Dear Surly Amy,
Earlier in the year I picked up a copy of The Greatest Show on Earth, by Richard Dawkins, and devoured it. What surprised me though is that my very religious father wanted to read the book just after me. But now, a good couple of months later, he’s still barely past the prologue. According to Dad, Dawkins uses too many complicated words. The bigger problem though is that he has religious satellite TV, newsletters and preachers giving him a package of neatly packed lies and misinformation in highly personable, very easy to understand language. To him, his ability to understand something easily speaks a lot to its truth. Is there anything I can give him that speaks to the details of evolution in very plain and easy to understand language? The challenge: for adults. I have found some things, but they all seem aimed at children or school students, which my almost 70 year old dad would find kind of insulting.
~The Next Stage of Human Evolution
Dear Next Stage of Human Evolution,
Yes, yes I can recommend a book.
In fact, I can recommend a whole pile of books!
I polled my friends on Facebook and on twitter and asked them what evolution book they would recommend and many wonderful people responded with oh-so-loved favorites. I imagine them all dog-eared, coffee stained, napped upon and adored – as a good book should be. I compiled all those favorites into one easy to browse list of books on evolution. This list is in no particular order and if anyone has any more books to add to this list, please mention them in the comments.
I am leaving out Dawkin’s The Greatest Show on Earth because it was already mentioned and I am also sorta leaving out Darwin’s own On the Origin of Species because the goal is ease of understanding and most people don’t find it easiest to enter into a study of science with the source material. But I have to mention my favorite evolution book which is very, very close to the source and very beautiful. It’s basically the Origin of Species with drawings! Hey, sometimes lovely images can make the content easier to swallow. Although, I do acknowledge that it may not be the best introductory book.
I am linking to the book on Amazon because that site often allows you to browse the first few pages of a book. That way you can see if the writing style is what you had in mind. And I haven’t read all of these books so I can’t personally speak to the content of everything listed.
Books on Evolution
1. Charles Darwin on the Origin of Species – The Illustrated Edition (It really is a beautiful book.)
2. Why Evolution Is True by Jerry Coyne (This was the number one most recommended books of the people I polled.)
3. The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner (This one also had a LOT of recommendations.)
4. At the Water’s Edge by Carl Zimmer.
5. Almost Like A Whale by Steve Jones.
6. Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin (Also highly recommended.)
7. The Rough Guide to Evolution by Mark Pallen
8. The Tangled Bank by Carl Zimmer
9. Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be by Daniel Loxton
10. Science On Trial by Douglas J. Futuyma
11. Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth by Jay Hosler
12. For the religious: Coming To Peace With Science by Darrel Falk.
13. Introducing Evolution: A Graphic Guide, by Dylan Evans & Howard Selina.
14. Evolution: What The Fossils Say And Why It Matters. by Donald Prothero
15. What Evolution Is by Ernest Mayr
Hope this was helpful and I hope you can find a book your dear-ol-dad will enjoy!
Got a question you would like some Surly-Skepchick advice on? Send it in! We won’t publish your real name, unless you want us to and creative pseudonyms get bonus points! Just use the contact link on the top left of the page.