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Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  3,039 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
This remarkable book presents a rich and up–to–date view of evolution that explores the far–reaching implications of Darwin's theory and emphasizes the power, significance, and relevance of evolution to our lives today. After all, we ourselves are the product of evolution, and we can tackle many of our gravest challenges –– from lethal resurgence of antiobiotic–resistant d ...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published September 5th 2006 by Harper Perennial
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The Origin of Species by Charles DarwinThe Selfish Gene by Richard DawkinsThe Greatest Show on Earth by Richard DawkinsThe Ancestor's Tale by Richard DawkinsWhy Evolution Is True by Jerry A. Coyne
Best Books on Evolution...
18th out of 156 books — 110 voters
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonA Brief History of Time by Stephen HawkingCosmos by Carl SaganThe Selfish Gene by Richard DawkinsGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Science Books - Non-Fiction Only
246th out of 1,064 books — 2,620 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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LaMar Parkin
Aug 29, 2007 LaMar Parkin rated it it was amazing

A great introduction to evolution! I grew up in a religous family in a religous state and therefore was taught nothing about evolution from kindergarten to college. After reading several other books that referenced the idea I became curious about it and wanted to learn more. As a non-scientist I naturally wanted something I could read, without falling asleep and actually understand. I did some research and narrowed the most popular evolution books down to this one and was very pleased with my ch
Anna Zenchenkova
Если бы подобные книги были в школьной программе в качестве учебников, многие школьники, наверное, гораздо больше бы любили биологию. Книга из разряда must-read.

Очень понравилось, что здесь нет сухого изложения фактов без примеров - а если бы и с ними, то и эти примеры, как мы знаем из школьной программы, довольно скучны. Дарвин здесь не человек, идущий к цели - открыть глаза людям - напролом, нет. Да, он несомненно революционер, стоящий абсолютно заслуженно наравне с, например, Коперником. Одн
Jun 24, 2011 Book rated it really liked it
Shelves: evolution
Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea by Carl Zimmer

A thorough, well researched book that is broken out into four parts: Part One - Slow Victory: Darwin and the Rise of Darwinism, Part Two - Creation and Destruction, Part Three -Evolution's Dance, and Part Four - Humanity's Place in Evolution and: Evolution's Place In Humanity.


1. Accessible, well written book with an extensive bibliography.
2. Provides a lot more historical references than any other book I have read on the topic. It inc
Oct 24, 2007 Stacey rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: nerds
It's heavy but definitely good. There's something kind of humbling about reading about the way life on earth unfolding to become what it was over the course of billions of years, only to be drastically altered in only of few generations by humans. Reading the chapter about mass extinctions occurring thanks to the human race made me want to vomit. Coming across the figure that 2/3 of all living species live in tropical forests, 1/2 of which were gone by the year 2000 made me want to punch myself ...more
Levent Pekcan
Jun 29, 2015 Levent Pekcan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Çok az sayıda da olsa ufak tefek, rahatsız etmeyen çeviri hataları var. Okuması çok kolay değil (bu nedenle 4 yıldız) ama önemli ve değerli bir çalışma bence.
Jan 15, 2012 John rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own, science
Carl Zimmer, one of our finest science writers, has written an elegant companion to the PBS NOVA miniseries which stands on its own as an excellent introduction to evolution, covering topics which should be of interest to all, ranging from the evolution of sex to fighting disease, and of course, the search for humanity's origins as the only extant member of a once-flourishing tribe of hominid species related to the great apes. Each of Zimmer's chapters corresponds with the NOVA episode related t ...more
Jul 14, 2011 Elliott rated it liked it
Overall, this book is a very good introduction to evolutionary biology. The book does touch on Richard Dawkins' idea that memes evolve through a natural process, but the book is otherwise all about biological evolution, as should be expected. Those who produced the audiobook were wise to get Peter Thomas as the reader (you may have heard him on Cold Case Files). His tone is perfect to remind us of just how dramatic the Darwinian Revolution really was.

There was one big problem with the book, howe
Feb 26, 2011 Bill rated it liked it
This is the first book I have read explaining the theory of evolution. This is a good, easy, primer.

