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A Hunter-Gatherer's Guide to the 21st Century: Evolution and the Challenges of Modern Life

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  3,406 ratings  ·  450 reviews
A bold, provocative exploration of the tension between our evolutionary history and our modern woes - and what we can do about it

We are living through the most prosperous age in all of human history, yet we are listless, divided and miserable. Wealth and comfort are unparalleled, but our political landscape is unmoored, and rates of suicide, loneliness and chronic illness
Published September 16th 2021 by Swift Press (first published September 14th 2021)
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Denny Carr @Nathan I think Irwin meant 'Troubling' in the sense that it is upsetting to discover that mainstream media organisations, educational institutions an…more@Nathan I think Irwin meant 'Troubling' in the sense that it is upsetting to discover that mainstream media organisations, educational institutions and governments might not be providing the most well rounded, objective, quality scientific perspectives on current global problems. Well that's my take on it at least(less)

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Ryan Boissonneault
Considering that humanity has spent more than 95 percent of its collective 200,000-year history as hunter-gatherers, we should not be surprised to find some mismatches between our evolutionary predispositions and the post-industrial environment we currently inhabit. And if this is the case—which to some extent it surely is—then by studying evolutionary biology and psychology, along with modern hunter-gatherer groups, we can gain some insights on the roots of many of our physical, mental, and soc ...more
Jacob Godsell
Sep 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just leaving a great review since that person ignorantly left a negative review without even reading it. You are ruining a review system.
Spen Cer
To say that I was disappointed when I finally got this book after preordering it would be a vast understatement. This book had so much potential to be an interesting and scientific trip through how our evolution leads us to be who we are today.

Instead what I found was a lot of unsubstantiated correlation based thinking. Especially when it came to medicine and food. It seems like if the authors had their way we wouldn’t do anything advanced until knowing every possible parameter, which is just n
Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein are evolutionary biologists. They are a married couple and taught as professors for many years. Their ongoing studies of evolution and adaptation have brought them invitations to speak around the globe. As we read through this, their first book, we come to understand they spend a lot of time trekking through various sparsely-inhabited regions and communing with a variety of cultures. As such, they are particularly well-suited to discuss humans from a species sta ...more
The amount of times in the last couple of months that I've checked my pre-order to see when this releases is absurd. I'm on the edge of my seat in excitement. ...more
James Girnus
This book loosely weaves together some legit evolutionary science with angry manifestos and personal opinions. The epigenetic link between culture and genetics, which much of the book is built upon, is poorly explained. They interpret this emerging science ina way that is convenient for the worldview they are trying to expound.

The first few chapters are interesting and stick closer to evolutionary theory. From about chapter 4 and on the book starts to feel more like propaganda. Somewhat convinc
Yasir Sultani
Sep 26, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

All the good bits are old and all the new bits are not that good. I highly recommend reading the following review since it says every thing I want to say and more with much more authority and style( link ).

Ok it seems I have to add some of my own dislike here.
1. Book is titled " A Hunter-Gatherer's Guide" but the justifications the authors provide for most claims are anecdotal . It is either about them or their children or some other combination of their family.
2. B & H were professors at a thir
Very disappointed. Official DNF.
Okay, this bothered me so much I had to expand on this review. Here it is:

The messiah complex is a state of mind in which a person believes they are the savior of the world. Usually the person can be found on a street corner or a soapbox. Or in a treehouse.

The Book

is titled A Hunter-Gatherer's Guide to the 21st Century, co-authored by a middle-aged married couple. Both of whom earned PhDs in Biology and recently resigned teaching positions from a liberal college i
Sep 27, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was looking forward to this book (I pre-ordered it and started reading it just a couple of days after it arrived). I like the authors, have listened to a number of episodes of their podcast and have watched a number of interviews of Weinstein in previous years. So I really wanted to like this book, but it was a disappointment.

