taught “The Anthropology of Parenting” for 20 years at Cornell University. The book grew from interviews with anthropologists, pediatricians, and child development experts taking a different stance about parents and babies—that we should look at how babies are designed by evolution and how cultures then interfere with those expectations. My book shows there is no perfect way to raise a child but there are styles in other cultures we can borrow to make our babies, and ourselves, more at ease.

Meredith's book list on the anthropology of parenting

Meredith Small Why did Meredith love this book?

Konner is an anthropologist and physician who spent time with the !Kung hunters and gatherers studying children. This book is based on the PBS show Childhood, and it is everything you might want to know about childhood because it traverses both biology and culture. A dense read, but worth it.

By Melvin Konner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This Channel 4 TV tie-in book by anthropologist and psychiatrist Melvin Konner takes a journey through the childhood years - from conception and birth through adolescence - showing how children experience them, how parents and societies shape them and how science is beginning to understand them.


Book cover of Affluence Without Abundance: What We Can Learn from the World's Most Successful Civilisation

Robert Averill Author Of NeuroAdventures: The Art and Science of Hunting and Gathering Happiness

From my list on peak and transformative human experience.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always craved outdoor adventure. My earliest preschool memories include frog hunting in the fields behind my house, and careening down hills around the neighborhood on my metal-wheeled skateboard. In middle school, I progressed to BMX, spearfishing and surfing. After college, I added snow and water skiing, windsurfing, and eventually mountain biking to the mix, and was fortunate to have a career that allowed time and resources to travel the world extensively seeking adventure. Now well into my sixties, I research and write about science, extreme sports, nature and philosophy in between daily hikes and mountain bike rides around the homebase and monthly journeys to destinations unknown.

Robert's book list on peak and transformative human experience

Robert Averill Why did Robert love this book?

I’ve always wanted to understand our shared humanity through the lens of our hunter-gatherer past. We spent 1,990,000 of our last 2 million years on the planet in this capacity, after all!

Fortunately, I came across anthropologist James Suzman’s book about his two decades living amongst the San tribe of the Kalahari, one of the few remaining hunter-gatherer peoples on earth (at the time). Unfortunately, 21st-century political and cultural realities have all but eliminated this traditional way of life, as remaining members of this group now live in government-supported resettlement camps after losing their ancestral lands to agricultural and industrial interests.

Nonetheless, this poignant book provided me with new insights about what it means to be human living in a world we were neither designed nor prepared for.

By James Suzman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Affluence Without Abundance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

_______________ 'Insightful ... Avoiding both modern conceits and romantic fantasies, Suzman chronicles how economics and politics have finally conquered some of the last outposts of hunter-gatherers, and how much humankind can still learn from the disappearing way of life of the most marginalized communities on earth.' - Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens and Homo Deus 'Fascinating' - Sunday Times 'Elegant and absorbing' - Financial Times 'Profoundly moving' - Irish Times _______________ From acclaimed anthropologist James Suzman, a portrait of the 'original affluent society' - the Bushmen of southern Africa - and what their way of life can teach us…


Book cover of War in Human Civilization

Wayne E. Lee Author Of The Cutting-Off Way: Indigenous Warfare in Eastern North America, 1500-1800

From my list on war beyond the state.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been writing about and teaching military history for many years (I'm a professor at the University of North Carolina), mostly focused on the pre-industrial world, and mostly about the maelstrom of the North Atlantic colonial experience (including warfare in Ireland, England, and in North America). I quickly decided that I needed to do more to understand the Native American perspective, and that also meant understanding the very nature of their societies: Not just how they fought, but how they imagined the function of war. This book is the product of constantly returning to that problem, while also putting it into a world comparative context of other non-state experiences of war. 

Wayne's book list on war beyond the state

Wayne E. Lee Why did Wayne love this book?

I teach this book to my graduate students every year.

It is a wide-ranging, deeply researched attempt to understand the nature of war in the human experience. And unlike so many other surveys of military history, Gat goes all the way back to human evolution and the fundamental motives underlying human conflict. He also then shows how conflict itself shaped human cultural evolution and the rise of states. 

