The best books about neanderthals

4 authors have picked their favorite books about neanderthals and why they recommend each book.

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Cafe Neanderthal

By Beebe Bahrami,

Book cover of Cafe Neanderthal

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

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. 

I wrote...

Bruno, Chief of Police: A Mystery of the French Countryside

By Martin Walker,

Book cover of Bruno, Chief of Police: A Mystery of the French Countryside

What is my book about?

The first installment in the delightful, internationally acclaimed series featuring Chief of Police Bruno. Meet Benoît Courrèges, aka Bruno, a policeman in a small village in the South of France.  He’s a former soldier who has embraced the pleasures and slow rhythms of country life. He has a gun but never wears it; he has the power to arrest but never uses it. But then the murder of an elderly North African who fought in the French army changes all that.  Now Bruno must balance his beloved routines—living in his restored shepherd’s cottage, shopping at the local market, drinking wine, strolling the countryside—with a politically delicate investigation.  He’s paired with a young policewoman from Paris and the two suspect anti-immigrant militants.  As they learn more about the dead man’s past, Bruno’s suspicions turn toward a more complex motive.

The World Before Us

By Tom Higham,

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

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…

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.

I wrote...

Adventures of a Psychologist: Reflections on What Made Up the Mind

By Michael C. Corballis,

Book cover of Adventures of a Psychologist: Reflections on What Made Up the Mind

What is my book about?

The book is an autobiography of my life, from growing up on a sheep farm in New Zealand, to several attempts to find a career, to eventual employment in Canada and New Zealand as an academic psychologist and researcher. Over the past 60 years, I saw scientific psychology transform, from behaviourism, to the cognitive revolution, then to the discovery of the brain. I worked with pigeons, long-suffering undergraduate volunteers, and split-brained patients. I pondered the various aspects that make up the mind: memory, imagination, the two sides of the brain, language, and its evolution. Four of the books recommended below feature in this book; One of them (the fourth) appeared too recently for inclusion.


By Rebecca Wragg Sykes,

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

This is my leftfield choice, as Wragg Sykes’s book is a history of our lost Eurasian ancestors, the Neanderthals. But climate change is a very real and foreboding presence throughout this book. Neanderthals lived through major, rapid changes in climate, from temperate forests to the deep freeze of ice ages, and survived. Reading about how past humans lived through climate crisis gives some hope, but also brings home the sobering reality of what it takes and what is lost.

Who am I?

I’m an environmental journalist (BBC, The Guardian, The Sunday Times) and book author, based in the UK. My interest lies in the intersection between human health, the environment, and climate crisis: the actions we can take that not only reduce climate change for future generations but also improve biodiversity, health, and wellbeing right now. That led to me write my first book, Clearing The Air, about air pollution. And I’m now writing my second book, The Last Drop, looking at how climate change is affecting the world’s water cycle and our access to freshwater. My best books list below maybe misses out on some obvious choices (Naomi Klein, Rachel Carson, etc) in favour of more recent books and authors deserving of a wider audience. 

I wrote...

Clearing The Air: The Beginning and the End Of Air Pollution

By Tim Smedley,

Book cover of Clearing The Air: The Beginning and the End Of Air Pollution

What is my book about?

Clearing The Air: The Beginning and the End of Air Pollution is my journey to understand what air pollution is, and how it became a global public health crisis that kills some 7-10 million people globally each year. I was living in London, had just become a Dad, and a headline caught my eye on my commute home on the tube that read: “Oxford Street has worst diesel pollution on Earth”. This completely blindsided me, so I set out to answer four key questions: What is air pollution? What causes it? Why is it bad for our health? And – perhaps most importantly – what can we do about it?

My journey for the answers ultimately became this book, and took me to Delhi, Beijing, Paris, Helsinki, and, erm, Milton Keynes. I came across some shocking stories, but I also found optimism and solutions for how we can start clearing the air and see instant results. 

The Crucible of Time

By John Brunner,

Book cover of The Crucible of Time

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…

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.

I wrote...

This Alien Shore

By C.S. Friedman,

Book cover of This Alien Shore

What is my book about?

When Earth’s superluminal drive altered the genes of the first interstellar colonists, Earth abandoned them. But the colonists survived, and now there is a new civilization among the stars, peopled by mental and physical “Variants”. Earth’s children have become alien to her.

In Terran space, orphan Jamisia Shido is guided by mysterious voices in her head. After a devastating attack on her station, she is forced to flee to the Variant worlds, where she must uncover the secrets locked within her own brain before those who destroyed her home can find her. In Variant space, a computer virus is killing the only pilots capable of guiding ships through deep space. Security expert Kio Masada must track down the source of the virus before all of Variant society collapses. And the key to doing that may lie hidden within the mind of a young Terran fugitive. 

Darwin's Radio

By Greg Bear,

Book cover of Darwin's Radio

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. 

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.

I wrote...

The Enlightened Gene: Biology, Buddhism, and the Convergence That Explains the World

By Arri Eisen, Yungdrung Konchok,

Book cover of The Enlightened Gene: Biology, Buddhism, and the Convergence That Explains the World

What is my book about?

