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The Book of Humans: The Story of How We Became Us
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The Book of Humans: The Story of How We Became Us

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  543 ratings  ·  83 reviews

We like to think of ourselves as exceptional beings, but is there really anything special about us that sets us apart from other animals? Humans are the slightest of twigs on a single family tree that encompasses four billion years, a lot of twists and turns, and a billion species. All of those organisms are rooted in a single origin, with a common code that underwrites ou

Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Published September 13th 2018 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson (first published 2018)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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Kat Kennedy
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m not what you would consider a science-literate person. But I thought this book was well-written and thoughtful. There should probably be some warning for readers though that the subject of coercive sex is brought up in the animal kingdom.
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a thoughtful, informative book that doesn't really achieve what it sets out to do. It seeks to show how we became uniquely human. But the first 2/3 actually shows how many of our attributes including tool use, fire use and different kinds of sexual behaviour are seen elsewhere in nature. In the last 3rd, Rutherford traces how we got here by looking at genetics, palaeontology and more parallels from animal behaviour. Ultimately, he suggests, our sociability and urge to communicate allowed ...more
Mar 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
To say we have dominated the globe would be an understatement. We have conquered the highest mountains, reached deep into the oceans, become one of the few mammals that can fly and even been in the unique position of having had a select number of people leave the planet when they ventured into space. We tend to think of ourselves as exceptional, but are we? When you look at it from a bigger perspective, we are a single twig on a four-billion-year-old family tree that has countless species and lo ...more
Tanja Berg
This was an interesting book on what makes human unique and how we have become so successful. Nothing much new here, but very easy to read if the territory is unfamiliar.
Yousif Al Zeera
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I have no concrete scientific background other than casual readings into science. This book didn't disappoint my 'scientific ignorance'. An enjoyable pop science book right from the beginning. Lots of interesting examples from the animal kingdom on various topics. Definitely convinced me to have a look at his other books (and his shows!) I had yet to check out his show at the BBC but from his writings (and his narration being the narrator of the book as well), I can feel how great would be his s ...more
Cam Lidstone
Rutherford writes well. However, the Book of Humans was often lacking in deeper explanations and sometimes frustrating when the author tries to avoid anything taboo.

For instance, when discussing the causes of our motives and whether they may be for survival or reproduction he didn't explain the invaluable distinction between ultimate and proximate causes.

Although it's very readable, I wouldn't recommend it unless you only wanted to dip your toes into evolution and animal behaviour.
Aug 19, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ultimately Rutherford tells us we are special. The usual anthropocentric hubris.
Shabbeer Hassan
A very well-written book on an oft-pondered upon issue - What makes us human? Is it our culture, ability to transmit and write stories or ability to develop tools?

Rutherford makes a passionate case for us humans not being so different from the animals at all. We traditionally have been guilty of thinking us to be the pinnacle of an evolutionary ladder (nothing like that exists btw) and of late, anthropomorphising animals to such an extent that we start projecting human conditions/behaviour in t
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I love how this book as much seeks to bring arrogance about human exceptionalism down a peg or two, as it seeks to reinforce how wildly amazing homo sapiens scientifically, genuinely are from every other creature in existence on the planet. Of course, this answers no questions, but rather adorns and illuminates long-held speculations over what exactly, if anything, makes humans more special than any other mammal.

The tone and style of Adam Rutherford's books are also just so readable; being a presenter,
Feb 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an intriguing look at the fine lines that separate humans from animals, and yet really, there is not a lot of distinction genetically. The descriptions of DNA and genetic codes were easy enough to follow, and yet at the end I found myself not really close to understanding the brilliance of science and nature. I believe the point of the book was to inform readers that despite the marvelous advances in scientific research, DNA coding, continual theory, speculation, and scientific experimentat ...more
Sam Worby
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable pop science from one of my favourite radio presenters.
Todd Martin
Masturbating Bear

Human beings share a common ancestor with all of the other living species that can be found on the Earth. We therefore have much in common with other creatures. Yet, there’s also something that sets us apart. Perhaps the most obvious is that humans are far and away the most narcissistic of nature’s creations, thus we want to read books about the traits we have in common with other animals and things that make us unique.

