The best books about neanderthals

Who picked these books? Meet our 23 experts.

23 authors created a book list connected to neanderthals, and here are their favorite neanderthal books.
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What type of neanderthal book?


Cafe Neandertal

By Beebe Bahrami,

Book cover of Cafe Neandertal

Martin Walker Author Of Bruno, Chief of Police

From the list on Perigord France.

Who am I?

Martin Walker studied history at Oxford, international relations and economics at Harvard, and spent 28 years as journalist and foreign correspondent for Britain's The Guardian newspaper. He divides his time between the USA, Britain and the Perigord region of France, where he produces his own Bergerac red wine, 'Cuvee Bruno'. Martin writes a monthly wine column and is a Grand Consul de la Vinee de Bergerac, a body founded in the year 1254 AD and dedicated to the support of the region’s wines. 

Martin's book list on Perigord France

Discover why each book is one of Martin's favorite books.

Why did Martin love this book?

This is the most entertaining (and informative) book on archaeology, prehistory and the cave art of our early ancestors that I have ever read.

By Beebe Bahrami,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Award-winning writer Bahrami is a delightful guide in this thoroughly enjoyable look into the research and recovery of a group of Neandertal remains in the French Dordogne region . . . Her wide interests in travel, memoir, food, wine, and more make this exceedingly engaging title more like a French version of Under the Tuscan Sun." ―Booklist (starred review)

Centered in the Dordogne region of southwestern France, one of Europe’s most concentrated regions for Neandertal occupations, Café Neandertal features the work of archaeologists doing some of the most comprehensive and global work to date on the research, exploration, and recovery…

The Ends of the Earth

By W.S. Merwin,

Book cover of The Ends of the Earth: Essays

Akiko Busch Author Of How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency

From the list on essays by poets.

Who am I?

I am drawn to what happens when writers skilled in one form of expression explore their ideas in another. Poets write with a sense of distillation. Prose allows for something different, the essay form bringing to the surface something more expansive, less concentrated. Clarity is constant, but it takes on a different rhythm, a spaciousness, a sense of one thing leading to another and another.

Akiko's book list on essays by poets

Discover why each book is one of Akiko's favorite books.

Why did Akiko love this book?

W. S. Merwin writes about place with both a sense of rich material texture and evanescence. Science and history may be referred to as well. Somehow these assorted sensibilities, or views, create a genuine and full sense of place that reflects what is both visible and invisible. For some reason I don’t quite understand, I would rather encounter a monk on a tractor in a Merwin essay than in a Merwin poem.

By W.S. Merwin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

W. S. Merwin is widely acknowledged as one of the finest living poets in English. Less well known is the power and range of his work in prose. For his first new prose collection in more than ten years, The Ends of the Earth, Merwin has gathered eight essays that show the breadth of his imagination and sympathy. A memoir of George Kirstein, publisher of "The Nation," stands alongside one of Sydney Parkinson, explorer, naturalist and artist on Captain James Cook’s Endeavour. A wonderful portrait of the French explorer of Hawai’i, Jean-Francois Galaup de La Perouse is followed by a…

Book cover of The Violinist's Thumb: And Other Lost Tales Of Love, War, And Genius, As Written By Our Genetic Code

Alex Bezzerides Author Of Evolution Gone Wrong: The Curious Reasons Why Our Bodies Work (or Don't)

From the list on the evolution of the human body.

Who am I?

I am a biologist, a writer, and a teacher. I like knowing how the human body works but what I really like is knowing why it works the way it does. Those explanations lie deep in our past and I use my broad biological background to dig up the answers in scientific journals. Then I take those articles and figure out how to describe them to people who last took a biology class in 10th grade. I start with those drab scientific threads and knit them into big, bold scientific sweaters that anyone can curl up in and feel warm and comfortable. 

Alex's book list on the evolution of the human body

Discover why each book is one of Alex's favorite books.