My main issue is that I don’t think this book is well-argued. It is clear the authors have good intentions (for the betterment of society and individuals) but the book se
Benjamin Krishna
The whole book feels poorly thought through. The authors clearly have particular views on issues like GM food, casual sex, sleep patterns and water fluoridation. They then cherry pick scientific studies to support their beliefs and move on without properly considering the literature. It’s a self help book with a sciencey veneer.
Brian Sachetta
Sep 16, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve enjoyed listening to Bret on the Joe Rogan Experience over the years, and I’ve dabbled in his (and Heather’s) podcast as of late as well. Both he and Heather are great thinkers and scientists, and they present things in a straightforward and practical way. That’s why I decided to grab this title.

Overall, I thought it was pretty good. It’s got a similar vibe to their “DarkHorse” podcast in terms of its pragmatic and scientific approach.

The basic structure of the book is this: take a subject
A pop science book by a husband-wife duo that bridges evolutionary science with the challenges of the modern world. The authors write that the rate of change is so rapid now that our brains, bodies, and social systems are perpetually out of sync and that our species is essentially in danger of destroying itself and the world. The book’s aim then is to navigate these terrains through first principles reasoned thinking through an evolutionary lens in this age of hyper-novelty in order to move forw ...more
Jan 23, 2022 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Is it me, am I the problem? Because this was torture. Long ramblings about philosophy, psychology, sociology and any other kind of –ology you can name that seemed a bit too subjective to be scientific. Paragraph after paragraph about animals (there’s nothing wrong with literature about animals, but I was promised a book about humans, so I wasn’t particularly interested in swans and their sex lives). Also, what’s with all the personal stories? They might have seemed cute for the authors, but I re ...more
Tyler Gish
Jan 14, 2022 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to give this book a better review, perhaps a solid 2-stars, for some fun interesting facts and perspectives inside. However, so much of this book is stinky doo doo, and I would not want anyone to use their free time reading that much stinky doo doo. I once heard a saying which went like this, "a little poop in the pudding makes the whole pudding poopy", well there is a lot of poop in this pudding. ...more
Ryan Somma
Sep 29, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is philosophy masquerading as scientific thought. The author's assert that floride in water is bad because it's not natural; nevermind the decades of hard scientific evidence showing otherwise. The authors say we should trust cultural norms that have been around for a long time because they must have evolutionary advantages, except when the authors disagree with the long-standing norms of other cultures, like infant-swaddling--then it's a bad thing. Authoritative parenting is bad because it ...more
Luke Spooner
Feb 22, 2022 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I hate this book.

I stumbled upon it on Overdrive and seeing as I teach evolutionary biology, the themes really appealed to me.

However, it is much more self help than any kind of piece of science writing. Most of the points are reinforced by anecdotes or analogies and very little actual data. Being evolutionary biologists does not make them any sort of authority on parenting or managing relationships. Further, being evolutionary biologists does not also mean they are experts in education, pharmac
Sep 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Endlessly interesting, thought provoking, wise, fun. One of the few books I think EVERYONE should read!!! Every single paragraph is deliciously loaded with lateral thinking - of things we know, deep down.

I'm so happy they finally wrote this book!!!
Rebecca Oldfield
Jan 04, 2022 rated it did not like it
Disappointing Pseudo-Science: polarizing opinions guising as facts of biology.

As an Archaeology and Anthropology graduate, I was disappointed by this book. This title may appear like it should sit on the ancient history, popular science, or even smart thinking shelf, or that it is a good recommendation for those who enjoyed Sapiens: this could not be further from the case. The book is better shelved next to David Ike. Heying and Weinstein resigned from academia during the 2017 Evergreen college
Michael Setford
Society needs this book: perhaps most importantly because it presents an evolutionarily-based model for understanding our species in all domains, as well as a toolkit for determining how we should best move forward together. To get the most out of this book—if you do not already have a science background—it is imperative that you approach it with an open, yet healthily critical, mind, as the authors do an excellent job explaining complicated evolutionary phenomena for the lay ear.

