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Top 10 Books on Human Evolution

Updated on 16 May, 2013 at 10:38 am By

Human Evolution has always been a subject of misunderstanding and mystery. In the past many scientists have worked their lives to come up with the most convincing theories on evolution. From the times of Charles Darwin to the times of Richard Dawkins, there is in fact plenty we can learn about the existence of the Homo sapiens. We’re truly not the creations of a supernatural phenomenon, but the outcome of millions of years of natural selections. There is a reason behind every “why”, “how” and “what”. Are we really descendants of the apes? When was language invented? How societies came into being? The list is endless. To get answers to these and know more questions read the best books on Human Evolution. We have narrowed down the humongous collection on the subject down to ten. So, here are the top 10 books on human evolution.

10. Mapping Human History: Genes, Races, and Our Common Origins – Steve Olson (2003):

In his endeavor to map the human evolution, Steve Olson takes the readers on a journey across four continents, describing the human origins, and the migrations of our ancestors over 150,000 years. The book is a mind boggler; it provides a new perspective and evidence on how agriculture came into being, how language was invented, and even the history of Jews. For the book, Olson draws from a wide range of resources like genetic research, linguistic evidence, and a lot more.

Mapping Human History Genes, Races, and Our Common Origins  Steven Olson

9. Life: A Natural History of the first Four Billion Years of Life on Earth – Richard Fortey (1998):


A world leading paleontologist, Richard Fortey takes a biological perspective on evolution in his book, ‘Life’. He encapsulates reasons why life on earth developed as it did, and explores how we have evolved from our origins, how Homo sapiens emerged, and how we continue to evolve in endless ways.  He also shed light upon the various wonders and mysteries that are associated with the evolution theory, along with evidence why certain things happened the way they did.

Life A Natural History of the first Four Billion Years of Life on Earth - Richard Fortey

8. Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors – Nicholas Wade (2006):

Written by a prominent science reporter for the New York Times, Nicholas Wade, Before the Dawn explores the 500 million years of human evolution, leading up to behavioral modernity around 50,000 years ago. The book elucidates some of the most incredulous findings of genetic science like the origin of the first societies, the first language, and the like. It’s more like retelling the story of human evolution right from the beginning, while on the way solving the various mysteries to draw the final conclusion.

Before the Dawn Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors – Nicholas Wade

7. The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey- Spencer Wells (2002):

The biggest question that arises in our minds regarding evolution is that if we were are all descendants from the same ancestors, why are we so different when it comes to shapes, sizes, ethnicities, etc., in the modern times? ‘The Journey of a Man’ is perhaps the right book to look up to for answers like this. Spencer examines the secrets of human evolution in our genetic codes, and acquaints us with the truth about the real Adam and Eve, and how different racial classes emerged.

The Journey of Man A Genetic Odyssey- Spencer Wells

6. Why evolution is true – Jerry A. Coyne (2008):

Jerry, in his book ‘Why Evolution is True’, brings out the subtle relation between the underlying theories of evolution, especially those given by Darwin, and an astonishing range of evidence that supports what has already been debated about evolution. For most people, the word ‘evolution’ produces a general inquisitiveness and anxiety; and why not? After all, evolution theories bring us face to face with who we are, where we came from, what is our relationship with other animals and plants, and how we’ve evolved over ages to become the man we are today.

Why evolution is true – Jerry .A. Coyne

5. The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution & Future of the Human Animal – Jared Diamond (1992):

Pulitzer Prize winning author, Jared Diamond has written one of the most interesting books about evolution. The book is themed around the concept that 98 percent of the genes of humans and chimpanzee’s are similar, and yet it is humans that have risen to power, built cities, devised languages and religions, and prospered in every sphere of life, while the naïve chimpanzee still remains an animal of the jungle. The book fascinatingly explores how the two percent difference in the genes could relegate so much of disparity.

The Third Chimpanzee The Evolution & Future of the Human Animal - Jared Diamond

4. The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution – Richard Dawkins (2009):

Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist who has given us as detailed insights on the evolution of life on Earth through different works from time to time. His book, ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ questions the concept of creationism, a belief according to which all life on Earth is the creation of a supernatural phenomenon. His book reads like a thriller story, where Richard, the biologist detective, takes us through layers of scientific evidence on the evolution of humans.

The Greatest Show on Earth The Evidence for Evolution - Richard Dawkins

3. Evolution: The Modern Synthesis – Julian S. Huxley (1942):


One of the most important books on modern evolutionary synthesis, Huxley’s book on evolution was first published in 1942, and was considered a classic alongside the text of Darwin. Why the book is called ‘The Modern Synthesis’? It is because the book is perhaps a compilation of everything known about evolutionary biology, most of which has been structurally presented in the 20th century. It tackles the concept of evolution to full length and amazingly presents all the basic information for the understanding of even laymen.

Evolution The Modern Synthesis - Julain S. Huxley

2. Genetics and the Origins of Species – Theodosius Dobzhansky (1937):

Written by Ukrainian American evolutionary biologist, Theodosius Dobzhansky, Genetics and the Origins of Species was first published in 1937. Today the book is regarded as the one of the most important books on modern evolutionary synthesis. It is primarily focused on the importance of how mutations, genes, and Chromosomal changes influence evolution. Through his experiments, he reveals all the information that he ever collected on the theory of evolution.

Genetics and the Origins of Species - Theodosius Dobzhansky

1. On the Origins of Species – Charles Darwin (1859):


The greatest classic ever written on evolution, and considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology, Charles Darwin’s ‘On the Origins of Species’ was first published in 1859. The books talks about the evolution of varying generations through the process of natural selection, and that all human life had a common ancestor. It was later the branching pattern of evolution, which brought about diversity in life forms of humans, the birth of different societies, and so on and so forth.

On the Origins of Species – Charles Darwin

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