We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access.
Call anytime(888) 283-5051
Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human | [Richard Wrangham]

Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human

Ever since Darwin and The Descent of Man, the existence of humans has been attributed to our intelligence and adaptability. But in Catching Fire, renowned primatologist Richard Wrangham presents a startling alternative: our evolutionary success is the result of cooking. In a groundbreaking theory of our origins, Wrangham shows that the shift from raw to cooked foods was the key factor in human evolution.
Regular Price:$19.99
  • Membership Details:
    • First book free with 30-day trial
    • $14.95/month thereafter for your choice of 1 new book each month
    • Cancel easily anytime
    • Exchange books you don't like
    • All selected books are yours to keep, even if you cancel
  • - or -

Your Likes make Audible better!

'Likes' are shared on Facebook and Audible.com. We use your 'likes' to improve Audible.com for all our listeners.

You can turn off Audible.com sharing from your Account Details page.

OK

Audible Editor Reviews

There are good reasons why, given a choice between raw and cooked food, most primates - including monkeys, chimpanzees, and the vast majority of humans - prefer their food cooked. For starters, cooked food is easier to eat and richer in both flavor and nutrients. Although we humans aren’t the only animals who would rather eat our food like this, we are the only ones who get to make the choice. In Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, author Richard Wrangham argues that the extra energy provided by the cooking process paved the way for the evolutionary transition from ape to man.

Though the purpose of his book is to illustrate this “cooking hypothesis”, Wrangham’s skill as a writer obviates the need for compromise between entertaining and informing his audience. His narrative is replete with fascinating examples and well-chosen anecdotes, like the story of Dr. Beaumont, whose significant contributions to our understanding of digestion came largely from his experiments on St. Martin, a patient whose life he had saved after St. Martin was accidentally shot. The incident left Beaumont’s patient with a permanent hole in his stomach - and a window through which to view gastric processes.

Kevin Parseau delivers a wonderful narration of Catching Fire that is consistently in harmony with the book’s tone and content. Parseau has a deep, musical voice and an unhurried but lively sense of pacing. His reading contains an element of wonder common to the greatest science and nature narrators, without ever taking on an undesirable, zealous character.

Wrangham’s compelling scientific discourse is, in itself, a little like cooked food. Significant studies from the fields of anthropology, evolutionary biology, and nutrition are carefully distilled and broken down. Each of Wrangham’s arguments is carefully thought-out, rich in a variety of evidence, and clearly presented - in short, his ideas are both easy to digest and substantive, and the result is an intellectually satisfying, fascinating exploration of what makes us human. –Emily Elert

Publisher's Summary

Ever since Darwin and The Descent of Man, the existence of humans has been attributed to our intelligence and adaptability. But in Catching Fire, renowned primatologist Richard Wrangham presents a startling alternative: our evolutionary success is the result of cooking.

In a groundbreaking theory of our origins, Wrangham shows that the shift from raw to cooked foods was the key factor in human evolution. When our ancestors adapted to using fire, humanity began. Once our hominid ancestors began cooking their food, the human digestive tract shrank and the brain grew. Time once spent chewing tough raw food could be used instead to hunt and to tend camp. Cooking became the basis for pair bonding and marriage, created the household, and even led to a sexual division of labor.

Tracing the contemporary implications of our ancestors diets, Catching Fire sheds new light on how we came to be the social, intelligent, and sexual species we are today. A pathbreaking new theory of human evolution, Catching Fire will provoke controversy and fascinate anyone interested in our ancient origins - or in our modern eating habits.

