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The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  5,163 ratings  ·  520 reviews
A landmark book of popular science—a lucid, engaging account of how the human body evolved over millions of years and of how the increasing disparity between the jumble of adaptations in our Stone Age bodies and the modern world is fueling the paradox of greater longevity but more chronic disease. 
In a book that illuminates, as never before, the evolutionary story of the
ebook, 480 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by Vintage
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 ·  5,163 ratings  ·  520 reviews

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Amy Raby
Dec 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Best nonfiction book I've read in 2013. I've read Dawkins, Diamond, and Pinker, so I know a fair bit on this subject for a layperson, but this book had a lot of fascinating material I'd never been exposed to before. This book goes into great detail about our evolutionary ancestors, including why and how we developed the physical features we did, such as our efficient way of walking, our ability to run great distances without overheating, and our unique ability to throw objects with power and acc ...more
Morgan Blackledge
Jan 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Crucial Read!

The Story of the Human Body is Dr. Daniel Lieberman's plain spoken but powerful account of how the rise of bipedalism, the shift to a non-fruit-based diet, the advent of hunting and gathering, the rise of agriculture, the industrial revolution and the high tech revolution all shaped the key adaptations that typify the modern human body.

If you've ever wondered why modern humans are such a sickly and chunky bunch, Lieberman's got a pretty satisfying answer for you.

"we didn't evolve t
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
I was excited to read this book based on a favorable review in the New York Times. I studied human evolution in college so I have a high level of familiarity with the subject matter.

I started the book eagerly and found the first two sections regarding biological and cultural evolution to be interesting, if repetitive. But the final section seemed to be a massive repetition of the author's theories. I had a hard time reading to the end and basically skimmed the final third.

On a substantive note,
Mario Tomic
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Had a great time with the audiobook version! The book was so interesting I went through the whole thing in 3 days. The book explains how the human body evolved over millions of years. It goes into some of the incredible adaptations we've gained to survive on this planet and those that we've lost in the modern age. Highly recommended!
Armin Books
Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
It should be stated from the outset that this is not a 'self-help' book, but it definitely does raise awareness of some aspects of our modern lives which are silently and steadily harming us. Lieberman recognized the root of many of the common chronic non-infectious diseases to be evolutionary in nature, specifically ‘evolutionary mismatches’. He persuasively argues that our bodies which are molded and shaped by the adaptive force of natural selection over millions of years are no match for the ...more
Gretchen Rubin
I was surprised (and relieved) by what a great read this book was. I knew I'd be interested in the subject, but I thought that getting through the chapters might be a bit of a slog. Nope, a great reading experience. I bought another book by Lieberman, in fact.
Rachel Williams
This book makes a decisive case that making informed decisions about diet and lifestyle is only possible through the lens of evolutionary history. If you want to know where your body comes from, you need to understand its evolutionary history. Why do humans stand and walk on two legs? Why are we weak compared to other animals? Why are our legs and feet shaped the way they are? Why does our spine have a special S-curve? All of these questions can only be answered through an understanding of evolu ...more
This is one of the best non-fiction books I read. Highly recommended if you are interested in evolutionary history and how our modern life style often creates mismatches.
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is hands down one of the best books I have EVER read.

It was first recommended to me by a highly respected individual in the fitness industry who owns and runs his own spine clinic as well as teaches science based fitness workshops across the country. Unexpectedly my "Genetic and Evolutionary Principles of Health" class had it as assigned reading (for obvious reasons) and not only did I get to finally read this amazing book, but also participate in in-depth discussions about the ideas prese
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
I loved the first half of this book. It's hard to find a good book on human evolution. The author steps you through the evolutionary development of man from 2.3 million years ago to 250 thousand years ago and does this part of the book as good as or better than any other book on the topic. He principally looks at why the homo species decided to walk upright and become bipedal and considers the relative advantages and the disadvantages that this brought. It's hard to find good books on that topic ...more
Nelson Zagalo
As the title implies, “The Story...”, serves as a light introduction to the subject of the evolutionary body we humans possess. The writing is highly accessible, able to produce an informed idea of the past, present and possible futures for our bodies and us. As with other academic books for non-academics, treating vast subjects in introductory manner, it can fall short for people with great interest in the topic that have already read other books. In this case, I’m not a specialist in the domai ...more
Jan 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Here's one of my favorite quotes: "Like it or not, we are slightly fat, furless, bipedal primates who crave sugar, salt, fat, and starch, but we are still adapted to eating a diverse diet of fibrous fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, tubers, and lean meat. We enjoy rest and relaxation, but our bodies are still those of endurance athletes evolved to walk many miles a day and often run, as well as dig, climb and carry." This goes on, but I think you can get a good idea of the idea he's trying to ...more
Reading in the time of Corona.

