At the Water's Edge: Macroevolution and the Transformation of Life

by Carl Zimmer
New York: Free Press, 1998. 304 pages.

During one important period of life´s history, vertebrate creatures left the water to colonize land, and later, some vertebrates readapted to that environment. Zimmer traces the discovery of both the transition to land of early tetrapods, and the later transition to water of the whales. If you are ever having an argument over "transitional fossils", this is the book you want to have!

Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life

by Daniel Dennett
New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995. 592 pages

Tufts University philosopher Dennett thoroughly describes evolutionary science, including its current controversies, and then goes on to spell out its implications for modern philosophy and modern life. Dennett argues that natural selection "is a universal solvent, capable of cutting right to the heart of everything in sight".

Darwin's Ghost

by Steve Jones
New York: Random House, 2000. 416 pages.

It is Steve Jones who is Darwin's ghost: "ghost" as in "ghost writer," as he takes the ideas and concepts from Darwin's Origin of Species and presents them in modern English prose, illustrating his points with modern examples drawn from today's science. The London Sunday Telegraph describes Darwin's Ghost as "a clever book about serious ideas that can be happily read on the beach"; The New York Times Book Review contends, "There are few better or more entertaining accounts of the evolutionary process in print today than Darwin's Ghost." Jones is Professor of Genetics at University College London; his latest book is Darwin's Island.

Ecology and Evolution of Darwin's Finches

by Peter R. Grant
Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press, 1999. 512 pages.

Originally published in 1986, Peter R. Grant's classic study of natural selection in action among Darwin's finches, based on over a decade's worth of detailed observations in the field, was immediately hailed by the reviewer for The Auk as "a classic that deserves to be in everyone's library." The 1999 reissue contains a new foreword by Jonathan Weiner, whose The Beak of the Finch won a Pulitzer Prize, as well as a new preface and afterword by the author and a thoroughly updated bibliography. Grant and his wife Rosemary Grant were awarded the Linnean Society’s Darwin–Wallace medal in 2008 and the Kyoto Prize in 2009.

Endless Forms Most Beautiful

by Sean B. Carroll
New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006. 350 pages.

One of the principal architects of evolutionary developmental biology ("evo devo"), Sean B. Carroll is the ideal guide — informed, chatty, and witty — to what's often described as "the third revolution" in evolutionary biology. The reviewer for American Scientist wrote, "Carroll has brilliantly achieved what he set out to do ... Evo devo is fundamental to understanding the biological world we live in, including ourselves. This is a beautiful and very important book," and Endless Forms Most Beautiful was named a top science book of 2005 by both USA Today and Discover magazine. Carroll is also the author of The Making of the Fittest.


by Douglas J. Futuyma
Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, 2005. 603 pages.

From the publisher: "Evolution is a readily recognized descendant of the author's previous textbook, Evolutionary Biology. However, it is much shorter and is exclusively directed toward an undergraduate audience. Teachers and students will find the list of important concepts and terms in each chapter a helpful guide, and will appreciate the radically different dynamic figures and lively photographs. The content of all chapters has been updated, and material has been reorganized into new chapters such as 'Conflict and Cooperation' and 'How To Be Fit.' ... A new final chapter on 'Evolutionary Science, Creationism, and Society' treats such topics as the nature of science and the practical applications of evolutionary biology."

Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea

by Carl Zimmer
New York: HarperCollins, 2001. 384 pages.

Carl Zimmer, a well established science writer, presents a wonderful companion piece to the new PBS Evolution series by the same name. It presents a broad overview of evolution, and how it relates to other scientific fields like genetics, geology, and medicine. This is a beautifully done book with clear and accessible writing and illustrations throughout.

Frogs, Flies, and Dandelions

by Menno Schilthuizen
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. 254 pages.