The most contr
Oct 16, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Laura Woodford
Jan 09, 2022 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I can’t recommend this book at all. It’s very apparent the authors are academics. They can certainly string well worded sentences together and present information within their field of study, but after diving in for about an hour something felt really off. Although they were presenting a broad picture of evolution and where we are today, their opinions and beliefs structures starting leaking through. They interjected their prescriptions of what we need to do in order to avoid doom. I both agreed ...more
Sep 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lot of what is in this book is common sense to me but it seems that it's not common sense to every one. After reading the chapters on parenting and childhood, I actually went and thanked my mom for allowing me to go to funerals, play with friends on my own, and grow and learn by suffering the consequences of my actions. She encouraged me to go outside and tromp through the woods and get injured and solve my own problems and she trusted me to ask for help when I needed. It was almost like she r ...more
Karey Crain
Jan 04, 2022 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
I was hoping for a book that would encourage me to embrace ancestral practices in the modern world, but what I got was exhortation in eschewing modern medicine and other modern conveniences of all kinds.

The premise of this book is that all new things should be treated with suspicion, which is why it comes as no surprise that outside the pages of this book, the authors are spreading misinformation online about lifesaving vaccines and promoting alternative treatments for covid (which coincidental
Jan 16, 2022 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: maybe-later
DNF’d at 6%

Well this is a hard pass. I don’t normally rate books I DNF (how could you give something an overall rating if you haven’t finished it?), but I’m making an exception. Obviously, I didn't make it very far into the audiobook version, but a couple of sentences were worded weird enough that they made me pause and research the book (and authors). Turns out, not only are they right-wing conspiracy theorists, they’re also sexist antivaxers who are aggressively transphobic online. Incredibly
David Quijano
My thoughts on using hunter-gatherers as a guide to better living in the modern world are mixed. On one hand, I am inherently skeptical of people claiming we should live like hunter-gatherers. Some branches of humanity stopped being hunter-gatherers 10,000 years ago. That’s a lot of time to evolve. On the other hand, there are many recent changes in the modern world that seem to have completely disrupted our traditional way of life. It is one thing to switch from being a hunter-gatherer to farmi ...more
Rick Wilson
I picked this up hoping for a meal, and instead got a big serving of junk food. Great claims require great evidence. This book has many of the former but little of the latter.

So, starting with the fact that I agree at a high level with a lot of the things the authors have to say here, I did not think this was a very good book.

The model of “we are hunter gatherers in the world beyond comprehension.” Is one that I regularly think of. It blows my mind that I travel daily in a box at speeds my ance
Sep 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heying and Weinstein are standing athwart modern culture and politely yelling stop. These two academic refugees from a great idea turned racket (Evergreen College) are wonderful teachers. They are the professors we all wished we had experienced and their love/passion for their subject is clear with every chapter of this book. They tell the story of human development to modern day through the lens of practically experienced evolutionary biologists. They start with the beginning of life and procee ...more
Michael David Cobb
Bret and Heather do a show without the jokes. It's worth hearing.

If you have a thing for indigenous ingenuity, this is the kind of book that will make you giddy with delight. To me, on the other hand, it sounds like celebrity name dropping. But that doesn't change the unique wonder of listening to folksy scientists working to popularize deep and consequential ideas that are generally only obliquely referenced by actual hack celebrities.

Their approach to evolutionary biology is methodological a
Andrés Astudillo
Jan 23, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I really want to thank the authors for having written this marvelous book.

I want to explain something. Human biology has been constructed in a natural effort that took millions of years of contrivance, so, biological evolution takes a really, really long time. Our brains are a product of biological evolution, thus our behavior as well. This is explained by -evolutionary psychology-. On the other hand, cultural and technological evolution develops and is transmited way faster than biological evol
Jun 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely eye opening
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Heather E. Heying (Heying, rhymes with "flying") is an American evolutionary biologist and author. She co-hosts the DarkHorse Podcast with her husband and fellow evolutionary biologist Bret Weinstein and writes a newsletter called Natural Selections on Substack. ...more

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