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The Green Life: Book Roundup Wednesday: Books About Evolution

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February 24, 2010

Book Roundup Wednesday: Books About Evolution

Books about environmentalismEvery Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. This week, we're recommending books about Darwin and evolution.

Charles Darwin’s On The Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation (by Michael Keller; illustration by Nicolle Rager Fuller, Rodale, $19, Sept. 2009): If you’ve always wanted to read Darwin’s seminal work but are a little intimidated by the prospect, this illustrated version provides a fun alternative. Using a graphic-novel format, the book explores the tenets of Darwin’s theory while also relaying the story of his early scientific exploration and delving into the influence of his work.

What On Earth Evolved?: 100 Species That Changed the World (by Christopher Lloyd, Bloomsbury, $45, Nov. 2009): This hefty tome is the high school biology textbook you wish you’d had. Using interesting anecdotes and clever historical and cultural references, Lloyd explores evolutionary theory by way of the 100 most influential organisms, from smallpox to the potato to the sperm whale, always emphasizing the species’ modern relevance and impact.

The Young Charles Darwin (by Keith Thompson, Yale University Press, $28, Jan. 2009): Why was Darwin able to successfully understand evolution when many scientists had failed? This biography attempts to answer that question through the exploration of his early education as a medical and theology student, as well as his five years aboard the HMS Beagle. Through close analysis of Darwin’s notebooks and early drafts of Origins, Thompson provides an engaging analysis of the development of scientific genius.

Evidence of Evolution (by Mary Ellen Hannibal; photography by Susan Middleton, Abrams, $30, Nov. 2009): Combining striking photographs of animal specimens from the California Academy of Sciences with essays about the principles of evolution, this coffee-table book provides a compelling argument for Darwin’s theory. It manages to delve deeply into the science while emphasizing the drama and beauty of the animals Darwin studied.

The Galapagos: Exploring Darwin’s Tapestry (by John Hess, University of Missouri Press, $50, May 2009): In the introduction, Hess describes his collection of essays and photos not as a scientific book, but as “a book of experience and response.” Though Hess does offer interesting information about the history and current state of the islands, he also shares his unique photographs and observations of the birds, reptiles, and mammals that live there. 

--Jessi Phillips

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