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Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea
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Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  2,167 ratings  ·  56 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 (first published 2001)
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The Origin of Species by Charles DarwinThe Selfish Gene by Richard DawkinsThe Ancestor's Tale by Richard DawkinsThe Greatest Show on Earth by Richard DawkinsWhy Evolution Is True by Jerry A. Coyne
Best Books on Evolution...
15th out of 131 books — 83 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
204th out of 859 books — 2,091 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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LaMar Parkin

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
Oct 24, 2007 Stacey rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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One of the best book to understand evolution. I stopped reading crap by Harun Yahya after reading this book.
Elliott Bignell
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
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.
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!
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
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
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
Alexander Arsov
Carl Zimmer

Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea

HarperCollins, Hardback, 2001.

4to. xx, 364 pp. First edition. Introduction by Stephen Jay Gould [ix-xiv]. Foreword by Richard Hutton [xv-xvii].


Introduction by Stephen Jay Gould
Foreword by Richard Hutton

Part 1
Slow Victory: Darwin and the Rise of Darwinism

1. Darwin and the Beagle
2. ''Like Confessing a Murder'': The Origin of Origin of Species
3. Deep Time Discovered: Putting Dates to the History of Life
4. Witnessing Change: Genes, N
Emily Kay
May 31, 2007 Emily Kay rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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 4 of 5 stars
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
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).
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
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
Mona Albano
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.
Aug 17, 2008 James rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone curious about the theory of evolution, its history, and its place in the world today.
If you have ever thought that the subject of evolution was beyond you, or that anything written about it would be dry as a fossil or as difficult as sequencing the human genome, then you can stop worrying and go pick up this book.

Carl Zimmer's writing is very accessible and friendly, and he manages to cover a huge amount of material in a scant 423 pages. To be sure, what the book offers is an overview, but it is an overview with an excellent level of resolution; Zimmer captures just the right d
Ad Samad
This is a good read for both, those who are new to evolutionary biology and also those who are familiar with the theory.

Evolution is not just a topic -but- the basis of modern biology and the basis of the pharmaceutical industry. We have reaped so much benefits from what this knowledge brought us, which is modern medicine. Yet, we know so little about the theory. I think that's hypocrite.

So, if you wanna start somewhere, if you wanna learn a thing or two about the theory -- this might just be th
As a biologist-by-training, I've always felt a bit half-baked having never read Origin of Species (I tried, but it's a pretty dull, outdated Victorian affair). So I thought maybe I would just read a contemporary, semi-popular treatment as a refresher. This one was cheap at Walden's, has pretty pictures, and does a serviceable job. The material on Darwin's life was unexpectedly entertaining, the rest was (reassuringly) mostly familiar territory. A nice primer.
A wonderful overview of evolution and current findings on how it continues to weave life as we know it. It also briefly touches on religion and rightly concludes that evolution and religion do not have to conflict. If you are looking for an introduction to evolution that is easily understood yet up-to-date, you would be hard pressed to find a better author than Carl Zimmer. Highly recommended.
Although this was a bit of a heavy read it was very informative and engrossing. Some of the issues discussed make you ashamed to be human (note the chapter on man-made mass extinctions) while others make you proud. A very very interesting book with lots of facts that make you really pay attention to life all the more
This book is a must read. So many interesting aspects of the book, from the life of Darwin to the first mass extinction which was caused from man. This book will teach you about the history of the earth and how it was uncovered. I really enjoyed the chapter on sex, it has a high price!
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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
  • Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction
  • Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul
  • Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
  • The Counter-Creationism Handbook
  • Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth
  • The Structure of Evolutionary Theory
  • Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design
  • Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution (Science Masters)
  • Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design
  • Climbing Mount Improbable
  • Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are
  • Why Evolution Is True
  • The Variety of Life: A Survey and a Celebration of All the Creatures that Have Ever Lived
  • Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins
  • Charles Darwin: The Power of Place
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.
More about Carl Zimmer...
Parasite Rex (with a New Epilogue): Inside the Bizarre World of Nature's Most Dangerous Creatures A Planet of Viruses At the Water's Edge: Fish with Fingers, Whales with Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed

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