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The History of Life: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions #193)

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  166 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
Here is the extraordinary story of the unfolding of life on Earth, told by Michael J. Benton, a world-renowned authority on biodiversity. Ranging over four billion years, Benton weaves together the latest findings on fossils, earth history, evolutionary biology, and many other fields to highlight the great leaps that enabled life to evolve from microbe to human--big breakt ...more
Paperback, 170 pages
Published December 15th 2008 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2008)
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Amir The Fat Bookworm
Not a bad book if you expect an introduction into historical monumental challenges of paleontology. It was not so interesting as to draw me in. It certainly was not as interesting as the title suggests. However, it might be interesting to people who already are interested in the subject.
Reasonable
Sep 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the History of life on Earth
This book reminded me a little bit of The Ancestors Tale, albeit the latter traces the history of life in reverse chronological order. The author of this title in the ‘Very Short Introduction series’ from the Oxford University press is Michael Benton. He is a distinguished professor of vertebrate palaeontology at the University of Bristol.

The book starts off with the basics and builds, chapter by chapter, on these topics. The introduction is a good summary of cladistics, phylogenetics, and the c
...more
Mark Fallon
May 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I knew I would love this little book when the opening paragraph concluded with "...or at least merely microscopic beasts of extreme simplicity floating in the primordial ocean."

Science books are best when written by people who love their subject matter, and Professor Benton loves paleontology. A great introduction to how life began and evolved over the last 4 billion years (give or take several hundred million years).

The "Very Short Introduction Series" is like being allowed to survey classes f
...more
Bojan Tunguz
Apr 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The history of life is a very fascinating subject, with an almost universal appeal. And yet, life itself is scientifically a very complex phenomenon that could fill up libraries worth of books. As such, it is quite remarkable that a succinct book like this one would be even attempted, leave alone published. Michael Benton is commended for accomplishing in this very short introduction to take us along life's evolutionary trajectory and systematize and explain the origins of many major branches in ...more
Dougal
Dec 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
Excellent and very readable. As a 'Very Short Introduction' it fits the bill admirably. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the subject with one caveat: it could be slightly tough going and confusing in places for anyone without a basic scientific background and familiarity with the history of the Earth. Such a knowledge is assumed in places. However, that is a small drawback to what is an excellent overview of a topic conveyed in a highly readable way. The author has that rare kn ...more
Robin Friedman
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Evolutionary Tree Of Life

The Very Short Introductions Series of Oxford University Press offers busy readers the opportunity to revisit subjects and to branch out and learn new things. It also allows readers to compare different ways of asking questions. For example, I recently read Terry Eagleton's book in the series, "The Meaning of Life". The book, of course, is a philosophical study which spends most of its time trying to understand the question to determine whether it makes sense. I have
...more
Richard Carter
Jun 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nature, science
Covering over 3.5 billion years of life on earth in just 166 pages was always going to be something of a tall order. The History of Life is a whistle-stop tour of that period, taking us from the earliest fossils to the modern day.

Michael Benton is particularly good at describing the different ‘types’ of life punctuated by Earth’s great mass-extinction events. I was also pleased to see him dedicate the last couple of pages of this book to making it clear that evolution does not have any endgame i
...more
D DePalma
Jun 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, nonfiction, science
This is exactly what it says on the front cover, but it's not devoid of humor, and that made it a far more enjoyable read than it could have been. It was also easy to follow, even though for the first half I was reading it sporadically over the course of about a year. All in all, a pretty decent introduction for people who are only passingly familiar with the topics.
Frank
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
concise but clear, and compulsively readable
Bob Small
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Consice, informative and clear. A nice intoduction that you can put down and then pick up agian.
Intikhab
Dec 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
What did I think while reading the book? Ah, it arouse mixed feelings. I felt ashamed of knowing nothing about our universe. At the same time, I felt excited to find out so much about such an interesting subject in a book that involved only 160 plus pages. It's a thought provoking book, particularly, for all those who, like me, have a narrow understanding about the world and how did life evolve.
Roberto Rigolin F Lopes
Dec 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
There is a sense of wonder spread in this book. We have little evidence of the life diversity during the last 4 billion years. The fossils preserved a small fraction of the species, much is missing. Life diversity therefore is a huge mystery and will remain a mystery for many more years or forever. Of course we are getting better at undressing Nature and here we have a compact report.
Nick
Oct 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic and informative read. A comprehensive insight to a large topic.
Janet K. Cook
Feb 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great Review

It's been a while...still thought there were five kingdoms. Glad I'm getting caught up with the more current information. Very easy to follow his easy going style.
SpaceBear
It's a very short introduction to the history of life, tracing the course of evolution from the emergence of life to the domination of the earth by humanity.
Frank Ashe
Nov 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biology, science
An excellent review of the evolution of our current ecosystems, with all the calamities of mass extinction vivdly described.
Kathleen O'Neal
Jun 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
A great VSI tracing the origins of life on our planet.
Phil Syphe
Mar 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Think I would've appreciated this book more if I'd been more familiar with the large amount of scientific terms featured throughout.
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