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Tamed: Ten Species That Changed Our World

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  907 ratings  ·  114 reviews
For hundreds of thousands of years, our ancestors depended on wild plants and animals for survival. They were hunter-gatherers, consummate foraging experts, but taking the world as they found it. Then a revolution occurred – our ancestors’ interaction with other species changed. They began to tame them. The human population boomed; civilization began.

In her new book, Tamed
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 19th 2017 by Hutchinson
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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A look at the domestication of various plant and animal species in 10 largely standalone chapters, covering dogs, wheat, cattle, maize, potatoes, chickens, rice, horses and apples, with a last chapter covering humans, of which more later.

I took a little while to get into this. The first chapter, about dogs, didn’t grab me, but perhaps I just needed some time to get into the book’s style. I definitely got more interested as I went along. It’s a difficult book to summarise as each species is diffe
Udit Nair
This book is enlightening and really well researched. The biggest advantage is that its updated with all the recent research and hence it makes it a one stop solution with respect to the species mentioned. The book might be little overwhelming because of the information present but its worthwhile to go through till the end which talks about humans.

The most incredible insight I gathered from the book is that we humans tend to create boundaries and distinctions. But biology seems to break those b

The way I see it, Tamed has two great strengths to recommend it: the first is its up-to-date research. If you want to know all the latest debates and study findings in the ancient process of domestication of plants and animals, this book will get you up to speed. Understandably this won’t hold true in ten years, however. The second strength is Alice Roberts’ writing. The author is a well-known figure – at least here in the UK – and indeed her job is to make the historical sciences lucid to the g
Apr 14, 2018 rated it liked it
interesting science book looking at ten things which have been tamed including humans and a bit science and history but did learn a lot however.
Sam Worby
Nov 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
A good general introduction to domestication and (for me) an update on some of the ground covered in Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel. Clearly this is a fast moving area so the science is likely to go out of date fairly quickly.

I enjoyed the range of types of domestication Roberts covered. Some chapters, especially those on dogs, apples and horses were particularly fascinating. Others were weaker, for example the chapter on cattle didn’t really cover how people might have gone about domesti
Horace Derwent
Jan 04, 2021 marked it as to-read
kinda disappointed. why no cats why no cod why no pigs? i wanna see'em

plus, human is not a kinda species, people=$#!t
Bookish Dervish
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Alice Roberts is a renouned scientist most famous for her work tracing back human history to the ancient times depending on archeological findings and on DNA researches, in this epic book, she sticks to her field of expertise but with a tiny drift towards other species that accompanied our marvellous journey of evolution. These ten species had and have a huge impact on our lives. Dogs, wheat, cows, corn, potatoes, chickens, rice, horses and apples, dedicating the last chapter for the top predato ...more
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-history
I loved this book right out of the starting gate. I stalked Alice Roberts on YouTube and found a great lecture she gave on human evolution.
Not only is she brilliant and funny, she’s also smoking hot. Now I'm a huge fan (big difference between fan and stalker as now I don't have to live in my van parked across the street from her house). I even bought an Alice Roberts lunch box with a matching thermos, just like back when I stalked people back in grade sch
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written book that documents the stories of how 10 species have been tamed by either themselves, other sub-species or humans. Laid out in classic, intellectual and scientific prose Alice Roberts educates with ease, filling the reader with information in a succinct fashion, yet with enough description from the latest areas of research. I throughly enjoyed the final chapter, the summary of the entire book that touched upon some of the major issues that we as a species have introduced ...more
Chris Demer
This is a very well researched and interesting book by an excellent scientist and science writer.
Roberts looks at evidence from history, pre-history, archaeological evidence and the latest in DNA techniques to investigate the sources of 10 key domesticated plants and animals. As humans have interacted with these other organisms, we have changed them and their behavior to make them more useful to us. They in turn have had a dramatic impact on the development and evolution of humans, even changing
Emmanuel Gustin
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
The author is "Professor of Public Engagement in Science" at the University of Birmingham. At first hearing that sounds like an elaborately made-up title, but if you think of for a little longer, it is a vital role. The future of mankind may very well depend on the level of public engagement with science. And this is an engaging book.

