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Publisher's Summary

The best-selling author of A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived investigates what it means to be human - and animal. 

Evolutionary theory has long established that humans are animals: Modern Homo sapiens are primates who share an ancestor with monkeys and other great apes. Our genome is 98 percent identical to a chimpanzee's. And yet we think of ourselves as exceptional. Are we? 

In this original and entertaining tour of life on Earth, Adam Rutherford explores the profound paradox of the "human animal". Looking for answers across the animal kingdom, he finds that many things once considered exclusively human are not: In Australia, raptors have been observed starting fires to scatter prey; in Zambia, a chimp named Julie even started a "fashion" of wearing grass in one ear. We aren't the only species that communicates, makes tools, or has sex for reasons other than procreation. But we have developed a culture far more complex than any other we've observed. Why has that happened, and what does it say about us? 

The Book of Humans is a new evolutionary history - a synthesis of the latest research on genetics, sex, migration, and much more. It reveals what unequivocally makes us animals - and also why we are truly extraordinary. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2019 Adam Rutherford (P)2019 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"A smooth, expert, and often startling history that emphasizes that no behavior separates us from other animals, but we remain an utterly unique species." (Kirkus)

What listeners say about The Book of Humans

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Scattered and anecdotal

Adam Rutherford is expert and intelligent, and writes, and narrates, in an entertaining way. But halfway through Humanimal (which I've just given up on), I'm really not finding anything to hold onto. Occasionally he injects an interesting story,but there isn't much structure to the book as a whole -- it's like finding raisins scattered around in the dough for Irish soda bread.. So you walk away with a few factoids to work into a cocktail party conversation, but not much else, as far as I can see.

To clarify, a "factoid" was originally a false statement presented as true, though it's also come to mean a small, entertaining piece of information. Factoids in the latter sense are very often simply wrong, for example because they're misinterpretations, or,speculation dressed up as fact, or research claims that didn't stand up. Adam Rutherford clearly has good sense, and has presumably seen the primary sources, but,here, and in the print edition, he doesn't tell you what those sources are -- you just have to take his word for it, just as he's taken their word for it,. Together with the overall lack of focus, that kills the book for me.

6 people found this helpful

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Too Short

I find Dr. Rutherford a very good read and an even better listen to. I can't imagine anyone else reading his works that would give one the feeling of talking to you from across a cafe table. He is writing about things he has come to believe and he is not afraid to say when he disagrees.

2 people found this helpful

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Amazing Story!

What an amazing book! I found it not only extremely accurate but also captivating. This book covers a lot of history, a lot of archeology, tons of biology. If your interested in learning about how humans compare to the world around us and how we got to where we are today this is definitely the perfect book for that.

1 person found this helpful

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This is Worth a Second Listen

I wasn't certain that a book of this length could adequately organize and condense the natural history of our species into a meaningful narrative. Truthfully, having read far longer, more detailed accounts of human development, I was skeptical. However, Adam Rutherford presented this survey clearly and provided a broad context for closer examination of various human evolutionary topics. It takes skill to remain focused on a complex subject and render it down to the most relevant points so that it makes sense to laymen.

The material presented is dense; it might not be as clear to me without previous background knowledge on the topic. Much was familiar, but I found it valuable to view the simplified parts as they make up the complex development of our species. Using a familiar analogy or cliche, this book viewed the "forest" from a distance rather than focusing on each individual "tree or leaf." There is value in doing that. I am impressed with Rutherford's ability to distill this complex subject into an understandable, very accessible book. For me, a second reading would be worthwhile...

1 person found this helpful

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good but not great

Good review of current science of how we evolved, but lacked compelling quality of Harrari's Sapiens. The author's voice is that of a fun but slightly smug and preachy professor directing his cute jokes and slightly patronizing admonishments at undergraduates

1 person found this helpful

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Misleading Title

For a book called "The Book of Humans" the author spends about 70% of it talking, at great length, about other species. Not primates, mind you. Literally every other species. Half of the book is an excruciating, painstaking discussion of the sexual habits of various nonhuman animals. He has a bad habit of belaboring a point ad nauseam. It could be excused if these discussions could occasionally be turned back to an analysis of humanity, but the author invariably says, to the effect, "we must be careful not to draw conclusions from other animals to our own behavior." So, then why bring it up? If you are interested in a five hour lecture on the way various animals indulge in self-gratification, by all means, this is an excellent book. If you want a book that delves into actually researching human biology and evolution, I would take a pass.

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Humanimal is an outstanding read!

Adam Rutherford packs a ton of information that is interesting, educational & enjoyable to read. His storytelling skills make even the most intricate scientific concepts digestible & meaningful. I was thoroughly impressed, and I feel smarter from this experience.

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This was a rambling narrative.

I kept on waiting for the other shoe to drop in this book I failed to see any significant points that he made. He seemed to dwell on the nonreproductive sex acts of a variety of animals. The narrative had some interesting scientific points throughout the narrative. But they were few and far between. Essentially a waste of my time.

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You think you know this stuff already, but it helps to REALLY learn about ourselves.

It may be short by comparison, but it’s packed with information! I really liked the enthusiasm behind the narration and it helped keep me engaged. Be prepared to rewind a few chapters (several times) because you’ll really want to absorb this information.

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Wow! What a Tour de Force!

Biology and Culture examined from a spectacular keen mind. What makes us (humans) different from other animals, even when individual features of commonality may be found. Rutherford is just personal enough in his encyclopedic integration to hold our interest throughout. Wow!