©2009 Richard Wrangham; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

  • Top 10 Books of 2009 (Dwight Garner, The New York Times)

  • Books of the Year 2009 (The Economist)

"[A] fascinating study...Wrangham's lucid, accessible treatise ranges across nutritional science, Paleontology and studies of ape behavior and hunter-gatherer societies; the result is a tour de force of natural history and a profound analysis of cooking's role in daily life." (Publishers Weekly)

"Catching Fire is convincing in argument and impressive in its explanatory power. A rich and important book." (Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (387 )
5 star
 (142)
4 star
 (139)
3 star
 (73)
2 star
 (19)
1 star
 (14)
Overall
4.1 (186 )
5 star
 (83)
4 star
 (62)
3 star
 (27)
2 star
 (9)
1 star
 (5)
Story
4.0 (184 )
5 star
 (68)
4 star
 (66)
3 star
 (38)
2 star
 (8)
1 star
 (4)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Tom Cincinnati, OH, United States 05-17-11
    Tom Cincinnati, OH, United States 05-17-11 Member Since 2001
    HELPFUL VOTES
    11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    3
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Not what I expected"

    True, I could have paid more attention to the title, or read the reviews carefully, but I thought this book was going to explain how cooking "grew up" over the ages. What it accounts...over and over and over again is the anthropology not so much of cooking in itself, but how cooking exists in primitive cultures. Interesting in one sense, but not at all what I was expecting. This book had promise it just couldn't deliver.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Madeline Salt Lake City, UT, United States 01-18-11
    Madeline Salt Lake City, UT, United States 01-18-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    17
    3
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Catching Fire"

    A must read for those interested in human evolution. Writing is a bit dry and repetative, but the punch line is intriguing.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim Holland, TX, United States 01-09-11
    Jim Holland, TX, United States 01-09-11 Member Since 2010

    Jumps on his bed while licking the bottom of one foot. He persists in this life affirming act despite interference from the head nurse.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    67
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    54
    29
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    6
    0
    Overall
    "Listen to Half the Book"

    Imagine a dry but appealing apple whose second half is spoiled. Dr. Wrangham once again ruins his work with terrible anti-male bias that no doubt sets well with the p.c. harpies at Harvard, where he is employed, but has been a thorn in this reader's side ever since buying his earlier book "Demonic Males." This text has eight chapters. The first five are well worth the listen as Wrangham is obviously quite intelligent, well read, well traveled and experienced. His credentials as a primatologist are outstanding. One sees him every once in a while on television, standing in a jungle, chewing on gorilla fodder, spitting it out and saying how bad it tastes. His idea that cooked food shortened the human gut, reduced human teeth, and enlarged the human brain, and therefore explains periods of major changes in human evolution, is an excellent insight. He writes in a terse manner, economical of words. His logic is generally well reasoned--although not always. If one reads carefully there are genuine non-sequiturs involving obtuse examples that have only vague connections to a subject under discussion, as well as post-hoc errors of logic which really don't prove anything. Dr. Wrangham also relies too much on examples to prove his points, ignoring others that don't. An argument based only on selected examples is faulty. By the second half of his book Wrangham moves much into speculation: "it might have been that" and "maybe" and "perhaps," etc. The second half is also repetitive; Wrangham made his points well in the first half of his book and should have quit there. Finally, the doc couldn't resist inserting two chapters full of misandrism, and by so doing throws his scientific objectivity out the window. Beginning in chapters six and seven ("How Cooking Frees Men" and "The Married Cook") the doc gets up to his old tricks of man-bashing. He should see another type of doctor, who would help him probe hidden childhood memories.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karin W. Dublin, CA USA 12-24-10
    Karin W. Dublin, CA USA 12-24-10 Member Since 2008

    Fantasy and Romance Author

    HELPFUL VOTES
    151
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    99
    36
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    14
    0
    Overall
    "Interesting,but also a tad repetitive"

    The author has some very interesting observations about the nutritional differences between raw food and cooked food, the adaption of the human mouth and digestive system to cooked food, and some provocative theories on how cooking influences gender-based roles and inequalities in society. It's certainly a thought-provoking work, even if I don't agree with some of the conclusions he's drawing from his evidence.

    However, I am finding that the frequent repetition of facts and theories, coupled with the narrator's oddly-paced and rather wooden style, more than a little off-putting. The audiobook runs a bit less than seven hours, but at about six hours in, it feels like I've been listening to it a lot longer!

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    tchite 09-19-14
    tchite 09-19-14 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    36
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fire necessary for survival for 2 millions years"
    Any additional comments?

