list for evolutionists
By PZ Myers
Posted February 17, 2006
A while back, I presented a book list for evolutionists. Now I've updated it, adding a few
recommendations and adding links so you can choose your favorite book
A few disclaimers: I do get kickbacks from affiliate programs when you
purchase books after clicking through those links. If you'd rather not fund a
perfidious atheist's book addiction, just look up the titles at your preferred
source—I don't mind. This list is not a thinly-veiled attempt to get
readers to buy me presents, either; I've read all these, so please don't try to
order them for me. Get them for a creationist instead, they need them
For the kids:
The Evolution Book (amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Sara Stein. A fine book, but not for the
lightweight science kid: this one tries to cover just about everything
encyclopedically, so give it to the truly dedicated bookworm.
Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Steve Jenkins. Another encyclopedic illustrated
summary of evolutionary history for the younger set.
Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). David Norman. Not really intended for kids, but
packed with full-color illustrations and detailed descriptions of many dinosaur
groups. My kids would spend hours leafing through this one; it's the dinosaur
book I wish I'd had as a 12 year old.
Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Lisa Westburg Peters. Excellent, simple summary of
evolutionary history, for the K-3rd grade set.
The Tree of Life : Charles Darwin(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Peter Sis. Nice picture book biography of Darwin
for the kids.
From the Beginning: The Story of Human Evolution(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). David Peters. An older book that may be hard to
get, but worth it for the wall-to-wall drawings of the organisms scattered along
the human lineage, from single-celled prokaryote to modern humans.
For the grown-up layman:
Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making
of the Animal Kingdom(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Sean Carroll. A phenomenal book; if there's one book you should pick up for an
introduction to evo-devo, this is the one.
Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Matt Ridley. Orac says, "It's a
downright poetic look at each of the 23 chromosomes and what sorts of biological
and disease processes genes from each of them are involved in, along with a nice
dollop of evolution of the genome."
Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God
and Evolution(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Kenneth Miller. Danny Boy says, "A
Christian debunks creationism and shows how evolution can be compatible with
Charles Darwin: Voyaging(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) and Charles Darwin : The Power of
Place(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Janet Browne. This is the best biography
of Darwin out there.
Science As a Way of Knowing: The Foundations of Modern
Biology(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). John A. Moore. This is part history book, part
philosophy of science book; if you know someone who doesn't understand the
scientific method, this one will straighten him out.
The Darwin Wars(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Andrew Brown. Much as we aspire to the pure search
for knowledge, scientists can be testy and political and vicious, too—this is a
study of the sociology of evolutionary biology.
Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Carl Zimmer. If you want a general survey of the
history and ideas of evolutionary biology that isn't written like a textbook,
this is the one you want.
At the Water's Edge: Fish With Fingers, Whales With Legs, and How Life
Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Carl Zimmer. The focus in this one is on
macroevolution of tetrapods and cetaceans. Excellently written, with a very
thorough overview of the evidence.
Trilobite: Eyewitness to Evolution(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Richard Fortey. Everything you need to know about
the basics of trilobytes, with a chatty and often amusing introduction to the
world of paleontologists.
The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Jonathan Weiner. A Pulitzer-winning account of the
work of Peter and Rosemary Grant in documenting the evolutionary changes
occurring in Darwin's finches in the Galapagos right now.
Taking Wing: Archaeopteryx and the evolution of bird flight(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Pat Shipman. Chris Clarke
says, "an excellent and readable treatment of current thinking at printing
on bird evolution and the evolution of that instance of powered flight."
The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe
Without Design(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Richard Dawkins. Mrs Tilton
says, "both as a general explanation of evolution and as a particular
refutation of what has come to be known as intelligent design."
The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Richard Dawkins. A step-by-step account of human
evolution, working backwards through time.
What Evolution Is(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Ernst Mayr. A survey of the theory by an
Evolutionary Biology(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Douglas J. Futuyma. If you don't mind reading a
textbook, this is one of the best and most popular texts on the subject.
