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Thumbs, Toes, and Tears

3.93  ·  Rating Details  ·  150 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
The fascinating evolutionary links between six seemingly unremarkable traits that make us the very remarkable creatures we are.
Countless behaviors separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom, but all of them can be traced one way or another to six traits that are unique to the human race-our big toe, our opposable thumb, our oddly shaped pharynx, and our ability to la
ebook, 272 pages
Published May 26th 2009 by Walker Books Ltd (first published 2006)
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Dec 19, 2007 Seth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, nonfiction

Chip Walter's premise in Thumbs, Toes, and Tears, is pretty simple: What makes us different from other animals? Why and how did those differences evolve, and how does it affect us today?

The results are extraordinary. This is a rare book: an extremely informative and well-referenced book that is easy and fun to read, and will have your brain working overtime comprehending all that it's about. He breaks it down into chapters that sort of focus on each trait, and each one becomes more of a mys
Sep 03, 2014 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anyone remember Desmond Morris’s The Naked Ape? This is similar … and similarly amazing. You’ll be surprised to learn how our bodies evolved to be what they are today, but even more amazed at the end of the book by what the author says is coming for our species. Startling! Things we take for granted — crying, kissing, how we talk, our unique way of reproducing — all have big consequences for our survival. It’s a fascinating account of the little things that make us “human.” How some embrace bogu ...more
A wonderful tale that very successfully merges evolution and psychology. I have read this book in middle school, and to this day remember so many of the ideas discussed within. It blew my mind and literally changed my life, since it started a love of science that determined my choice of degree and - hopefully - a career. It is a very easy and fascinating read, always to the point and capable of surprising the reader with every chapter.
Jake Berlin
all in all, a very good overview of human evolution and what sets us apart from other animals. at times it seems like the author tried a little too hard to fit everything into neat little categories, but that's a small quibble, because the evidence is presented clearly and interestingly, and the reader is left in awe of nature generally, and humans in particular.
Aug 29, 2010 Sistermagpie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
What a fun read. T,T and T focuses on certain adaptations that are purely human, roughly in the order they occurred (if scientists have thoughts on that), showing just how amazing they are and how they pushed us towards being human. It makes just walking down the street more inspiring when you're appreciating your big toe making it possible. Humans rock!
Mar 10, 2009 Monica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: growth
I went into a bookstore, next door, and they get a bunch of books weekly, that have not been published yet. And they get to review them, and send in comments, corrections, and suggestions. Well, in that stack was this book, and I started reading it then and there. Great read. Smart, cohesive, and gripping. Let your kids read this book, and soon.
Mar 16, 2009 Karla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this book was very informative and well written. It was easy to understand all of the scientific information that the author had gathered and it was all very interesting.
Jan 13, 2010 Amilia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
VERY good book, so far. If you've ever wondered how humans came to speak, learn a language, and just evolved to be able to do such human things, this is a book with an answer.
Kyle Woodward
Feb 05, 2011 Kyle Woodward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Humans are awesome! A little repetitive, but otherwise interesting book on the theories about how we evolved specific traits and which came first. 4.5 stars
Jun 26, 2011 Norma rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gained an appreciation of the importance of our big toes (among other things).
Jun 22, 2012 Kevin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I think I need to get this part out of the way. The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal by Jared Diamond is one of my favorite books if not my favorite book, warts and all. When you know something good then you tend to be interested in other things similar, right? I heard about this book and decided that it was going to be good. Hell, the title is even similar to one of Diamond's other books, Guns, Germs, and Steel.

I am now reminded of that time I told someone that my
This book explores a number of traits that are unique (or at least semi-unique) to humans. The book flows smoothly enough, and explains concept in easily digestible terms. Towards the later chapters the content becomes a bit more speculative and far less technical. It’s almost as if some of the weaker chapters were saved for the end. Still, overall the book gives good insights into human evolution and explores multiple theories about how these evolutionary traits came to be.
Oct 12, 2008 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was full of interesting tidbits of information. The author outlined what he felt were the key characteristics that make us human, such as opposable thumbs and laughter, and how they evolved. He manages a good balance between scientific research and simple language that makes his theories seem believable and easily understood. My favorite sections were those dealing with laughter, language, and the ability to cry actual tears. I have always wondered how aspects such of these could have ...more
Sehar  Moughal
I did not find this book very exciting to read; I have read Desmond's book which Walter referenced extensively so it did not turn out to be a treat. I felt that Walter wandered off the topic throughout the book. After a while, the lack of focus became really annoying.
Feb 22, 2013 KMO rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first spoke with Chip Walter about Thumbs, Toes, and Tears for episode 13 of the C-Realm Podcast. I just put out episode 349, so Chip is one of the foundational guests of the podcast. I can't wait to speak with him about his new book, Last Ape Standing.

Here is a list of links to all of Chip Walter's appearances on the C-Realm Podcast:

Thank you, Chip!
Rick Bavera
Thumbs, Toes and Tears covers one of my favorite areas--science, most specifically science that looks at some of the traits of humans, and why we do what we do. Chip Walter looks at our thumbs, big toes, pharynx, laughter, tears and kissing.

The book is full of great information, and the author has distilled a lot in order to keep the book a reasonable length.

I found myself looking to know more. I will have to track down other materials to satisfy my curiosity.
Jan 19, 2011 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. This book was really interesting, and helped me remember how truly amazing our bodies really are. Also it had lots of cool info on early child development, and I had fun looking for the traits they talked about in my one year old.

Only 3.5 stars because I have a hard time deeply loving non-fiction books. Also, I felt like some of the points were made again and again and again and again. I got it the first time. It is a good read though.
Mar 12, 2012 Josh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nice description of evolutionary theory framed around a few particularly human traits.

Our ability to learn outside the womb (vs instinct-only behaviour on account of genetics) is a big deal. This theme makes the epilogue's notion of cyber sapiens a bit less silly than usual because I happen to see culture as fitting well with technology to enable more changes. That's changes and not advances.
Mar 03, 2007 Carley rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2007
A look at the traits that make us uniquely human. Interesting facts and information interspersed with boring parts. I felt like it was real work to read this.
May 18, 2007 Smalls rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Some interesting biology, some a bit 'overextended', some interesting speculations, some purple prose.
Sep 21, 2008 Melody rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book because it's based on science AND very readable. The thing I remember the most is learning about how the brain developed. I also learned about how and why our ancestors started walking upright, using their brains, and the subsequent challenges to birthing children.
Kamal Shariff
Kamal Shariff rated it it was amazing
May 27, 2016
Joseph MacLean
Joseph MacLean marked it as to-read
May 23, 2016
Joseph MacLean
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Kit marked it as to-read
May 15, 2016
Richard Kelly
Richard Kelly rated it really liked it
May 01, 2016
Crystal Santos
Crystal Santos marked it as to-read
Apr 26, 2016
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Apr 14, 2016
Xiating rated it it was amazing
Mar 30, 2016
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Thank you! 1 1 Oct 30, 2012 02:06PM  
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Chip Walter is the author of Last Ape Standing, a former CNN Bureau Chief, documentary filmmaker and screenwriter. His articles have been published in Slate, The Economist, Wall St. Journal, Scientific American and many other publications and his books have been published in six languages. His other books include, Thumbs, Toes and Tears -- And Other Traits That Make Us HUman; I'm Working on That ( ...more
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