Book Review

Book Review: The Ancestor’s Tale

This highly acclaimed book from the world’s best-known evolutionary biologist takes an interesting approach to its narrative.

Expressed in a format that is a homage to Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’, there are no chapters but mini stories as we travel on our journey back through time to unite the branches of the evolutionary tree (the Neanderthal’s Tale, The Gibbon’s Tale, The Peacock’s Tale etc) until we reach the dawn of life itself.

Each ‘Tale’ discusses the modern creature in depth and the features of the extinct species from the time when the evidence suggests that species split from all others. It is a sensible way of doing it, especially if he is attempting to appeal to people who know little about evolution but are curious to understand. Recommend this to your creationist friends!

Love him or hate him, it cannot be denied that Dawkins is a superb popular science writer proving that academic writing need not necessarily be heavy and dull, and that a light hearted narrative with an approachable writing style need not lack substance. At over 600 pages it may seem a daunting read at first but the flow blends the Tales seamlessly, meaning that you’ve covered a hundred pages before you know it.

One of Dawkins’ best, right up there with ‘Climbing Mount Improbable’


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