An Introduction to Biological Evolution(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Kenneth Kardong. Another textbook, but less
weighty and less expensive then Futuyma's; a book I'd use in a freshman
For the more
From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin's Four Great Books (Voyage of the
H.M.S. Beagle, The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, The Expression of
Emotions in Man and Animals) (amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Charles Darwin, Edward O. Wilson (Editor). I've
read these books, but I don't own this edition...so this is one I'll be hinting to
my wife might make a nice present. It collects the four in one volume, with
introductions by Wilson, so if every you've wanted these seminal works for your
bookshelf, here they are in an inexpensive edition.
On Growth and Form(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson. I'm afraid no
developmental biologist can list important books without mentioning this
From DNA to Diversity: Molecular Genetics and the Evolution of Animal
Design(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Sean B. Carroll, Jennifer K. Grenier, Scott D.
Weatherbee. Like it says…molecular genetics, evolution, developmental biology. A
good textbook describing the new cutting edge of evolutionary biology.
Shaking the Tree : Readings from Nature in the History of
Life(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Henry Gee. GirlScientist says,
"This is a collection of scientific papers that were influential in the field
for one reason or another." (I don't think she intended that her recommendation
come out sounding so tepid.)
Extinction: Bad Genes or Bad Luck?(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). David M. Raup. A little statistics, a lot of
paleontology, a good introduction to how we try to puzzle out what the world was
like from a sparse data set.
The Structure of Evolutionary Theory(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Stephen J. Gould. Massive. Indulgently written.
But full of interesting ideas.
Developmental Plasticity and Evolution(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Mary Jane West-Eberhard. Also massive. If you're
already comfortable with the conventional perspective on evolutionary theory,
though, this one twists it around and comes at it from the point of view of a
Biased Embryos and Evolution(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Wallace Arthur. A slim and readable book about
The Triple Helix: Gene, Organism, and Environment(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Richard Lewontin. A slender book that lucidly
summarizes the non-reductionist position on modern biology; it's a call for
greater breadth in science.
The Shape of Life : Genes, Development, and the Evolution of Animal
Form(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Rudy Raff. Hardcore evo-devo. A little out of
date, but very influential.
Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Barbara Carroll Forrest, Paul R. Gross. The best
summary of the sneaky political strategy of the creationists of the Discovery
Unintelligent Design(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Mark Perakh. Nice, blunt dissection of the
pseudo-science of creationism.
Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New
Creationism(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Matt Young, Taner Edis, eds. A team-takedown of
Intelligent Design's bad science.
Republican War on Science(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Chris Mooney. Here's my review; all you need to know about the current political attack
The Counter-Creationism Handbook(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Mark Isaak. Here's a brief review, but it's enough to say that this is an indispensable
tool for dismissing creationist arguments.
The Triumph of Evolution(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Niles Eldredge. Chris Clarke
says, "useful and inspiring, both as a survey of evolutionary thought and a
clarion call against creationism."
Denying Evolution: Creationism, Scientism, and the Nature of
Science(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Massimo Pigliucci. Michael Feldgarden
says, "It definitely falls into the category of "anti-creationist" and
"specialized reader." I don't know if it's a little too complex for the lay
reader (I don't think so). It's an excellent and well-written rebuttal of
creationism and definition of science and the scientific method as it relates to
The Creationists(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Ronald Numbers. Sean Foley says, "For an overview
of the growth and role of the creationist movement in America."
Defending Evolution: A guide to the creation/evolution controversy
(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Brian J. Alters, Sandra Alters. An excellent
guidebook on how to handle creationism in the classroom, specifically for
I'll also add that Coturnix has a book list, too, and if you want a more
specialized list, Mike has a list of books
just for birders.
Just in case your favorite evolutionist has already read everything in the
list, here's another possibility: bones! Here are a couple of sources of bones,
fossils, and casts:
These kinds of lists can go on forever. Please do mention any other
possibilities in the comments, and maybe they'll make it into the next