Why did Alex love this book?

At the end of the day, we are humans because of our DNA and Sam Kean breaks down that DNA in a way that is surprisingly page-turning.

You will learn more about your genetic code than you ever thought possible. Who would have thought that there is more viral DNA in the human genome than actual human genes!

The Violinist’s Thumb is a ride that weaves the biology of DNA and the cultural and societal impacts of the molecular revolution into a compelling story you won’t want to put down.

By Sam Kean,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Violinist's Thumb as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean comes incredible stories of science, history, language, and music, as told by our own DNA.

In The Disappearing Spoon, bestselling author Sam Kean unlocked the mysteries of the periodic table. In The Violinist's Thumb, he explores the wonders of the magical building block of life: DNA.

There are genes to explain crazy cat ladies, why other people have no fingerprints, and why some people survive nuclear bombs. Genes illuminate everything from JFK's bronze skin (it wasn't a tan) to Einstein's genius. They prove that Neanderthals and humans bred thousands of years more…

The Crucible of Time

By John Brunner,

Book cover of The Crucible of Time

C. S. Friedman Author Of This Alien Shore

From the list on aliens in science fiction.

Who am I?

I have always been fascinated by the workings of the human mind. What instincts and influences make us who we are? This Alien Shore grew out of research I was doing into atypical neurological conditions. It depicts a society that has abandoned the concept of “neurotypical”, embracing every variant of human perspective as valid and valuable. One of my main characters, Kio Masada, is autistic, and that gives him a unique perspective on computer security that others cannot provide. What might such a man accomplish, in a world where his condition is embraced and celebrated? Good science fiction challenges our definition of “Other,” and asks what it really means to be human, all in the context of an exciting story.

C. S.'s book list on aliens in science fiction

Discover why each book is one of C. S.'s favorite books.

Why did C. S. love this book?

A planet in its equivalent of the stone age is passing through a galactic debris field. An alien stargazer realizes that sooner or later some object will strike the planet and destroy it. The only hope of survival his species has is to leave the planet before that happens. But the concept is a mere abstraction to his people, the equivalent of a Neanderthal saying “we need to travel to the moon,” and the task is further complicated by the fact that their technology is biological in nature, focused on the manipulation of living tissue. It is hard to imagine how such technology could ever produce a spaceship. 

The novel--structured as a series of novellas-- follows the development of a fascinating alien species from its primitive roots to an age of high technology, each chapter focusing on a different time period. Always the stargazer’s warning is proclaimed by a few…

By John Brunner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Traces the development over milennia of a civilization of an unusual alien species, whose sense of humor, resourceful adaptibility, and metalworking skills are the strengths and the hope of their society

The World Before Us

By Tom Higham,

Book cover of The World Before Us: The New Science Behind Our Human Origins

Michael C. Corballis Author Of Adventures of a Psychologist: Reflections on What Made Up the Mind

From the list on the mind (how it works and where it came from).

Who am I?

Michael Corballis is a psychologist and brain scientist. His interests lie in how the mind works, how it maps onto the brain, and how it evolved. Much of his work is published in books and scientific articles, but he has also written books aimed at a general readership. These include Pieces of Mind, The Lopsided Ape, The Recursive Mind, The Wandering Mind, and The Truth about Language.

Michael's book list on the mind (how it works and where it came from)

Discover why each book is one of Michael's favorite books.

Why did Michael love this book?

