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The Green Life: Book Roundup Wednesday: Evolutionary Tales

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July 07, 2010

Book Roundup Wednesday: Evolutionary Tales

Books about environmentalism Every Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. Today we're recommending books about evolution.

Destination of the Species: The Riddle of Human Existence (by Michael Meacher, $20, O Books, Jan. 2010): Prepare to be blown away by this discussion of the meaning of life. Meacher raises age-old questions: Is the human species evidence of intelligent design or are we just another naturally occurring speck on the universe’s timeline? Though the book offers no final answer on the reason for our existence, the author includes scientific research that supports both sides, ultimately urging readers to live balanced and harmonious lives so that humans have the opportunity to fulfill our destiny, whatever it may be.

Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans (by Brian Fagan, $28, Bloomsbury Press, Mar. 2010): In this fascinating account of the ancient version of our species, anthropologist Brian Fagan provides a compelling tale of present-day humans’ rudimentary beginnings during the Ice Age. Illustrations and diagrams complement the fact-packed story, and Fagan’s narratives of cave-painting and hunting – among other anecdotes – really bring this history-laden book to life.

Almost Chimpanzee: Searching for What Makes Us Human, in Rainforests, Labs, Sanctuaries, and Zoos (by Jon Cohen, $28, Times Books, Sept. 2010):Giving a different twist to the human-chimpanzee debate, Cohen refrains from pointing out the two species' similarities and instead focuses on what sets humans apart from their evolutionary counterpart. Intriguing photos and diagrams are sprinkled throughout this unique book, which is a surprisingly easy read – it’s more like a story than a scientific analysis. Through Cohen’s search for the species’ key differences, he makes findings that could provide greater understanding about our origins as well as help protect chimpanzees.

Charles Darwin and the Mystery of Mysteries (by Niles Eldredge and Susan Pearson, $20, Roaring Brook Press, May 2010): For a great way to introduce children – and maybe even you – to the father of  evolutionary science, check out this simple but thorough biography of Charles Darwin. The story begins with Darwin’s birth, spanning from his school days to his sailing adventure around the world as a young man, concluding with the publication of his most famous work, The Origin of Species, at age 50. This kid-friendly volume offers readers an insightful look into the life of an scientific giant, and could very well become a source of inspiration for future generations of researchers and environmentalists.

Metamorphosis: Evolution in Action (by Andreas Suchantke, $50, Adonis Press, 2009): This beautiful book, full of colorful photos and detailed drawings by the author, is another one-of-a-kind take on the evolution discussion. The distinctive work focuses on metamorphosis – evolution of the whole – rather than cellular evolution driven by natural selection. In other words, the author asserts that change is a natural process not always forced by a fight to survive and is worth studying so as to better understand the development of Earth’s plants and animals.

--Sarah A. Henderson

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