The best books about natural selection 📚

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

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Book cover of Darwin’s Dangerous Idea

Darwin’s Dangerous Idea

By Daniel Dennett

Why this book?

Like Kant reading Hume, this book woke me up from my small-minded intellectual slumbers. Before this, I thought biology was basically just memorizing different parts of cells. Dennett opened my mind to the intricacies of evolutionary theory and did so with wit and elegance.
From the list:

The best books that will open your mind to the wonders of biology

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Book cover of Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society

Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society

By Nicholas A. Christakis

Why this book?

In clear, captivating prose, Blueprint provides a dazzling body of evidence in support of the need for explanations of human behavior to take account of genes as well as environment, neurotransmitters as well as social norms, our species’ hunter-gatherer past as well as its technology-enabled present.  Distinguished sociologist and physician Nicholas Christakis argues that the genes selected in our evolutionary past produced a group-oriented human nature—the “social suite”—that prizes love for partners and offspring, friendship and cooperation, relative egalitarianism, and social learning and teaching, and recognition of individual identity, as well as in-group bias. Whether shipwrecked sailors or utopian communities,…

From the list:

The best books on social evolution, social neuroscience, and social connection

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Book cover of Charles Darwin's on the Origin of Species

Charles Darwin's on the Origin of Species

By Sabina Radeva

Why this book?

If you want to understand evolution, it certainly helps to know how and where the theory of evolution originated. This picture book rendition of Darwin’s classic work – the foundational text of all modern biology – explains Darwin’s explorations, the process of natural selection, and the common descent of all living things. The direct quotes from Darwin’s own writings are a nice touch, as are the charming illustrations. It doesn’t hurt that the writer/illustrator is a molecular biologist. 

From the list:

The best children’s books about evolution

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Book cover of Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life

Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life

By Daniel C. Dennett

Why this book?

Easier to read than On the Origin of Species, this book connects Darwin’s overwhelmingly significant explanatory insight to the last fifty years of advance in our understanding of biology, psychology, social science, and the nature of the mind. Dennett is a brilliantly ingenious builder of images and metaphors that really enable you to grasp Darwin’s breakthrough, one at least as important as Newton’s and Einstein’s, but more relevant to understanding the meaning of life. 

From the list:

The best books for getting a grip on our reality

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Book cover of Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection

Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection

By Peter Godfrey-Smith

Why this book?

This short, clearly written book offers a penetrating analysis of the foundations of evolutionary biology. Godfrey-Smith develops a novel conceptual framework for understanding evolution based on the concept of a “Darwinian population,” which refers to any collection of entities capable of evolving by natural selection, and a “Darwinian individual,” which is a member of such a population. He uses this framework to shed light on topics including reproduction, symbiosis, culture, and transitions between levels of organization. The book is a perfect illustration of why science sometimes needs philosophy.

From the list:

The best books about the philosophy of evolution

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Book cover of Ever Since Darwin: Reflections on Natural History

Ever Since Darwin: Reflections on Natural History

By Stephen Jay Gould

Why this book?

Ever Since Darwin is described as a collection of essays on natural history. But it is much more than that. Ever Since Darwin is an album of captivating, perspicacious, funny, and delightfully crafted stories that explain evolution and the curiosities of the natural world by a writer with a genius for description. From the “spandrels of San Marco” to the “bushes” that natural selection prunes, Stephen Jay Gould deftly uses metaphor to deconstruct the fossil record and illuminate the exquisite complexities of evolution. All of Stephen Jay Gould’s books are brilliant, but Ever Since Darwin is my first love.

From the list:

The best books for intellectual and creative inspiration

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