We are accustomed to thinking of ourselves as a species mentally superior to all others. This view was challenged in the 19th century with the discovery in Europe of the Neanderthals, an extinct large-brained human-like species. Our superiority seemed to be restored by evidence that Neanderthal extinction followed the arrival in Europe of seemingly dominant Homo sapiens from Africa. Accumulating archaeological and genetic evidence is changing that comfortable picture. Another large-brained but extinct human-like species, the Denisovans, are now also known to have existed in widespread regions of Russia, Asia, and Oceania. Not only were these archaic species technologically and culturally on a par with sapiens, but they also mated occasionally with each other and with our own species. Many people throughout the world carry genetic material from them, and these have contributed to our own regional adaptations. This book challenges our view of ourselves, and implies greater affinity and…

By Tom Higham,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A fascinating investigation of the origin of humans, based on incredible new discoveries and advanced scientific technology

"Conveys the thrill of archaeological discovery.”—Alexander Larman, The Observer

"Packs in startling discoveries, impressive insights and the occasional debunking of a foolish idea.”—Michael Marshall, New Scientist

Fifty thousand years ago, Homo sapiens was not the only species of humans in the world. There were also Neanderthals in what is now Europe, the Near East, and parts of Eurasia; Hobbits (H. floresiensis) on the island of Flores in Indonesia; Denisovans in Siberia and eastern Eurasia; and H. luzonensis in the Philippines. Tom Higham investigates…


By Martin Jones,

Book cover of Feast: Why Humans Share Food

Lizzie Collingham Author Of The Hungry Empire: How Britain's Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World

From the list on food and history.

Who am I?

I first became interested in food when I was researching my PhD on the use of the body as an instrument of rule in British India. The British in India developed a language of food to demonstrate their power and status. I discovered that food is a rich subject for the historian as it carries a multitude of stories. I have since written five more books exploring these complex stories, always interested in connecting the broad sweep of historical processes to the more intimate level of everyday life and the connections between the food world of the past with the food world of the present.

Lizzie's book list on food and history

Discover why each book is one of Lizzie's favorite books.

Why did Lizzie love this book?

The joy of this book is the way it lays bare the detective work of archaeology. Martin Jones shows us how archaeologists build a picture of the past using fragments of bone; food residues on the inside of cooking pots; grains of pollen; berry seeds and whipworm eggs. He takes us from a group of chimpanzees foraging in Tanzanian fruit trees and the beginnings of sociable eating to the development of cooking among Neanderthals in the Iberian Peninsula and on to a newly-permanent Mesopotamian farming settlement and the competitive dining of a Roman table in Colchester. Organized around the central question of ‘why humans share food’, the book is a history of the meal itself.

By Martin Jones,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Is sharing food such an everyday, unremarkable occurrence?

In fact, the human tendency to sit together peacefully over food is actually rather an extraordinary phenomenon, and one which many species find impossible. It is also a pheonomenon with far-reaching consequences for the global environment and human social evolution.

So how did this strange and powerful behaviour come about? In Feast, Martin Jones uses the latest archaeological methods to illuminate how humans came to share food in the first place and how the human meal has developed since then.

From the earliest evidence of human consumption around half a million years…

Riley's Journey

By P.L. Parker,

Book cover of Riley's Journey

Cara Bristol Author Of Blown Away

From the list on sci-fi romances that you won’t be able to forget.

Who am I?

I’ve read romance since I was teenager, and I’ve written all my professional life, first in journalism, then public relations, finally as an author. Being a sci-fi romance author is my dream job! There is nothing on this planet I’d rather do. I love the freedom and creativity of science fiction romance. There are new worlds to explore and fascinating characters to meet. The best books of any genre are those with “legs.” Years after reading them, you still remember the story. My goal is to send my readers on an unforgettable emotional journey to an exciting new world filled with characters they can’t help but fall in love with.

Cara's book list on sci-fi romances that you won’t be able to forget

Discover why each book is one of Cara's favorite books.

Why did Cara love this book?

It’s back to the future in Riley’s Journey.

A young woman volunteers for a “research project” unaware she’ll be taking a one-way trip into past—40,000 years. She’s sent to provide companionship for Nathan, a modern man also trapped in the past.

The descriptions of primitive Earth and its dangers were so realistically portrayed the book put me right there with the Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon. I sympathized with Riley’s shock and betrayal and with Nathan’s crushing loneliness and despair.

