I attended the very last lecture of my evolution class this semester last Friday. Like all the rest of the lectures, it was impossibly dull. This professor has made facts out of things I thought could never happen, like falling asleep during a lecture on sexual selection. Despite my professor’s best efforts, however, I’m still interested in evolution.
To make up for my terrible professor, I’ve been listening to this fantastic course on human evolution and doing some reading. In addition to reading my textbook cover to cover (twice) to stay awake through lecture, I read Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, which a friend loaned me last summer and probably thinks he’s never getting back. (If you’re reading this, Dave, I really and truly promise to send you all the books you loaned me.
Genome is a popular science book and you don’t need to know anything about genetics or evolution to get through it. It’s a bit outdated – a lot has happened in the field in the last 10 years, but the basics are solid and not one part is even a little dull. I particularly liked how the book was structured: a chapter for each chromosome and a related theme. I was worried at first that it would feel segmented, but the themes were well connected and very obviously part of the larger whole. One of the fun things about this book is that he focused so much on what we don’t know and how (then) recent findings created far more questions than they answered. That’s how science works and he captured the excitement of that process well.