I've always understood evolution as 'survival of the fittest' but after reading the book I now understand it in terms of 'natural selection'.
Before, I saw evolution as the development of traits enhancing prospects for survival which come by way of some sort of struggle.
Now I see it more as development of order and functionality by way of numerous random mutations, of which a very few, statistical
SJ Loria
Apr 19, 2009 SJ Loria rated it really liked it
"Are we a biological accident or a cosmic imperative?" -383
A very interesting book on the history of evolution and the effects of evolution in our everyday lives. What I appreciated about this book is that it did not just cover the biological implications of evolution (it did do this by the way, and very well) but it also discussed social, cultural and psychological aspects of the human species that are deeply rooted in evolution. The bond of language, the role of sexuality, the origin of emotio
Mar 15, 2009 Nicole rated it really liked it
This is an excellent introduction or review of the theory basics. This covers sufficient detail to supply a solid foundation of evidence of change in species without being boring.
Only towards the ends does Mr Zimmer seem to begin to present ideas with some bias. I did not read the 'Natural History of Rape" by Thornhill & Palmer but I did read the original paper on the scorpion fly rape behavior. This paper was given very short shrift by Zimmer despite being good research and well written. Si
Feb 26, 2008 Karen rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 03, 2015 Iszam rated it it was amazing
One of the best book to understand evolution. I stopped reading crap by Harun Yahya after reading this book.
Jan 09, 2016 Henry rated it it was amazing
If I was to recommend one book on the subject of evolution this would be it. I struggled through half of Dawkin's "Ancestor's Tale" which inadvertently turned an inherently interesting subject into a drawn out process with just too many details, and too much speculation. That book was in need of an editor.
Zimmer's book is packed with information, and a lay reader with a passing interest in the science of evolution will learn a lot. I learned a great deal, and was engrossed from beginning to end.
Elliott Bignell
Apr 11, 2015 Elliott Bignell rated it it was amazing
Zimmer has once again triumphed with a work of solid erudition and admirable clarity. By turns entertaining and informative, he writes with a clean style. Neither as technical as Dawkins or Dennett, nor as luxurious as Gould, this book nevertheless showers the reader with the gold of understanding, should it be lacking, and new perspectives. For a reader not already steeped in the technicalities of evolutionary writing or the politics of creationism, this is an excellent place to come for a firs ...more
Jul 23, 2013 Katja rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, ru, kindle
Now I am wondering: are there boring books about evolution? I've already read a few (a standard set) and still found this one worth reading. It tells a bit about Darwin, and dinosaurs, and crazy creatures living next and inside us, and some philosophical implications. The least interesting part, especially for those living outside of US, is about the long-standing battle between scientists and evolution opponents who somehow manage to survive, no matter what.
Aug 12, 2015 Michel rated it really liked it
I love the way Carl Zimmer writes his books, he takes you into details without making you feel bored. I would love to see a new edition of this book especially after so many new discoveries in the field of human ancestry.
Aug 13, 2007 Michael rated it it was amazing
Well-written and great for laypersons. Zimmer explains the ideas and history of evolution without bogging down in jargon. You'll enjoy it and learn a lot!
Julie Czerneda
Apr 04, 2012 Julie Czerneda rated it it was amazing
Wonderfully readable synthesis. Read it once with glee and now use as a reference. Highly recommended!
Oct 04, 2013 FARSHAD rated it it was amazing
I finished the book some while ago and now I am re-reading it. I think it is a wonderful introduction to the concept of evolution. It starts with the fascinating story of Charles Darwin on the BEAGLE to introduce the reader to the origins of the idea of evolution. It traces that line of history from Darwin to the contemporary period. Then in the second part, the author pays attention to extinction, history of life and the gene toolkit, so to speak. Throughout the book is very much detailed, inte ...more
Apr 01, 2012 lia rated it really liked it
Shelves: evolution
I feel lucky that i stumble into this book by accident and decided to read it instantly.
Since the first time i know about evolution, i always believe in it because it make more sense than any other explanation of how life comes about on earth.