I’ve recommended this book over and over again.

By P.L. Parker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Riley's Journey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The research project was only supposed to be for an "extended period." No one said anything about forever! So Riley's journey begins. Unknowingly sent back 40,000 years to be the mate of a man she had never before met, Riley struggles to understand and adjust. Her journey will take her into a world fraught with dangers - a world made more treacherous by savage beasts, primitive Neanderthals, and the incursion of the aggressive Cro-Magnon man. Surviving alone for five years in this vast wilderness, Nathan, along with his enormous dog, Demon, carve out a life in the perilous environment. Though…


By Rebecca Wragg Sykes,

Book cover of Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art

Judith Mitchell Author Of Boville

From the list on courageous little girls who change their world.

Who am I?

I’m an unfocused history omnivore, a perpetual student of many disparate subjects, and a visual artist. My childhood dream was to become an archaeologist, but by the time I reached graduate school I‘d become incapable of committing to one specific epoch. I’ve explored ancient times on my own. The older I get, the farther back in time my interests reach. As another interest of mine is mythology, the first book on my list is the answer to this manqué archaeologist’s/mythologist’s prayer. I‘ve recently written and illustrated a story taking place around 15,000 years ago, involving the painted caves in Europe. I ascribe these powerful images to a Paleolithic spirituality which I deeply enjoyed “creating.”

Judith's book list on courageous little girls who change their world

Discover why each book is one of Judith's favorite books.

Why did Judith love this book?

British Paleo-Archaeologist Rebecca Wragg Sykes’s compelling book combines hard science, tantalizingly reasonable postulations, and poetry. It appeals to our “humanity.” Kindred is an almost wistful examination of our closest Hominid relatives - the Neanderthals. For over 300,000 years, Homo Neanderthalensis successfully survived several ice ages and drastic changes in weather, food sources, and landscape. Although they are not manifestly with us now, they exist in our imagination and provoke our curiosity.

We want to know them; Neanderthal genes still survive among our own. Sykes introduces our Neanderthal cousins, fleshing out their bones by bringing their appearance, their everyday tasks, their diets, their various habitats - even their possible way of speaking - into focus for us laymen by presenting the latest scientific evidence. Misconceptions are corrected. The icing on this delicious Paleolithic cake was, for me, Sykes’s poetic passages which open a path into each chapter, transporting me into the…

By Rebecca Wragg Sykes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

** WINNER OF THE PEN HESSELL-TILTMAN PRIZE 2021 ** 'Beautiful, evocative, authoritative.' Professor Brian Cox 'Important reading not just for anyone interested in these ancient cousins of ours, but also for anyone interested in humanity.' Yuval Noah Harari Kindred is the definitive guide to the Neanderthals. Since their discovery more than 160 years ago, Neanderthals have metamorphosed from the losers of the human family tree to A-list hominins. Rebecca Wragg Sykes uses her experience at the cutting-edge of Palaeolithic research to share our new understanding of Neanderthals, shoving aside cliches of rag-clad brutes in an icy wasteland. She reveals them…

Book cover of The Clan of the Cave Bear

T.K. Thorne Author Of Noah's Wife

From the list on history’s remarkable women.

Who am I?

T.K. Thorne became a police officer during the first decade of women policing in Birmingham, Alabama, retiring as a captain. Her background as a woman in a macho man’s world helped inform the writing of award-winning historical novels about completely unknown women in two of the world’s oldest and most famous stories—the tale of Noah’s flood and the burning of Sodom (Noah’s Wife and Angels at the Gate). An experienced speaker, T.K. shares the fascinating background research into the culture of those early civilizations, as well as the scientific discoveries behind the flood in the Mideast and first-hand information gained from her personal trips to the area.

T.K.'s book list on history’s remarkable women

Discover why each book is one of T.K.'s favorite books.

Why did T.K. love this book?