In Frogs, Flies, and Dandelions, Menno Schilthuizen provides a lively and accessible introduction to contemporary controversies over modes of speciation, arguing in the process for the validity of sympatric speciation (a position taken by Darwin himself, but widely rejected nowadays). Reviewing the book in RNCSE (2003 Jan/Feb; 23 [1]: 37-8), John Wilkins wrote, "The arguments are presented in this book with as much attention to detail — and to both the biology and the personalities — as any book I have even seen. Schilthuizen is that extreme rarity — a biologist who writes entertainingly and clearly for lay audiences."

How and Why Species Multiply: The Radiation of Darwin's Finches

by Peter R. Grant and B. Rosemary Grant
Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press, 2007. 272 pages.

The culmination of over thirty years of research on Darwin's finches by two leading evolutionary biologists, How and Why Species Multiply uses geography, ecology, behavior, and genetics to trace the evolutionary history of fourteen different finch species as they diverge from a common ancestor about three million years ago. David B. Wake writes, "What really distinguishes the book, of course, is the authority of the authors, who have lived with these birds for many years and have unparalleled familiarity with them. Readers will benefit enormously from the scholarship in this book." "[E]xciting and lucid reading," wrote the reviewer for Science.

Marine Mammals: Evolutionary Biology, second ed.

by Annalisa Berta, James L Sumich, and Kit M Kovacs
San Diego (CA): Academic Press, 2005. 560 pages.

Writing in the Quarterly Review of Biology, Philip Gingerich described Marine Mammals: Evolutionary Biology as an "excellent introduction to the whole spectrum of marine mammal evolution, anatomy, behavior, ecology, and life history" and as "well-organized and very readable." "Our motivation for writing this book was the lack of a comprehensive text on marine mammal biology, particularly one that employs a comparative, phylogenetic approach," the authors explain. "We have attempted, where possible, to demonstrate that hypotheses of the evolutionary relationships of marine mammals provide a powerful approach for tracing the evolution of their morphology, behavior, and ecology."

Microbial Evolution: Gene Establishment, Survival, and Exchange

edited by Robert V. Miller and Martin J. Day
Washington, DC: Libri, 2004. 374 pages.

Published by the American Society for Microbiology in 2004, Microbial Evolution is a state-of-the-art compilation on the evolution of bacteria, containing twenty-two essays under four broad rubrics: intracellular mechanisms for generating diversity, intercellular mechanisms for gene movement, mechanisms for gene establishment and survival, and mechanisms for detecting genetic diversity. It is suitable for classroom use, the editors explain: "we have asked the contributors to address questions, identify important evolutionary points, and differentiate what we understand from what we do not." Moreover, the contributors provide scientific and historical references as well as questions for further study, and the editors summarize the themes and highlights of each section of the book.

Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life

by Nick Lane
New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. 354 pages.

From the publisher: "Power, Sex, Suicide, Complexity, Individuality, Fertility, Prehistory, Ageing, Death. These universal themes are all linked by mitochondria — the tiny structures located inside our cells — miniature powerhouses that use oxygen to generate power. ... Once considered menial slaves, mere workhorses for complex cells with nuclei, their significance is now undergoing a radical revision. Mitochondria are now seen as the key ingredient that made complex life possible at all. ... This is a book full of startling insights into the nature and evolution of life, and should be read by anyone who wants to know why we're here."

Reinventing Darwin

by Niles Eldredge
New York: Wiley, 1995. 244 pages.

From Niles Eldredge — renowned paleontologist, proponent of punctuated equilibrium, and Supporter of NCSE — comes Reinventing Darwin, which addresses "the great debate" between "ultra-Darwinians", such as John Maynard Smith and Richard Dawkins, and "naturalists", such as Steven Jay Gould, Steven Stanley, and Eldredge himself. Recommended to anyone interested in the theoretical underpinnings of evolutionary biology.

Science, Evolution, and Creationism

from The National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine
Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2007. 88 pages.

Designed to give the public a comprehensive and up-to-date picture of the current scientific understanding of evolution and its importance in the science classroom, Science, Evolution, and Creationism is twice as long as the second edition (published in 1999 as Science and Creationism), and teems with new examples of the predictive power and practical importance of evolution. Addressing creationism in its various forms, it concludes, "No scientific evidence supports these viewpoints," and insists, "Given the importance of science in all aspects of modern life, the science curriculum should not be undermined with nonscientific material."