If I may quibble a bit: Alice Roberts is a well known television figure, featuring in science and history programs for the BBC, and as she is a talented television
I almost put this one down midway through.
Some science books are written in an engaging, interesting manner. Others are dry, arduous, and somewhat lacking cohesion. "Tamed" is an example of the latter. The information presented in the book is interesting, and I was excited to hear where the author would take this book. I was disappointed with it ultimately, however, and found my attention wandering more often than not while reading this.
This book exemplifies the problem that plagues many scienc
Katy Noyes
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ten chapters of social history and science - interesting tidbits in there

3.5 stars

This came out last year, but I hadn't heard of it until I saw the Audible version advertised. It sounded like the sort of easy listen that I would enjoy and hopefully learn from, having enjoyed Roberts' television programmes.

It turned out to be a mixed bag. Absolutely fascinating on one hand, but rather long-winded on the other as a listen. The dates and delving do feel quite cumbersome when you are listening, it'
Jim Van der Meulen
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
A book with an identity crisis. Don’t get me wrong: it contains a lot of interesting and, by the looks of it, up-to-date information about the earliest instances of domestication. The author also appears to be well-versed in genetics research.

What I was missing whilst reading it, however, was the focus on CHANGE, as implied by the title. As things stand, the author merely offers the layman some expansive insights into (the discussions about) when and where certain species were first domesticate
Sep 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: jubilee-library
Archaeology, biology, genetics, and climate clues brought together to tell the story of domestication.

Caution: To love this book you have to get into the back-and-forth debate about the dates of domestication, and single vs multiple origins. It turns out I'm not that interested in that. The first two chapters (dogs, wheat) in particular put me right off this book.

But the storytelling grew on me. Yes, there's lots of informed speculation, and the specifics of any story are going to be just recko
Feb 10, 2020 rated it liked it
The interest levels in this varied a little for me (can't say I found the botanical aspects fascinating) but overall it was a well-written summary with some really cool themes coming out. This goes on the pile with Adam Rutherford's A Brief History of Everyone Who Has Ever Lived as being even cooler because it details fields that have developed hugely since I was at university myself, so I have some catching up to do. It probably means that both will be dated really quickly, but there you go. ...more
Crispina Kemp
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
As expected of Dr Alice Roberts, her book, Tamed, presents complex biological, anthropological, archaeological and genetic matters in terms everyone can understand.

For the book, Dr Alice Robert chooses ten species: Wheat, Rice, and Maize, Apples and Potatoes, Dogs and Chickens, Cattle and Horses, and Humans.

She follows the development of these ten species from their wild days through to C21st; looks at the various controversial and conflicting theories prevalent throughout the last two centuri
Sep 10, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
For some reason, the wheat chapter stalled my reading progress suddenly and decisively to the point where I abandoned this poor book for six months. I can't even say that it's an overall preference for the animal over the plant chapters, since I enjoyed all the others when I did finally pick it back up. I guess I'm just not that into wheat?? IDK.