Ayla’s amazing story of survival in ancient times no doubt influenced me in writing my own book, although I didn’t realize it until I was deep into telling my own story.

Both Ayla and Na’amah were, in a way we find difficult to grasp today, intimately connected to nature. Their very survival turned on that deep understanding. Both women were considered “different,” a feeling that resonated with me.  

I was particularly drawn to the premise that explored how two distinct, but related tribes of humans could have evolved with different innate characteristics and capacities (one relying more on instincts and the other on problem solving).

Not to mention how fascinating that Auel imagined a course of evolution that modern anthropology is only recently vindicating!

By Jean M. Auel,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Clan of the Cave Bear as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This novel of awesome beauty and power is a moving saga about people, relationships, and the boundaries of love.

Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read

Through Jean M. Auel’s magnificent storytelling we are taken back to the dawn of modern humans, and with a girl named Ayla we are swept up in the harsh and beautiful Ice Age world they shared with the ones who called themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear.

A natural disaster leaves the young girl wandering alone in an unfamiliar and dangerous land until she is found by…

Book cover of Neanderthal Seeks Human

Stacy Travis Author Of Playing for You

From the list on romance with brilliant, brainy heroines.

Who am I?

After a long career in other forms of writing including but not limited to journalism, TV writing, nonfiction book authoring, I began writing contemporary romance novels two years ago and I haven’t gotten off the couch or closed my laptop since then. I write sweet, spicy books about quirky heroines and the men who can’t live without them. When I’m not writing, I’m perfecting the right ratio of coffee to milk, hustling my 2 rescue dogs around the neighborhood, or running up a hill in search of a view. 

Stacy's book list on romance with brilliant, brainy heroines

Discover why each book is one of Stacy's favorite books.

Why did Stacy love this book?

All of the women in Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City series are spitfires, but I have a soft spot for Janie and her habit of rattling off encyclopedic facts at inopportune times and solving problems in her head as a way of avoiding too much reality. Grumbly, protective Quinn is her perfect match and readers are especially lucky because their romance unfolds over not one, but two novels.

By Penny Reid,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

*AAR top 100 romances of all time*
New York Times Bestselling Author Penny Reid’s debut novel

There are three things you need to know about Janie Morris:
1) She is incapable of engaging in a conversation without volunteering TMTI (Too Much Trivial Information), especially when she is unnerved,
2) No one unnerves her more than Quinn Sullivan, and
3) She doesn't know how to knit.

After losing her boyfriend, apartment, and job in the same day, Janie Morris can't help wondering what new torment fate has in store. To her utter mortification, Quinn Sullivan—aka Sir McHotpants—witnesses it all then keeps…

The Inheritors

By William Golding,

Book cover of The Inheritors

S.D. Livingston Author Of A Queen's Revenge

From the list on feeling the power of hope against impossible odds.

Who am I?

I’m an accidental historian, one that stumbled over a love of history in spite of myself. In school, history was all just dates and places—not the kind of thing to inspire a kid that loved stories about people, not dusty old battles. But then a funny thing happened on the way to an English degree. A few history electives suddenly seemed way more appealing than another round of Austen, and led me to a BA History with Distinction. The first half of the twentieth century is a favorite period, but I say bring on the Renaissance and Viking ships too!

S.D.'s book list on feeling the power of hope against impossible odds

Discover why each book is one of S.D.'s favorite books.

Why did S.D. love this book?

In The Inheritors, William Golding brings to life a creature from the distant past: Lok, a hairy, barely verbal hominid whose small band is the last of their kind. New words and thoughts confuse him, flashes of logic slip out of his grasp, and he discovers the existence of mysterious Others; invaders with the formidable technology of bow and arrow. But The Inheritors is much more than an exciting adventure. The story stays with me because Lok is a mirror of us—of the human urge to try, to fail, to push on despite the odds. We have no idea what the next thousand years will hold. Neither did Lok. But just like him, we can’t help moving forward.