    Thoroughly convincing that humans can not and could not survive without fire. Humans can not be human without it. Homo Habilis seems to have done all the heavy lifting in getting us from smart-ape to the modern form of human (at least from the neck down) about 2 million years ago. Homo Habilis seems to have started the stone age and learned to control fire and cook. What an accomplishment!

    Next came Homo Erectus about 1.8 million years ago. If you put a Homo Erectus in a business suit and saw him on a bus in Manhattan, you might not look twice. From the neck down he would look completely normal. He'd be a little freakish looking from the neck up. But with a hat and sunglasses.... Behaviorally, however, he might be very unpredictable and dangerous. I digress.I feel I learned a great deal about humanity from this book. And the information contained here would be hard for a layman to obtain from any other source. It appears that the conclusions reached in this book have provoked some dischord by upending human development timelines from archeology. This new synthesis pushes the use of fire back about a million years. That's rocking the boat. How much fun is that!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William 07-10-14
    William 07-10-14 Member Since 2014
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "How my audible book review process caught fire"
    What made the experience of listening to Catching Fire the most enjoyable?

    Learning about expensive tissue theory, and the highlights of evolutionary digestion made listening to this most enjoyable.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    The Origins of Political Order From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama


    What does Kevin Pariseau bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Kevin Pariseau has a "David Attenborough-like" narrative quality. He also nails some tribal pronunciations to great enjoyment.


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    The expensive tissue theory is the most interesting tidbit from this book.


    Any additional comments?

    I found this book to be a bit dry at points. Yet overall, I must admit it is rather illuminating. As a novice/outsider to evolutionary anthropology, I feel like it bridged a gap in understanding for me. Particularly, the thesis/thrust of the book linking how cooking with fire changed our ancestors diet patterns and then in turn their cognition and behavior. The expensive tissue theory with the reallocation of tissue from the gut to the brain is mind blowing. I would like to learn more about that from a biochemist's point of view. Also, towards the end, he goes into the current trends and studies surrounding nutrition and metabolism. I would be curious to learn more about contemporary studies akin to David Atwaters experiment, that could foster better nutrition labeling and hopefully curb the pandemic of obesity in America and abroad. Worth a read, but certainly worth a listen. Thanks Audible!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gilbert Clarence Center, NY, USA 05-14-14
    Gilbert Clarence Center, NY, USA 05-14-14 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    101
    10
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Food for thought..."
    If you could sum up Catching Fire in three words, what would they be?

    enlightening, insightful, thoughtful...


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Catching Fire?

    the dawn of the separative job assignments....


    What about Kevin Pariseau’s performance did you like?

    Nice rhythm and tone


    If you could give Catching Fire a new subtitle, what would it be?

    Why we cook???


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cindy Olympia, Wa 04-19-14
    Cindy Olympia, Wa 04-19-14 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    23
    20
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Interesting and well done"

    I recommend this book. It provided interesting information, which was presented well. Worth the credit!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. C. Thailand 02-05-14
    J. C. Thailand 02-05-14 Member Since 2012

    I live in Thailand, and love to listen to audible.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    22
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    27
    20
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "So interesting, it will change your perspective"

    I loved this book! It will change everything you ever knew about cooking, men and women, evolution, nutrition, and life for us humans here on earth, compared to animals. It is shocking. A definite must read, great narration too! If you ever wanted to know why we are different from animals, this answers it. Listen and find out.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer San Francisco, CA, United States 04-18-13
    Jennifer San Francisco, CA, United States 04-18-13 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    83
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    86
    39
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Compelling Premise"

    I found this book compelling in both ideas and ease of listening. The author provides a well-supported glimpse into the shaping of human culture, from brain and species evolution to gender roles. I had to laugh in agreement that, indeed, regardless of professional or business life, in the end, women are the cooks for men and family. Enlightening to hear a view as to why. This book has generated great conversation at our evening dinner table and continues to perk in my mind.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 11-20 of 26 results PREVIOUS123NEXT

    There are no listener reviews for this title yet.

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

Cancel

Thank You

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.