The Beak of the Finch

by Jonathan Weiner
New York: Vintage Books, 1994. 352 pages.

From the publisher: "On a desert island in the heart of the Galápagos archipelago, where Darwin received his first inklings of the theory of evolution, two scientists, Peter and Rosemary Grant, have spent twenty years proving that Darwin did not know the strength of his own theory. For among the finches of Daphne Major, natural selection is neither rare nor slow; it is taking place by the hour, and we can watch." Praised by the Washington Post Book World for its "[e]vocative writing, exhaustive research, and Weiner's memorable portrait of the engaging Grants," The Beak of the Finch won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1995.

The Evolution Explosion: How Humans Cause Rapid Evolutionary Change

by Stephen R. Palumbi
New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2002. 288 pages.

A critical look at the intersection of evolution and high-tech modern life. Evolution is not only the slow process that ruled the rise and fall of the dinosaurs over hundreds of millions of years. It also happens quickly — so quickly and frequently that it changes how all of us live our lives: drugs fail because diseases evolve; insects overcome the most powerful pesticides; HIV and tuberculosis develop resistance to the newest drugs in a few months. This is evolution with teeth. While the ecological scars of human technology have been well publicized, the broad evolutionary consequences of antibiotic and antiviral use, insecticide applications, and herbicide bioengineering are largely unexplored. Does the human impact on evolution falter at the borders of our own species? Or do we, in fact, generate our own evolutionary pressure? Enthusiastically written for a wide audience, The Evolution Explosion examines these practical and critical aspects of modern evolution with simplicity, force, and humor.

The Evolutionists: The Struggle for Darwin's Soul

by Richard Morris
New York: W. H. Freeman, 2001. 262 pages.

Nearly all scientists agree: evolution did happen and natural selection was its driving force. An yet, a century and a half after Darwin, the theory of evolution is still being fought over with unparalleled ferocity.

In The Evolutionists, the highly praised author of more than a dozen books of popular science explores the fundamental questions about the evolutionary process that have provoked vehement disagreement among some of the world's most prominent scientists, including Stephen Jay Gould, Niles Eldredge, John Maynard Smith, and Richard Dawkins.

The Pattern of Evolution

by Niles Eldredge
New York: W. H. Freeman, 1998. 250 pages.

Niles Eldredge, a curator in the Department of Invertebrates at the American Museum of Natural History, may be best known as the coauthor of the concept of "punctuated equilibria". Here Eldredge explores how the physical forces shaping our world relate to the process of biological evolution in the context of the history of ideas on evolution. Praised by Ian Tattersall for "weaving together an extraordinary diversity of information into a single coherent theory of the evolution of the biosphere" and as "smoothly flowing and highly readable". The humorous and thought-provoking opening pages are online at www.whfreeman.com

The Variety of Life

by Colin Tudge
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. 704 pages.

"[A]n eye for classification is a constant reminder that nothing on this planet is as homely as it seems — there are several thousand million years of evolutionary drama behind everything that moves and breathes," Colin Tudge explains in The Variety of Life, which provides both a primer on systematics and (in the words of the book's subtitle) a survey and a celebration of all the creatures that have ever lived. The Variety of Life was praised by Edward O Wilson as "a valuable introduction to the higher classification of organisms and an easily accessible reference work to the entire spread of biodiversity."

Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine

by Randolph Nesse and George Williams
New York: Vintage Books, 1994. 304 pages.

Nesse, a physician, and Williams, a leading evolutionary biologist, offer both medical researchers and general readers a wide-ranging survey of "Darwinian medicine." Suggesting evolutionary explanations for a wide range of phenomena including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, cancer, and mental disorders, they offer researchers guidance in developing and testing hypotheses. General readers can expect to gain an evolutionary understanding of their bodies' functioning, and occasional misfunctioning." Enjoyable reading, praised by Edward O. Wilson for providing "not only means for the improvement of medicine but fundamental new insights into the human condition."