Five books for evolutionary biologists

Whenever I visit someone’s house, particularly the house of a fellow scientist, I like to browse their bookshelves, partly because I’m curious about what other people are reading and partly because I’m always on the lookout for new books to buy for my own collection. Another way I find out about new books is through other people’s blogs and websites, in fact some of my most visited blog posts have been book lists which I return to periodically when searching for new reading material. With that in mind I thought it was about time this blog had a book list, so here it is, the Ecologica top five books on evolution and behaviour. 1. On the Origin Of Species by Charles Darwin (Amazon). No list of books on biology would be complete without including Darwin’s seminal work outlining his theory of evolution by natural selection. Although great advances have been made in evolutionary theory since The Origin was first published in 1859, this book is still hugely important and influential and a must read for biologists of any stripe. If you want to fully understand evolutionary theory, or at least how the theory has developed since its formation, you must read this book.

Origin_of_Species_title_page[1]2. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins (Amazon). This book is a classic and a truly great work of science writing. Dawkins makes the case for selection acting on genes rather than individuals or groups. This idea may have been more controversial when this book was first published in 1976 than it is now, although with a recent resurgence in interest in group selection this book is still highly relevant.

The_Selfish_Gene3[1]3. The beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner (Amazon). This book documents the work of Peter and Rosemary Grant, two biologists whose research in the Galapagos islands has shown that, for the finches that live there, evolution is happening so rapidly that we can actually see changes occurring year by year. A fascinating book and one that I really enjoyed reading.

125286[1]4. Wonderful Life by Stephen Jay Gould (Amazon). The late Stephen Jay Gould was a fantastic writer and populariser of science and this is one of his best known books. Gould discusses the pre-Cambrian fossils of the Burgess shale and their importance for our understanding of evolution. Some of his ideas have proven controversial but this is still a great book and well worth a read. For a response to Gould’s ideas you might also read The Crucible of creation by Simon Conway Morris (Amazon).

Wonderful life5. Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne (Amazon). Coyne presents a compelling argument that evolution is not just a theory but a fact. If you don’t accept that evolution is a reality then read this book and change your mind. You might also read The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins (Amazon).


So that’s my list, what do you think? And what would you add to it?

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