Human Evolution

Ancestors in Our Genome

by Eugenie E. Harris

New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. 248 pages.

According to reviewer Daniel Fairbanks, Ancestors in Our Genome attempts “the daunting task of explaining to a lay audience how the massive amount of genomic information currently available to geneticists has informed our understanding of human evolutionary history.” While the book is difficult, he predicts, “Readers will come away from it with a powerful and up-to-date understanding of how the science of genomics is revolutionizing our understanding of human evolution and of evolution in general.”

The Accidental Species

by Henry Gee

Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013. 203 pages.

The Accidental Species is aimed at disputing human exceptionalism, reviewer Jonathan Marks explains, complaining that its “ambitious theoretical goals … tend to be more strongly avowed than subtly argued.” But he praises the book nevertheless for “the pains it takes to contextualize paleoanthropology within paleontology more generally.

Last Ape Standing

by Chip Walter

New York: Walter & Company, 2013. 221 pages.

Last Ape Standing is an unconventional book on human evolution, in a positive way. Missing are the usual cast of colorful paleoanthropological characters … and many of the fossil discoveries that have shaped the scientific history of paleoanthropology. Instead, the reader gets to explore a panoply of topics, from the co-evolution of music and language to the origins and consequences of primate curiosity. It sparks interest in the many dimensions of human evolution,” writes reviewer Jeffrey K. McKee.

Shaping Humanity

by John Gurche
New Haven (CT): Yale University Press, 2013. 368 pages.

In Shaping Humanity, the paleoartist John Gurche discusses his work on the hominin sculptures in the Hall of Human Origins at the Smithsonian Institution. Reviewer Pat Shipman writes, “he reveals how he and a Smithsonian committee selected ideas, content, and poses to be portrayed so each would reveal something of the essence of each species.


by Marlene Zuk

New York: WW Norton, 2013. 328 pages.

Zuk “is not denying that our ancient ancestors, particularly before the advent of agriculture, had a diet and lifestyle different than those of today,” writes reviewer Linda D. Wolfe. “She is, however, suggesting that what our ancestors ate and the varied details of their lifestyle came about during different times, across many types of geographies, and over changing Pleistocene conditions.” Wolfe recommends the book to anyone interested in “paleodiets” or in human evolution in general.

Evolving: The Human Effect and Why It Matters

by Daniel J. Fairbanks

Amherst (NY): Prometheus Books, 2012. 328 pages.

“This sweeping summary of why the general public should understand the recent evidence for human evolution is an ambitious stab at rectifying the pitiful state of science teaching currently masquerading as modern biological education in many of our schools and universities,” writes reviewer Rebecca L. Cann.

Sex, Genes, and Rock ’n’ Roll: How Evolution Has Shaped the Modern World

by Rob Brooks

Lebanon (NH): University of New Hampshire Press, 2012. 322 pages.

Reviewer J. Michael Plavcan describesSex, Genes, and Rock ’n’ Roll as a popular book explaining how our understanding of evolutionary biology helps us understand human behavior,” adding, “The goal of the book is laudable, but in reviewing it, I am torn between my support for books that convey why understanding evolutionary biology matters to us, and my desire to have books about science actually reflect the complex tapestry of science, and not simply use selected scientific findings to weave an entertaining story. Bad science can do more damage than no science at all.”

The Leakeys: A Biography

by Mary Bowman-Kruhm

Amherst (NY): Prometheus Books, 2010. 181 pages.

While applauding Mary Bowman-Kruhm for her attempt to convey the paleoanthropological contributions of the Leakey family to middle-school students, reviewer Elizabeth Lawlor was unimpressed with the result: “How, then, is it possible to write a boring book about the Leakeys for middle-school students and their teachers?

The Fossil Chronicles: How Two Controversial Discoveries Changed Our View of Human Evolution

by Dean Falk

Berkeley (CA): University of California Press, 2011. 259 pages.

Reviewer Andrew Kramer writes, “This book, written by one of the field’s leading authorities on hominid paleoneurology (the study of human brain evolution), offers a provocative inside look at the past and present ‘paleopolitics’ surrounding two of the most significant fossil human discoveries made over the past century.

DNA USA: A Genetic Biography of America

by Bryan Sykes

New York: W. W. Norton, 2012. 320 pages.

In DNA USA, reviewer Anne D. Holden writes, “Sykes ventures across the Atlantic to piece together the complex genetic history of America.”