The timing of finally getting to read this book is just perfect. I first picked it up way back in 2014 and couldn't get through it due to the natural selection pressure from the environment of an evolving academic career (using the same tone of the author here ;)). Of course, in the meantime, I read a couple of novels to balance the time I gave to reading information-dense subject related scientific articles. I picked it up again and finished it in 2 weeks!

Daniel E
Eoin Flynn
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
One of the most fascinating books I've ever had the pleasure to read. Absolutely jam-packed with interesting facts.

I know modern life is killing me, as is the fact that the western world worships at the alter of capitalism (which is very good, but for very few), but this book puts genetic and medical metrics around precisely how. This empowers one to avoid it.

It also provides scientific info of more mundane use, around health, diet and fitness.

All of this is packaged in quite pleasant writing
Mar 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful exploration of the physical and cultural evolution. A must read for anyone who owns a body.
Laura Siegel
Oct 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: medical
A fascinating account of our diets, our bodies, our lifestyles from an evolutionary perspective.

According to the author our bodies have not evolved to handle the high amounts of sugar we eat, the sedentary lives we live, the lack of sleep we get, and the general stress we put our body under.

As a result we see relatively new diseases escalating - cardio-vascular disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, breast and colon cancer, auto-immune diseases, depression. These diseases were not found in ea
Tanja Berg
Aug 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book of how the human body became ... well... human, as opposed to ape-like. Thus it doesn't dwell too much on organs, except for the brain. It's more about how we developed arched feet, long legs, big butts (in comparison to say, chimpanzees), why we are predisposed to be fat and such things. When the author is done with this, he moves on to "mismatch" diseases, the result of our bodies not fitting to its current environment. Typical mismatch diseases are flat feet, being short-sighte ...more
Mar 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
Fascinating book! Daniel Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard, is not only an expert on this topic, but this book was a pleasure to read. Lieberman states at the outset that his account of human evolution is written with an eye towards what this means for human health today. In other words, his aim at the end of the book is to address the question: How did the evolutionary pressures of our ancestors influence the form and function of our bodies in contemporary society? ...more
Justin Powell
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing and wonderful book! Lieberman weaves together our evolutionary history and its influences on our modern day life. Dealing primarily with the negative aspects, he shows that much of our modern environment enables bad behavior or poor choices that leads to the many ailments of affluence.

Part one is a crash course on our evolutionary history from apes to modern day genus Homo. Part two goes through the following agriculture and industrial revolutions that not only changed us for be
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
This book explores Human evolution especially in regards to the body in the last million years. It explores how we developed our upright walking posture which is in so many ways detrimental to movement. It explores the development of our teeth as we switched from a low energy high fiber diet to which takes up so much time for primates to get necessary calories to a more selective high protien high sugar diet. It explores evolution since the invention of agriculture and argues that we haven't re ...more
Jul 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medicine, science
Very persuasive arguments. I don't agree with everything (YOU ARE NOT GOING TO TAKE MY CARBS FROM ME) and at times seems a little worshipful of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, but from a scientific point of view it's hard to refute the argument he puts forward regarding many of the illnesses that are suddenly so prevalent today.
Karel Baloun
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: health
Harvard evolutionary biologist decides to summarize most important life knowledge into a practical book on lifestyle, perhaps shall we say loquaciously, using many many too many words.