Karma and epigenetics?  Sentient beings and the microbiome? This book tells the story of how, at the Dalai Lama’s request, modern science is being integrated into the curriculum of Tibetan Buddhist monastic universities— this curriculum’s first significant change in 600 years.

We tell this story through the eyes of us two very different authors who helped initiate the project now in its fifteenth year— a Jewish, white biochemist from the American South and a Buddhist monk who grew up herding yak on the Tibetan plateau. How all of us— teachers and students— think about science, life, and teaching and learning is transformed.

The Ends of the Earth

By W.S. Merwin,

Book cover of The Ends of the Earth: Essays

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.

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.

I wrote...

How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency

By Akiko Busch,

Book cover of How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency

What is my book about?

In our networked and image-saturated lives, the notion of disappearing has never been more alluring. Today we are relentlessly encouraged to reveal, share, and promote ourselves. The pressure to be public comes not just from our peers, but from vast and pervasive tech companies that want to profit from our patterns of behavior. It may be time, then, to re-evaluate the merits of the inconspicuous life and to reconsider the value of going unseen, undetected in this new world. Might invisibility be regarded not simply as a refuge, but as a condition with its own meaning and power?

The impulse to escape notice is not about complacent isolation or senseless conformity, but about maintaining identity, autonomy, and voice.

Neanderthal Seeks Human

By Penny Reid,

Book cover of Neanderthal Seeks Human: A Smart Romance

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.

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. 

I wrote...

Playing for You: A Sports Romance

By Stacy Travis,

Book cover of Playing for You: A Sports Romance

What is my book about?

You know the fantasy about the gorgeous soccer star who picks you from a crowded room and leaves you with an epic kiss? That’s my life, except I’m an awkward introvert and he’s my opposite in every way.

When my boss sends me in his place to a professional sports banquet, I find the only empty seat next to Donovan Taylor, the San Francisco Strikers’ resident hottie with a bad reputation. I promptly embarrass myself because I have no idea who he is. Then he kisses me and asks me out. Donovan is nothing like the player I expected. As my feelings grow, I start finding it impossible to pretend I’m only in this for a promotion. Sure, he’s hiding secrets, but they won’t be enough to break us. Will they?


By Martin Jones,

Book cover of Feast: Why Humans Share Food

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.

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.

I wrote...

The Hungry Empire: How Britain's Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World

By Lizzie Collingham,

Book cover of The Hungry Empire: How Britain's Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World

What is my book about?

The glamorous daughter of an African chief shares a pineapple with a slave trader… Surveyors in British Columbia eat tinned Australian rabbit… Diamond prospectors in Guyana prepare an iguana curry…

In twenty meals The Hungry Empire tells the story of how the British created a global network of commerce and trade in foodstuffs that moved people and plants from one continent to another, reshaping landscapes and culinary tastes. The Empire allowed Britain to harness the globe’s edible resources from cod fish and salt beef to spices, tea, and sugar. Lizzie Collingham takes us on a wide-ranging culinary journey, revealing how virtually every meal we eat still contains a taste of empire.

I, Robot

By Isaac Asimov,

Book cover of I, Robot

Like many boys of my age, I started reading comics with barely a grasp of written English. I liked the artwork and then when I learned to read, the words. Luckier than most, my mother read to her two little boys at night. Call of the Wild, Flika (a Horsey Thing), White Fang, Black Beauty, The Railway Children, The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, Swallows and Amazons and so many more, and like children do, we grew, and we learned.

One of the very first collections of short stories I read was I, Robot I was instantly fascinated. Imagine another thinking being that sits alongside us. One with a psychology of its own and a peculiar impetus. Asimov introduced AI and thinking robots to my mind.

I was instantly engrossed and could not leave those thoughts alone until I learned that homo erectus and Neanderthal man as well as a…

Who am I?

I was brought up on a farm in the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by standing stones, crypts, and burial mounds of races turned to dust. I started sending sci-fi tales to mags like Uncanny Tales, New Worlds, Astounding Tales, Amazing Stories when I was thirteen, but none were accepted. I left the wilderness for the city, Edinburgh, the “Athens of the North” when fifteen and entered university. All I yearned to do after that was go home. I never did. A little more experience of life behind me, I was first published in Peoples Own and in the same year in New Worlds and then it worked well for me for a while. 

I wrote...

Moonchild and Other Tales

By Raymond Walker,

Book cover of Moonchild and Other Tales

What is my book about?

A young girl, abandoned in the ancient Caledonian forest seeks refuge in the arms of a hill walker, or so it seems to the casual observer. A River Sprite seeks solace in the arms of a human, as her world is disappearing. A moon-child creeps from her Holt beneath an ancient tree. Goats that debate in shady glens at night discuss revolution, wolves that are men, and men who are wolves wonder about their purpose in life. True love remains eternal in the worthiest of sad tales. These new Faerie and folk tales, of Scotland, from the pen of Raymond Walker, author of A River of Tears and The Secret Inside embody the living soul of Scots folk and northern faerie tales.

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