Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea” as Want to Read:
Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  4,512 ratings  ·  81 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 September 4th 2001)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Evolution, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Evolution

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.08  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,512 ratings  ·  81 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Best Eggs
I thought I knew about Evolution, about the random mutation of genes and the success of some mutations that convey an advantage to the host in the environment and could be the beginning of a new species or variety of plant or animal. That is the base. Saying that one and one makes two is at the base of mathematics but tells you very little of the depth and breadth of numbers. And so it is with this book.

I can't review it any better except to say it filled my head with ideas and conjectures for t
Jun 24, 2011 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 Provides a lot more historical references than any other book I have read on the topic.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
SJ Loria
Apr 19, 2009 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
Feb 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, books-i-own
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
Mar 15, 2009 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
Oct 17, 2007 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
May 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
A decent, well-written introduction to evolution.

I like the approach of Zimmer to start the book with two chapters on the origin and context of the ideas of evolution. It's a story of Darwin's travels on the HMS Beagle and his search for evidence to back up his theory. Even the controversial and personal context is treated by Zimmer.

Another thing I liked was the incorporation of the developments in geology (especially the importance for biology) and the origin and developments of genetics. Zim
Feb 09, 2011 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
Jul 13, 2011 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
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I can't recommend this book enough. This is possibly the first non-fiction book that's had me at the edge of my seat, furiously flipping page after page because it's so interesting. It's helped me piece together bits of scattered understanding into a cohesive overview. It has so many cool little pieces of information that you can actually remember and hang on to because it suddenly makes more sense.
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ru, kindle, non-fiction
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.
Jim Davis
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent overview of evolution

Clear, provides summaries and links to detailed evidence and discusses controversies such as sociobiology, racism, social Darwinism and teaching of evolution (controversial in the USA). The discussion of convolution makes it very clear why !miss of species can trigger collapse.
Oct 05, 2013 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.
Apr 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sciences
This was in audio as accompianment to crafting and thoroughly engrossing it was too. I never fail to be awed about the history of whalehood.

Recommended heartily.
Apr 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the best book to understand evolution. I stopped reading crap by Harun Yahya after reading this book.
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A profound read. I encourage everyone to pick up this one. Easily digestible and beautifully written.
Julie Czerneda
Apr 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Wonderfully readable synthesis. Read it once with glee and now use as a reference. Highly recommended!
Chris Leuchtenburg
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, science
This clear and concise overview of the development of the science of evolution covers not only the development of Darwinism, but also the subsequent scientific challenges leading eventually to the modern synthesis in the 1940s and 50s. Zimmer focuses on the discoveries and controversies in the scientific community, but also presents the early religious objections, the eugenics movement and the modern religious resistance.
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: evolution, darwin
Another excellent and readable book by Zimmer. This book has great examples well explained and brings in much of the historical context, including the misuses of Darwin's idea and the more current Creationist/Intelligent Design response. The book has an introduction by Stephen Jay Gould, a nice section of further reading by chapter and an index.
James Duyck
May 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: own-physical
This was enjoyable, but I think I prefer Zimmer's more focused books, and any general survey in science that's 12 years old (well, 17 from the first edition) is going to be incomplete.
Todd Kincaid
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fascinating and reader-friendly. A little fractured and aimless at the end but well worth the time for anyone interested in the topic.
Elliott Bignell
Apr 11, 2015 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
Mar 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An interesting and diverse study of the nature of evolution. A must for animal lovers and the inquisitive.
Dec 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well rounded book, that goes into some of the details of evolution, without loosing sight of the big picture. The vocabulary was simple enough to understand (so no overly complicated technical terms, which makes it readable for everyone even if they lack the scientific background).

It started where evolution began (well... where the theory 'began'), by Darwin. We started off with his theories regarding evolution (and geology). From there on we moved from the origin of cells, to the different p
Mar 21, 2012 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
Jan 09, 2016 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.
Aug 21, 2013 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
Emily Kay
May 31, 2007 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
Robin Miller
Jul 18, 2008 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
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • What Evolution Is
  • Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters
  • The Counter-Creationism Handbook
  • Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction
  • Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom
  • Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design
  • Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul
  • In The Blink Of An Eye: How Vision Sparked The Big Bang Of Evolution
  • The Structure of Evolutionary Theory
  • Evolution: The First Four Billion Years
  • The Variety of Life: A Survey and a Celebration of All the Creatures that Have Ever Lived
  • Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory (Chronicles)
  • Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
  • Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution (Science Masters)
  • Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth
  • Nature Via Nurture: Genes, Experience and What Makes Us Human
  • Charles Darwin: The Power of Place
  • Darwin's Ghost: The Origin of Species Updated
See similar books…
Carl Zimmer is a columnist for the New York Times and the author of 13 books about science. His latest book, She Has Her Mother's Laugh, will be published in May 2018. Zimmer is a frequent guest on Radiolab and has written hundreds of articles for magazines such as National Geographic, The Atlantic, and Wired. He is, to his knowledge, the only writer after whom a species of tapeworm has been named ...more