By Azar Gat,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked War in Human Civilization as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why do people go to war? Is it rooted in human nature or is it a late cultural invention? How does war relate to the other fundamental developments in the history of human civilization? And what of war today - is it a declining phenomenon or simply changing its shape?

In this truly global study of war and civilization, Azar Gat sets out to find definitive answers to these questions in an attempt to unravel the 'riddle of war' throughout human history, from the early hunter-gatherers right through to the unconventional terrorism of the twenty-first century.

In the process, the…


Book cover of The Status Game: On Social Position and How We Use It

Rob Brooks Author Of Artificial Intimacy: Virtual Friends, Digital Lovers, and Algorithmic Matchmakers

From my list on big-picture takes on human behaviour.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a scientist who studies the evolutionary tussle between cooperation and conflict that makes sex so infernally complicated. I started out by studying small animals, but the last decade or so have seen an increasing focus on humans. At the same time I’ve been intent on sharing what I learn with curious audiences on television, radio, and in print. I lead a program at my university that introduced me to some amazing technology researchers, from engineers in AI and robotics to lawyers who work on privacy. That’s when I realized the value of evolutionary knowledge in understating the fast-paced technological revolution we are currently living through.

Rob's book list on big-picture takes on human behaviour

Rob Brooks Why did Rob love this book?

Status is suddenly the hot topic in social psychology and the evolutionary study of human behaviour. Will Storr's new book both capitalizes on this trend and gives it new momentum. He places the drive for status at the centre of human social behaviour and shows how that drive has shaped all of human creativity, achievement, and violence. 

As a researcher on evolution and behaviour, familiar with the excellent work on status, I found in this book a fresh and dynamic new package. Reading Storr’s book revealed to me where the evolutionary researchers have been constrained by their own ways of thinking. Likewise, other fields’ obsessions with race, sex, gender, power, and identity – while important – are really a case of staring at the trees without acknowledging the all-encompassing forest.  

This is my new favourite popular book on human behaviour, and it is already reshaping my own research program.

By Will Storr,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Will Storr is one of our best journalists of ideas ... The Status Game might be his best yet' James Marriott, Books of the Year, The Times

What drives our political and moral beliefs? What makes us like some things and dislike others? What shapes how we behave, and misbehave, in groups? What makes you, you?

For centuries, philosophers and scholars have described human behaviour in terms of sex, power and money. In The Status Game, bestselling author Will Storr radically turns this thinking on its head by arguing that it is our irrepressible craving for status that ultimately defines…


Book cover of Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States

Fernanda Pirie Author Of The Rule of Laws: A 4,000-Year Quest to Order the World

From my list on making us rethink global history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an anthropologist on a mission to discover how people have used, and abused, law over the past 4,000 years. After a decade in a wig and gown at the London Bar, I headed back to university to pursue a long-standing interest in Tibetan culture. I spent two years living with remote villagers and nomads, freezing over dung fires, herding yaks, and learning about traditional legal practices. Now, based at the University of Oxford, I’ve turned to legal history, comparing ancient Tibetan texts with examples from all over the world. The Rule of Laws brings a long sweep of legal history and its fascinating diversity to a wide audience.

Fernanda's book list on making us rethink global history

Fernanda Pirie Why did Fernanda love this book?

Scott takes us through the evidence of the earliest hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies and asks why anyone ever allowed rulers to amass power and centralize control of resources. The evidence is that farmers flourished for centuries without letting anyone lord it over them. Why, then, does agriculture seem to have led to the rise of the state? Readable and compelling, Scott's latest book makes a really convincing case against the benefits, and inevitability, of the state.

By James C. Scott,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Against the Grain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An Economist Best History Book 2017

"History as it should be written."-Barry Cunliffe, Guardian

"Scott hits the nail squarely on the head by exposing the staggering price our ancestors paid for civilization and political order."-Walter Scheidel, Financial Times

Why did humans abandon hunting and gathering for sedentary communities dependent on livestock and cereal grains, and governed by precursors of today's states? Most people believe that plant and animal domestication allowed humans, finally, to settle down and form agricultural villages, towns, and states, which made possible civilization, law, public order, and a presumably secure way of living. But archaeological and historical…


Book cover of Noema

Dale Stromberg Author Of Melancholic Parables: Being for the Antiselving Reader

From Dale's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Misfitish Stormcloudish Solitarish Word-drunk Drunk-drunk

Dale's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Dale Stromberg Why did Dale love this book?

