9 Evolution Stories to Read This Year

This January, I read Adam Rutherford’s A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes. Rutherford and his BBC Radio show Inside Science single-handedly sparked my interest in the intersection between DNA and human evolution. Sagan told us that inside each of us is the stuff of stars, but genetics tells us that also inside each of us is Neanderthal DNA. And some of us have Denisovan DNA as well. Armed with that nugget of information, how can you not be interested in the story of where we came from and how we got to be who we are as a species? Luckily, my thirst for the human origin story can be quenched by a wide variety of books, all brand new this year. (Rutherford’s brief history is also newly out in paperback 2018 as well, incidentally.)


Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past by David Reich


9781101870327_MarchDavid Reich’s job is to analyze DNA for signs that Neanderthals had interbred with humans. He has retrieved DNA from more than 900 ancient people. In his new book, Reich describes with unprecedented clarity just how the human genome provides not only all the information that a fertilized human egg needs to develop but also contains within it the history of our species. (March 2018)


The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life by David Quammen


9781476776620_julyDavid Quammen explains how recent discoveries in molecular biology can change our understanding of evolution and life’s history, with powerful implications for human health and even our own human nature. Perhaps the most startling discovery to come out of this new field is horizontal gene transfer (HGT). We now know that roughly eight percent of the human genome arrived not through traditional inheritance from directly ancestral forms, but sideways by viral infection—a type of HGT. (August 2018)


I, Mammal: The Story of What Makes Us Mammals by Liam Drew


9781472922892_ajulyConsidering himself as a mammal first and a human second, Liam Drew delves into ancient biological history to understand what it means to be mammalian. In his humorous and engaging style, he explores the different characteristics that distinguish mammals from other types of animals. I, Mammal is a history of mammals and their ancestors and of how science came to grasp mammalian evolution. (January 2018)


Close Encounters with Humankind: A Paleoanthropologist Investigates Our Evolving Species by Sang-Hee Lee with Shin-Young Yook


9780393634822_febIn this captivating bestseller, Korea’s first paleoanthropologist offers fresh insights into humanity’s dawn and evolution. (February 2018)

Kirkus Reviews says, “An exceptionally reader-friendly introduction to human evolution… Highly accessible, consistently interesting popular science writing.”


Human Origins: 7 million years and counting


9781473670419_mayFrom New Scientist‘s Instant Expert series, Human Origins recounts the most astonishing evolutionary tale ever told: Discover how our ancestors made the first tentative steps towards becoming human, how we lost our fur but gained language, fire and tools, how we strode out of Africa, invented farming and cities and ultimately created modern civilization, perhaps the only one of its kind in the Universe. (May 2018)


Our Human Story by Louise Humphrey and Chris Stringer


9780565093914-Nov1Our Human Story is a guide to our fossil relatives, from what may be the earliest hominins through to our own species, Homo sapiens. Drawing on new information, as well as their own considerable expertise and practical experience, Louise Humphrey and Chris Stringer explain in clear and accessible language what each of the key species represents, and how it contributes to our knowledge of human evolution. (November 2018)


Evolution: The Human Story by Dr. Alice Roberts


9781465474018_JulyThis second edition of DK’s Evolution is fully updated with the latest discoveries and research. Amazingly realistic illustrations and detailed maps plot eight million years of human development in the context of our genetics, anatomy, behavior, environment, migrations, and culture. (July 2018)



Primate Change: How the World We Made is Remaking Us by Vybarr Cregan-Reid


9781788400220_octPrimate Change  is a wide-ranging, polemical look at how and why the human body has changed since humankind first got up on two feet. Spanning the entirety of human history – from primate to transhuman – Vybarr Cregan-Reid’s book investigates where we came from, who we are today and how modern technology will change us beyond recognition. (October 2018)


Turning Points: How Critical Events Have Driven Human Evolution, Life, and Development by Kostas Kampourakis


9781633883291_febCritical historical events, or “turning points,” have shaped evolution and continue to have a decisive effect on individual lives. This theme is explored and explained in this lucid, accessible book for lay readers. The author argues that, although evolution is the result of unpredictable events, these events have profound influences on subsequent developments. (February 2018)

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