By William Golding,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hunt, trek, and feast among Neanderthals in this stunning novel by the radical Nobel Laureate and author of Lord of the Flies, introduced by Ben Okri.

This was a different voice; not the voice of the people. It was the voice of other.

When spring comes, the people leave their winter cave, foraging for honey, grubs, and the hot richness of a deer's brain. They awaken the fire to heat their naked bodies, lay down their thorn bushes, and share pictures in their minds. But strange things are happening: inexplicable scents and sounds. Imaginable beasts are half-glimpsed in the forest;…

I, Robot

By Isaac Asimov,

Book cover of I, Robot

K. Van Kramer Author Of Modified

From the list on science fiction with A.I. and sweeping new worlds.

Who am I?

I’ve always loved science fiction because it offers a hope, a dream, or a future that we just haven't seen yet. When I write my stories, I feel there is no better use of my imagination, than to contemplate a new world, a new civilization, or future technology. At the same time, I hope to entertain readers and spark young imaginations. Inside Modified, I reached into a distant future with off-world colonies that float in the clouds of Venus, while robots toil on the planet’s surface. Of course, in such a future, when advanced modifications and recursive designs are used, leads one to wonder if my robot can love too.

K.'s book list on science fiction with A.I. and sweeping new worlds

Discover why each book is one of K.'s favorite books.

Why did K. love this book?

No one explores the idea of A.I. better than Isaac Asimov, so when robotics experts Powell and Donovan build an advanced robot called QT-1 or “Cutie” for short, “be careful what you wish for,” comes to mind. Cutie isn’t so bad, except he seems to doubt everything he’s told after he’s created, including the fact that humans built him. When Powell asks Cutie why he doesn’t believe it, Cutie claims it’s intuition. When Powell tries to explain to Cutie about the stars, planets, and space, Cutie disagrees with him and decides to “reason” out things on his own. Unfortunately, this robot is so far advanced, it has the ability to form opinions and ideas, that don’t necessarily equate to logic—a primary lesson about intelligence which is learned early on in the story.

By Isaac Asimov,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked I, Robot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Voyager Classics - timeless masterworks of science fiction and fantasy.

A beautiful clothbound edition of I, Robot, the classic collection of robot stories from the master of the genre.

In these stories Isaac Asimov creates the Three Laws of Robotics and ushers in the Robot Age.

Earth is ruled by master-machines but the Three Laws of Robotics have been designed to ensure humans maintain the upper hand:

1) A robot may not injure a human being or allow a human being to come to harm
2) A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such…

Darwin's Radio

By Greg Bear,

Book cover of Darwin's Radio

Arri Eisen Author Of The Enlightened Gene: Biology, Buddhism, and the Convergence That Explains the World

From the list on science in accurate and creative ways.

Who am I?

I am a scientist with a love for fiction, and I’m very intrigued by and like to explore the intersections of science with the rest of the world— art, fiction, race, religion, life, and death.  I bring these intersections into my teaching and writing. Over the past 30 years, I’ve taught Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns, undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, physicians and professors at Emory University, cadets at the Air Force Academy, and the general public. Why does science matter? Why is it beautiful? Dangerous? It’s the novelists who tell us best.

Arri's book list on science in accurate and creative ways

Discover why each book is one of Arri's favorite books.

Why did Arri love 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— that humans have made for ourselves. 

By Greg Bear,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Darwin's Radio as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Ancient diseases encoded in the DNA of humans wait like sleeping dragons to wake and infect again--or so molecular biologist Kaye Lang believes. And now it looks as if her controversial theory is in fact chilling reality. For Christopher Dicken, a "virus hunter" at the Epidemic Intelligence Service, has pursued an elusive flu-like disease that strikes down expectant mothers and their offspring. Then a major discovery high in the Alps --the preserved bodies of a prehistoric family--reveals a shocking link: something that has slept in our genes for millions of years is waking up.