Anyway, a lot of fascinating tidbits in here, although I did find the anthropological/sociological aspects a lot more interesting than the DNA-level stu
Aria Rezaei
May 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-nature
As the title suggests, the book contains stories of 10 domesticated species, including us human beings, and how their domestication changed the lives of our ancestors. After listening to this book, I have a better picture in my mind of the transformation of wolves into dogs, which could help me tolerate my dog-owning friends easier :). It also had some good arguments from both sides of the Genetically Modified food debate as a bonus. Although I really enjoyed most of the chapters, some of them ( ...more
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
A fascinating book about a bunch of animals and plants that have both changed the world, and been themselves very changed, due to their domestication by humans.
Alice Roberts is a fantastic writer with a wonderful ability to explain complicated scientific concepts without being either boring or confusing. I found I was able to follow unfamiliar topics like archaeology, while not being bored by things I already knew a bit about.
More scientific writing should be like this.
Alexandra Bazhenova-Sorokina
Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
I listened to the audio version of the book, and it provided a perfect mixture of comfort that comes with the author’s soothing voice and accent, and of great interest of the stories told. “Tamed” is a great way to learn about contemporary genetics as well as about paleobotany, and this knowledge comes with seeming effortlessness. The only thing I really found odd and out of place were the lyrical pieces at the beginning of each new part: they were not so powerful, they actually seem off, and th ...more
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Explains very complex issues extremely well, and makes them interesting. Thought provoking.
Keith Potts
Feb 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
Packs a lot in. Enjoyed some chapters more than others; however, the last chapter pills everything together very well, with a thought provoking summary and conclusions.
Lauren M
Apr 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Parts of this book I loved and make no question of it, it is packed with knowledge spanning archaeology, anthropology and biology. The author has clearly spent a lot of time researching the different chapters and is passionate about the subject areas. I thoroughly enjoyed learning the origins of species we encounter daily and the changes they went through to arrive in the 21st century.

However some areas I felt were too light touch and only presented one side of incredibly nuanced discussions. T
I bought this book on the basis of the author's December 7, 2017 interview on the BBC History Magazine's History Extra podcast. I had somehow missed that podcast until recently, but upon hearing it immediately bought the book. I was not disappointed.

I thoroughly recommend this book. Roberts is a very skilled practitioner of popular science writing and her work is just so readable throughout. I also like her basic intellectual approach, which both commends and critiques technology and science th
Mar 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, bellow
I have read books about at least 3 of these chapters, but it was delightful to learn new things, newly discovered things.  Her arguments seemed pretty balanced (and I'm gauging from where I disagree slightly), her writing was clear, and I found her to be quite funny, not in a gimmicky way but just in her phrasing and observations.  I'm a fan.  This has been on my list since before Adam Rutherford, but I'm delighted by their professional relationship and dialogue as I've since discovered it.  ...more
Shhhhh Ahhhhh
Jul 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Pretty excellent book. I know that I've read plenty of books that touched on the domestication of animals and vegetables being a massive part of the story of human development. Diamond's work definitely touched on it briefly. However, no book that I've read has ever developed the story of our interactions with these species in such rich detail and really woven it into the tapestry of human history in the way this book has.

Instant classic for me and will recommend as primer on this subject movin
Jun 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Well-researched and presented, but I wish the book spent less time on the phylogenetics and ancestry of the species in question, and more on how they actually changed the world or what made them so suited to do so. Or for that matter, how we changed them.
Patrick DiJusto
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
How did we get dogs and wheat and potatoes and chickens from wolves and savanna grass and inedible tubers and strange feral birds? We created them!

As the glaciers retreated after the last ice age, neolithic humans began to put their hand to the world around them. They fed meat scraps to tame wolf cubs and over the centuries turned them into dogs. They planted and watered and fertilized common grasses, which burst into new life as wheat and maize. They fed corn scraps to strange ground-dwelling b
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Alice May Roberts is an English anatomist, osteoarchaeologist, physical anthropologist, palaeopathologist, television presenter and author.

Roberts studied medicine and anatomy at Cardiff University, qualifying in 1997 as a physician with a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MB BCh) degree, having gained

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“even been suggested that the eventual domestication of cereals in this area could have grown from a culture which invested heavily, not in bread-making, but in beer-brewing – and that alcohol could have flowed freely, greasing the wheels of social intercourse, at these ancient feasts.” 1 likes
“Most chickens, though, grow fast – and are slaughtered at just six weeks old. When we eat chickens, they’re really just overblown, overgrown, big chicks. The ends of their bones haven’t even begun to turn from cartilage to bone yet. A single great-grandmother hen, back in the pedigree flock, can have an astonishing 3 million broiler-chicken descendants – who never make it to adulthood.” 1 likes
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