Two key messages:
1/ The human body hasn’t evolved/optimized to make you happy or live a long time. Rather simply to make a lot of babies that survive and have babies.
2/ The human body has evolved for a different environment, so is mismatched to current high calorie, low movement lifestyles.

Lieberman (2004) seems to
Dennis Littrell
May 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Deep, detailed, wise, and very much worth while

The first part of the book is about human evolution from apes to Homo sapiens with a lot of interesting information about hominins (AKA hominids) and how we became bipedal and developed language and culture. The second part is about how the rise of agriculture and then the industrial revolution changed the health of our bodies for better and for worse. The third part is about how to cope with what Lieberman calls “mismatch diseases” and “dysevolutio
Justin M.
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book talks about the evolution of humanity. However, it did focus a lot more on diseases than I thought it was going to. These diseases mainly focus on those that were due to human advancement.
Bloody farmers.
Chassy Cleland
Lieberman develops an interesting argument about the intertwinement of food and the evolution of early humans. The writing is engaging and thought-provoking. However, it is wise to pay attention to the way Lieberman supports his statements. He frequently engages in unsupported speculation and rarely details the point of view of other scientists. If the book ended here, I would rate it 3 or 4 stars, as I nonetheless enjoyed the read and introduced me to some new perspectives.

As the book continues
Oct 22, 2013 added it
The Story of the Human Body reads like a series of lectures for a college class. There are straight ahead facts mixed with occasional jokes and analogies along the way. This isn't the deepest or best written piece of science writing, but it does cover a decent amount of interesting ground. Lieberman is best when talking about human evolution, which makes sense because that's what he studies. He's good about crediting others for their research and it's also refreshing that he admits to what isn't ...more
Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful primer on most recent evolution of man

The first part of this book is really worth the 5 stars on its own. An excellent, well-cited breakdown of key developments in the evolution of hominids to Homo sapiens. The last half deals with how these traits are at loggerheads with today's environment. I had several eureka-like moments reading this. I give apparent fads like barefoot running or "paleo" dieting more credence after the read. The crux of the argument is that many common lifestyle-r
Mar 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What are humans adapted to? Daniel Lieberman compiled a great number of sources in order to find an answer to this question. The result is "The story of human body".

It is a very well written, beautifully presented and thoroughly researched book. At times information dense and challenging, it is never too complex for the reader. I thought that perhaps sometimes it could be more engaging, but I enjoyed it tremendously nonetheless.

I highly recommend this book, particularly if you are fascinated b
Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: health
Amazing! It's not a light read, but it's worth it if you care about health. You'll learn how the human skeleton differs from those of our chimp ancestors; why soda gives you belly fat; how cavemen survived without orthodontists or dentists; why running barefoot is good for your joints, and much more. Exceptional writing allows Lieberman to make complex topic accessible. I am planning on buying this and keeping it as a reference.
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Daniel E. Lieberman (born June 3, 1964) is a paleoanthropologist at Harvard University, where he is the Edwin M Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences, and chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology. He is best known for his research on the evolution of the human head and the evolution of the human body.

Lieberman was educated at Harvard University, where he obtained his A.B., M.A. a

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23 likes · 10 comments
“We didn’t evolve to be healthy, but instead we were selected to have as many offspring as possible under diverse, challenging conditions. As a consequence, we never evolved to make rational choices about what to eat or how to exercise in conditions of abundance and comfort.” 5 likes
“Our body’s evolutionary journey is also far from over. Natural selection didn’t stop when farming started but instead has continued and continues to adapt populations to changing diets, germs, and environments. Yet the rate and power of cultural evolution has vastly outpaced the rate and power of natural selection, and the bodies we inherited are still adapted to a significant extent to the various and diverse environmental conditions in which we evolved over millions of years. The end product of all that evolution is that we are big-brained, moderately fat bipeds who reproduce relatively rapidly but take a long time to mature.” 4 likes
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