I read several evolution books before Zimmer and i like each of them. The different with this book by Carl Zimmer is, it allows me, someone who doesn't have any science background to get a good grasp of what he was saying because sometimes when i read oth
Emily Kay
May 31, 2007 Emily Kay rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: non-scientists wishing to learn more about evolution
In the winter of 2007 I led weekly one-hour discussions about evolution for an introductory biology class at the University of Chicago. When the course director handed me a free copy of Carl Zimmer’s book, Evolution: the Triumph of an Idea, my initial thought was “sweet! I can get paid to read about evolution.”

Although I was only asked to lead discussions on the first four chapters of Evolution, I couldn’t stop reading the remainder of the book. Zimmer’s book weaves together the major evolution
Dec 19, 2014 Colin rated it it was amazing
This was not quite the book I expected. I was looking for a book to explain what evolution is, how it works, and describe the evidence for it. This appeared to be the best along those lines that my father owned, so I borrowed it from him. There was a little more history of the idea of evolution and Darwin's personal life than I anticipated. That was a nice way of bookending the overall story. And I did find all the discussion of the hows and whys of evolution that I was looking for.
Robin Miller
Oct 06, 2008 Robin Miller rated it really liked it
Recommended to Robin by: Francis
As someone whose scientific background is limited to high school bio, chem, and physics, and undergraduate horticulture, I found this book did a great job walking the fine line between lots of detailed information and coherence (if not actual 'plot'). The book starts out discussing Darwin's origins and how he ended up studying evolution and continues to refer to him throughout the book and what he would have thought about where we are today. I particularly liked that Zimmer closed with a discuss ...more
Sep 05, 2014 John rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed it - very clear and easy to read. Sort of a biography of evolution - it begins with a history of Darwin's development of the idea. From there, it goes on into broad explanations and examples. I didn't know about the mass extinctions, and I learned a lot about early hominid development (e.g., the current theories of why our brains got better and better).
Apr 13, 2013 Aurelien rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Drawing on the Beagle's journey, Carl Zimmer leads us through time and space to tell us how evolution through natural selection came to impose itself in the scientific realm.

In this superb book, easy to read yet abounding in details, very well documented, biology waltzes with suitors as diverse as paleontology to geology and prehistory, showing that evolution is more than a explanation for the diversity of life on Earth: its understanding is crucial to our survival, from medicine to environmenta
Бабазаде Али
Jul 12, 2016 Бабазаде Али rated it it was amazing
"Работая над «Происхождением видов», Дарвин обещал читателям «величие такого взгляда на жизнь», и жизнь сегодня демонстрирует много больше величия, чем мог предугадать автор теории естественного отбора. Он начал исследование этого замечательного мира и оставил нас продолжать начатое уже без него."
Frederik V.
Jan 10, 2009 Frederik V. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gekocht
Brilliant non-technical summary of the history and modern advances in evolutionary science. I think the part about the formation of our planet and the Precambrian era with the first multicellular species was particularly intriguing.

I learned a great deal about the origin of mankind (I did not know for example that we were an entirely different branch of the hominids than the homo erectus). In the last chapter Zimmer does a great job revealing the hidden agenda of creationists in the USA and why
Jun 10, 2016 zltg rated it liked it
Shelves: science
Zimmer is, unfortunately, an inferior writer when compared to Dawkins or Stephen Jay Gould, or even Darwin himself.
Mona Albano
Sep 20, 2014 Mona Albano rated it it was amazing
Carl Zimmer presents lucid explanations of the theory in writing as smooth as silk.
Anatoly v01
Книга уже немного устарела, тот же Марков лучше. Но часть (первая глава) про Дарвина очень хорошая.
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  • What Evolution Is
  • Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters
  • The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution
  • Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul
  • Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction
  • The Counter-Creationism Handbook
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  • Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth
  • Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design
  • The Variety of Life: A Survey and a Celebration of All the Creatures that Have Ever Lived
  • Evolution: The First Four Billion Years
  • Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution (Science Masters)
  • Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are
  • Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design
  • Charles Darwin: The Power of Place
  • Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History
  • In The Blink Of An Eye: How Vision Sparked The Big Bang Of Evolution
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Carl Zimmer is an award-winning science writer. He is a columnist for the New York Times and is the author of several books, including Parasite Rex, Soul Made Flesh, and A Planet of Viruses.
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