Humanimal: How Homo sapiens Became Nature’s Most Paradoxical Creature—A New
Florent Diverchy
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting reading, especially the second part, focus on what makes us different, like our puzzling pair of Chromosome 2.
The book just suffers the same problem as much similar books: when comparing men to animals, exemples are given in reasonable quantities for each aspects, but suddenly explode when starting to talk about sex. It's just like the authors are thinking: "Let's give them what they want, it's good for the business". Apart from this disproportion, really pleasant reading.
Andrew Lucas
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very accessible introduction to some major questions about how humans got to be the way we are. In a fast-moving field, this is an up-to-the-minute guide to the latest science for non-scientists, covering intriguing issues. Recommended. read it before it gets out of date!
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
maybe for a biologist, this book would be too simple. but for this borderline biology-ignorant physicst, it was perfect! i love adam's podcasts (bbc inside science and curious case with hannah fry), but decided to give this book a go after he was a guest on sean carroll's mindscape podcast.
it is written in simple enough terms for a layman to navigate (i got a bit lost with the genes and dnas and proteins in the last third). loved the way it is organized, and the quotes from darwin made me
Angelique Simonsen
Very interesting and such an easy read
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Up there with the best books I've read, ever. Superb stuff from Dr Rutherford.
Dec 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The effort to distinguish humans from the rest of the animals has filled volumes since before Darwin took his fated voyage on the HMS Beagle: tools, war, sex habits, language. In his latest book, The Book of Humans: The Story of How We Became Us, geneticist Adam Rutherford looks at each of these things and how our behaviour is different to and often surprisingly similar to other animals. The use of tools eg. was once seen as the main distinguishing factor that made us unique but scientists have ...more
Annette Jordan
Evolutionary history and evolutionary biology are fascinating subjects, and in his latest book, Humanimal, author Adam Rutherford takes a look at what sets humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, and asks if we are truly as unique as we have been led to believe. Broadly speaking he looks at a variety of behaviours that are often regarded as uniquely human , ranging from speech and communication , to art and the use of tools and even sex for pleasure rather than procreation and finds ex ...more
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
My mother in law keeps giving me BBC sponsored pop-science books to read and thinking that they'll blow my mind. Mr Rutherford (through his frequent subjective footnotes) appears to be that kind of liberal that is always trying to be more progressive than his neighbour. He rails against the usage of the word 'man' to represent 'mankind' to represent 'humans' to represent homo-sapiens and determines everything culturally appropriate to be 'natural' and observable in the natural world and everything society shuns to be'hus''kind''' ...more
Canuck Mom of Three
It was probably a mistake to read this book right after finishing Yuval Noah Harari's exceptional Sapiens. The contrast between these two books could not be more stark. They both deal with similar subject matter, but where Harari is incredibly logical and coherent in the exposition of his ideas, Rutherford's book seems like a disorganized mish-mash of recycled bits from his various other writings. Reading this book feels like sitting next to a drunk intellectual in a bar. While his individual anecdotes ...more
Holly Law
I enjoyed the penultimate chapter and I can’t stop telling people that giraffes have more homosexual than heterosexual sex 🦒 but that’s the only enjoyment I got out of this book. If I’m being generous it could well be the subject itself just doesn’t float my boat.
Evan Cohen
Mar 12, 2019 rated it did not like it
a work of fiction, total nonsense
Christian Oltra
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
Simplistic interpretations, incoherent presentation of chapters. I could not finnis it.
Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even though this book touches on a myriad of complex and important subjects, it is actually a light read. It does have quite a lot of scientific jargon, but I believe it is actually easy to read as there are plenty of explanations as footnotes.

One great thing about this book, and the way the author wrote it, is that it plainly states that scientific theories and hypothesis are not laws, they are just that, theories and hypothesis. Sure most of them have been proven by physical observ
Realms & Robots
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Humanimal is an examination of what it means to be human from a genetic and biological standpoint, and how our definers mirror those of what we consider ‘animals.’ Rutherford presents a well-researched guide to humanity – from our bodies to our behaviors to our cultures. Human history is a long, drawn out story and Humanimal makes it fascinating.

You’ll learn a lot about the ways different animals match human behaviors and genetic makeup. How do animal brains compare to human brains?
Roo Phillips
A book specifically on evolution of the human species. The history generally starts with the common great ape ancestors and moves forward from there. There was one section on sex and reproduction in the animal kingdom that was particularly fascinating, which is the reason for the 3rd star. If you want to know what goes on sexually in the wild, you'll get a good taste of it in this book. There's actually nothing "tasty" about it. Everything you can imagine happens, and probably a number of things ...more
Jeff Kaye
Nov 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Adam Rutherford writes in a way that seems to carry the reader with him on a journey that he makes exceedingly comfortable through his story of humans. It is a story of difference - why we are from the same source as all the other creatures (and non-creatures) on this planet yet humans enjoy (if that is the right word) so many evolutionary-derived abilities that have led to so many cultural transformations that we are incredibly different.

This is an entertaining book and one written to provide
Per Kraulis
A nice read about several topics in the evolutionary history of humans. Since I have read several other books in this area recently, not much was new for me, but I think this is a good book for those who want an introduction. The writing is mostly fluid and easily read.

Towards the end of the book he poses the question why humans reached "modernity" (by which he means, I think, a material and artistic culture that produced artifacts) much later than Homo sapiens became clearly the sam
Amit Verma
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book does difficult work of making complex topics simpler and interesting at the same time, so that non technical reader may enjoy and learn a lot of things about our past and how it unfolded.

Book is engaging description of how humans used tools, language, teachings,fire and art to conquer the earth and how we became better than our cousin apes and all the mammals, who share many similar genetic features.

After a slow first chapter, book becomes rainbow of fabulous f
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Adam David Rutherford (born 1975) is a British geneticist, author, and broadcaster. He was an audio-visual content editor for the journal Nature for a decade, is a frequent contributor to the newspaper The Guardian, hosts the BBC Radio 4 programme Inside Science, has produced several science documentaries and has published books related to genetics and the origin of life.
“Nature is not cruel, it is simply indifferent,” 0 likes
“As a species, all the things we do are unique, and are also seen all over the natural world.” 0 likes
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