Author: Neil Shubin
Type: Non-fiction, single subject
Full title: Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body
I read it: November 2013
A solid introduction, overview, or refresher of the patterns of evolution, depending on your previous knowledge. I picked it up mostly because I wanted to read about the cause of hiccups, which came at the very end of the book (it has to do with the breathing mechanisms of both fish and tadpoles–damn that glottis). The chapters generally cover certain body parts and plans, such as teeth, vision, and scent detection. While his skills are not at the very top of the popular science author game, Neil Shubin does an admirable job of blending fact and personal narrative with enthusiasm. He was one of the primary paleontologists to uncover Tiktaalik, the fish/amphibian transitional fossil that was key to illustrating the basic processes of evolution. This find was important for many reasons, but one of the key reasons was because it was predicted: Shubin and his team knew what type of creature to look for in which type of geological era, and they eventually found it. It’s a wonderful scientific success story. The author makes sure to hammer home our shared ancestry with humble creatures so that we can better know our species and ourselves. While Dawkins’ The Ancestor’s Tale is the master work in this area, Shubin’s book is more approachable and concise and should engage any science-curious reader.
The book also inspired a blog post that I’m particularly proud of, “Life’s Hiccups.”