The Book of Humans

The Book of Humans : The Story of How We Became Us

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'Charming, compelling and packed with information. I learned more about biology from this short book than I did from years of science lessons. A weird and wonderful read' PETER FRANKOPAN

We like to think of ourselves as exceptional beings, but is there really anything special about us that sets us apart from other animals? Humans are the slightest of twigs on a single family tree that encompasses four billion years, a lot of twists and turns, and a billion species. All of those organisms are rooted in a single origin, with a common code that underwrites our existence. This paradox - that our biology is indistinct from all life, yet we consider ourselves to be special - lies at the heart of who we are.

In this original and entertaining tour of life on Earth, Adam Rutherford explores how many of the things once considered to be exclusively human are not: we are not the only species that communicates, makes tools, utilises fire, or has sex for reasons other than to make new versions of ourselves. Evolution has, however, allowed us to develop our culture to a level of complexity that outstrips any other observed in nature.

THE BOOK OF HUMANS tells the story of how we became the creatures we are today, bestowed with the unique ability to investigate what makes us who we are. Illuminated by the latest scientific discoveries, it is a thrilling compendium of what unequivocally fixes us as animals, and reveals how we are extraordinary among them.

With illustrations by Alice Roberts
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Product details

  • Hardback | 272 pages
  • 179 x 244 x 24mm | 476g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • B&W integrated x 8
  • 0297609408
  • 9780297609407
  • 120,692

Review quote

It is his story-writing that makes the book a page-turner, and we challenge anyone not to learn something astonishing along the way. -- Rachel Pells * THE I PAPER * [A] fascinating, well-researched, and at times both funny and disturbing book -- Bianca Nogrady * CANBERRA TIMES (Australia) * An entertaining exploration of human evolution, showing that, amidst the teeming multitudes of lifeforms surrounding us, we are really not that special. And yet we are ... Wonderfully crafted, this is a readable, fun exploration of human evolution and how we compare to the animals surrounding us -- Leon Vlieger * THE INQUISITIVE BIOLOGIST * A sensational tour of life on Earth and an illustration of the things we consider unique to us humans but are, quite simply, not -- Lucy Fisher * BIG ISSUE IN THE NORTH * An ideal read for a family history enthusiast who's keen to learn more ... The story entertainingly weaves through the long view of history, taking in our key developments that together we see as making us human (tools, fire, language, for instance), and comparing us to our fellow creatures, with some surprising results ... I'd recommend this book to anyone wishing to feed their curiosity about the human story and how we've evolved -- Helen Tovey * FAMILY TREE MAGAZINE * This is a beautiful compendium of sketches about the wonders of evolution, which also takes in genetics, the origins of language and much else -- Steven Poole * THE GUARDIAN * If teaching is what makes humans special, then Adam Rutherford is superhuman - the paragon of teachers, a truly gifted transmitter of knowledge: lucid, enlightening, witty and delightful -- KATE FOX Adam Rutherford's entertaining and pithy The Book of Humans focuses on the features that make Homo sapiens so special - language, tool-making, and war-mongering - and finds startling parallels for each attribute in many
other animals -- Robin McKie * THE OBSERVER * In his entertaining The Book of Humans, Adam Rutherford assails the notion of human exceptionalism while simultaneously detailing why it is that humans are, nevertheless, a highly distinctive species -- Adrian Woolfson * LITERARY REVIEW * Turns out we're not the only species that makes tools or uses fire - so what does that mean for humanity? Adam Rutherford takes us on a myth-busting tour of human history, exploring whether we really are as exceptional as we think * BBC FOCUS MAGAZINE * [Rutherford] is well able to explicate scientific complexities, including the origin and development of man. He writes with intellectual authority and also, as a popular lecturer and broadcaster, expresses himself in a clear and persuasive manner with natural charm -- Patrick Skene Catling * THE SPECTATOR * Did you know that bottlenose dolphins deliberately protect their beaks with sea sponges when they are foraging on the seabed? Or that New Caledonian crows will strip twigs down into spears to search inside logs for wheedle
grubs? With these and many other examples of intelligence, geneticist Dr Adam Rutherford explores to what extent other animal species ('Humans are animals,' he says pointedly at the very start of the book) display characteristics we would normally classify as exclusively human -- Chris Fitch * GEOGRAPHICAL * A kind of intellectual enema, exposing the popular myths about human exceptionalism ... [Rutherford] makes a charming guide, giving the impression that, like us, he finds it all rather mysterious, though he clearly knows what he is talking about -- Michael Bond * NEW SCIENTIST * I've learned more about myself and my species than I thought possible. A beautiful, compassionate book exploring not just human nature but also the human condition. I'm more in love with Adam Rutherford's writing than ever -- ANGELA SAINI A book that is deftly outlined, concisely constructed and filled with intriguing observations and anecdotes. Rutherford is an engaging, witty writer ... An entertaining and blessedly succinct read -- Robin McKie * THE OBSERVER * This delightful and charming book will change the way you see yourself, and your place in the natural world -- ED YONG Adam Rutherford is a delightful, eclectic, hilarious and often filthy guide to what we know about human genetics. But even more than that, there are parts of this book I wish were graven into the walls of public buildings and above the desk of anyone who writes about science. Next time someone tells you that men "evolved" to behave in one way while women "evolved" to behave differently, pull out your copy of THE BOOK OF HUMANS and set them right -- NAOMI ALDERMAN Adam Rutherford is a master storyteller. THE BOOK OF HUMANS is packed to the brim with intriguing tales, clever twists and up-to-the-minute scientific discoveries, offering a completely new perspective on who we are and how we came to be -- HANNAH FRY In Adam Rutherford's splendid The Book of Humans, we learn how giraffes enjoy homosexual assignations, how dolphins use sponges to protect their noses, and how birds of the raptor class have been observed picking up smouldering twigs from forest fires, flying away and dropping them to start new fires, at which point they swoop and gobble up the panicked mammals and lizards rushing away -- Steven Poole * DAILY TELEGRAPH * An outstandingly clear and witty account that shows beyond doubt how much we are part of the animal world, and yet at the same time how different we have become -- HENRY MARSH Charming, compelling and packed with information. I learned more about biology from this short book than I did from years of science lessons. Adam Rutherford has a knack of making complex ideas understandable - and also fun. Our species is a lot stranger than I'd ever realised, but a lot more normal too. A weird and wonderful read -- PETER FRANKOPAN This superbly accessible discussion about who we humans really are is important and necessary -- CHRIS PACKHAM Adam Rutherford is a superb communicator, who eruditely explores the borderlands of history, archaeology, genetics and anthropology in this fascinating tour of our species -- DAN SNOW An excellent book that I definitely recommend. I referred to it a lot in my own research. * BILL BRYSON writing in BBC SCIENCE FOCUS MAGAZINE *
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About Adam Rutherford

Dr Adam Rutherford is a science writer and broadcaster. He studied genetics at University College London, and during his PhD on the developing eye, he was part of a team that identified the first genetic cause of a form of childhood blindness. He has written and presented many award-winning series and programmes for the BBC, including the flagship weekly Radio 4 programme INSIDE SCIENCE and THE CURIOUS CASES OF RUTHERFORD & FRY with Dr Hannah Fry. He is the author CREATION, which was shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Prize, A BRIEF HISTORY OF EVERYONE WHO EVER LIVED, THE BOOK OF HUMANS and HOW TO ARGUE WITH A RACIST.
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Rating details

905 ratings
3.89 out of 5 stars
5 25% (224)
4 46% (413)
3 24% (221)
2 5% (41)
1 1% (6)
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