To truly know who you are, I must hear your story. So it is with “Maya,” the narrator of this extraordinarily original novel. To learn her identity, we must trace the tale of her existence within a Mesolithic federation of villages struggling with food scarcity.

I’ve never read a novel like Noema; this starts with its setting. Its meticulous depiction of complex lifeways humanizes Mesolithic people and culture. These communities, like ours, confront a changing planet; scarcity and instability trigger human savagery. Their survival depends on finding harmony.

Through all this, we explore who “Maya” is and, in so doing, confront the ambiguities of identity. This duality—part meditation on humanity’s role in nature, part investigation into selfhood—is one thing that makes Noema memorable to me.

By Dael Akkerman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"This is a story about some things that happened to me about twelve thousand years ago."


With these words, the narrator begins her account of events set at the crucial point in human evolution, when hunter-gathering began to be abandoned as way of life just as the first signs of organized religion emerged. Who or what the narrator is, and how she can speak to us today of events in our distant past, become clear as she describes her existence amongst the sophisticated people of the Mesolithic era - people identical to ourselves but with very different views of the…


Book cover of Hunting and Gathering

Astrid Carlen-Helmer Author Of The Demon King’s Interpreter

From my list on capturing France's most epic love stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a French-American writer with a passion for young adult stories and flawed female characters. Born and raised in France in a household without a TV, I spent my entire childhood reading avidly, which in turn led me to study Literature and Film. In fact, most of my life, I have been inspired by novels that offer windows into new worlds that open up possibilities. Some of the novels from the list below feature some of my favorite characters, and provide insights into other worlds and other times. 

Astrid's book list on capturing France's most epic love stories

Astrid Carlen-Helmer Why did Astrid love this book?

While not entirely about romantic love, Hunting and Gathering was such a huge success when it came out in France, it was hard not to include it on my list.

Set in modern-day Paris, and spanning a year, the story follows four people each struggling with their own demons, who end up sharing a roof, and who, despite their differences, learn to lean on each other. This is a truly refreshing story about love, how vast, unexpected, and healing it can be. A feel-good read! 

By Anna Gavalda,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Camille is doing her best to disappear. She barely eats, works at night as a cleaner and lives in a tiny attic room. Downstairs in a beautiful, ornate apartment, lives Philibert Marquet de la Durbelliere, a shy, erudite, upper-class man with an unlikely flatmate in the shape of the foul-mouthed but talented chef, Franck. One freezing evening Philibert overcomes his excruciating reitcence to rescue Camille, unconscious, from her garret and bring her into his home.

As she recovers Camille learns more about Philibert; about Franck and his guilt for his beloved but fragile grandmother Paulette, who is all he has…


Book cover of Notes On A Beermat: Drinking and Why It's Necessary

Christine Sismondo Author Of America Walks Into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops

From my list on to will make you rethink the way we drink and why.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became interested in bar culture in my 20s when I worked at a neighborhood "local" in Toronto and was struck by how close people could become when sharing drinks and stories across a bar. Since then, I’ve spent most of my life researching the history of cocktails and bars—both as an academic topic and as a columnist for magazines and newspapers, including the Toronto Star. I’ve written a podcast on Prohibition for Wondery Media, as well as four books, Mondo Cocktail, America Walks Into a Bar, Canadian Spirits (with Stephen Beaumont), and the forthcoming Cocktails: A Still Life (Running Press), with James Waller and still-life artist Todd M. Casey.   

Christine's book list on to will make you rethink the way we drink and why

Christine Sismondo Why did Christine love this book?

You know how, when you read a book that’s so clever, funny, and perfectly written you want to actually get to know the author? That’s what happened to me when I read this book. Even though I didn’t know him, I knew he’d be the kind of person that you hoped to run into at the bar—a generous man with a great sense of humor, a bright outlook, and plenty of great stories.  

We did eventually come to be friends in real life, too. It turned out that we’re practically neighbors and both enjoy the occasional glass of gin. True story.

By Nicholas Pashley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Notes On A Beermat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 2001 to national acclaim, Notes on a Beermat is Nicholas Pashley’s ode to the amber nectar of the gods, a witty meditation on beer and everything that goes with it―from socializing to the solitary pleasures of a beer and a book, to the qualities necessary in a good pub.
    Most books about beer focus on the beverage itself, how to make it and how to buy it. Notes on a Beermat, the only Canadian book of its kind, explains how to drink beer and why it is absolutely necessary. With characteristic wit and charm, Pashley observes, for…


Book cover of The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity

Mitchell Thomashow Author Of To Know the World: A New Vision for Environmental Learning

From Mitchell's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Environmental thinker Improviser

Mitchell's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Mitchell Thomashow Why did Mitchell love this book?

This is a “big history” book that covers many layers of human relationships with the natural world. The primary focus is what we typically refer to as prehistory and the origins of culture, agriculture, settlement, and the state.

What makes this book so compelling is that the authors counter so many traditional, post-colonial interpretations of these questions. They revitalize our respect for traditional knowledge and the wisdom of pre-industrial cultures while reinforcing our sense of wonder at the multitude of cultural forms and possibilities. 

This is especially important as they consider questions of participation, equity, and social justice in it's various forms. Many traditional cultures, for example, had ingenious ways of organizing resources, and cultivating participatory decision-making. Yet there are just as many examples of imperial acts, exploitation, and racist misunderstanding.

Graeber and Wengrow provide a hands-on, accessible, compelling perspective, based on their progressive orientation and their backgrounds in anthropology…

By David Graeber, David Wengrow,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked The Dawn of Everything as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A dramatically new understanding of human history, challenging our most fundamental assumptions about social evolution—from the development of agriculture and cities to the origins of the state, democracy, and inequality—and revealing new possibilities for human emancipation.

For generations, our remote ancestors have been cast as primitive and childlike—either free and equal innocents, or thuggish and warlike. Civilization, we are told, could be achieved only by sacrificing those original freedoms or, alternatively, by taming our baser instincts. David Graeber and David Wengrow show how such theories first emerged in the eighteenth century as a conservative reaction…


Book cover of Indian Boyhood

David Sobel Author Of Wild Play: Parenting Adventures in the Great Outdoors

From my list on bonding your children with nature.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 1972, I started an early childhood center in the Monadnock Region in New Hampshire. The focus was on child-centered education, with an emphasis on working with children outdoors. I've spent the last 50 years continuing to connect children with nature in schools, nature centers, national parks, museums, and in families. I taught graduate courses in developmental psychology, cognitive development, place-based education and have done hundreds of professional development workshops for early childhood and elementary school teachers. As a father, I focused on connecting my own children with nature. My son is a ski coach and runs an ecotourism kayaking business. My daughter is a theater director and writes grants for an environmental non-profit. 

David's book list on bonding your children with nature

David Sobel Why did David love this book?

Charles Eastman was born and raised as a Sioux native and wound up going to Boston University and becoming a physician, summer camp founder, national lecturer, and reformer. In the early 20th century, he was a prolific author and speaker on Sioux history. His description of Sioux childhoods illustrates both Shepard's portrait of traditional hunting and gathering childhoods and Pearce's portrait of bonding with the earth in middle childhood. His book provides guidance for parents who want their children to have more "wild" childhoods. 

By Charles A Eastman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Charles Alexander Eastman (born Hakadah and later named Ohíye S'a) was a physician educated at Boston University, writer, national lecturer, and reformer. In the early 20th century, he was a prolific author and speaker on Sioux history and American Indian events. Any profits generated from the sale of this book will go towards the Freeriver Community project, a project designed to promote harmonious community living and well-being in the world. To learn more about the Freeriver project please visit the website - www.freerivercommunity.com