Presenting "Evolution: Making Sense of Life" (and a free app!)

By Carl Zimmer | July 8, 2012 7:54 am

As I’ve mentioned a couple times, I’ve been working for a couple years with biologist Douglas Emlen on a new textbook about evolution, intended for biology majors. It’s scheduled to be published next month, and we’ve gathered some gratifying endorsements. Here are a selection:

Exciting is a word not often used to describe a new textbook. But, by using powerful examples, beautiful images, and finely wrought prose Zimmer and Emlen have produced a text that not only conveys the explanatory power of evolution, but one permeated with the joy of doing science. Their text can only be described as an exciting moment for our field: it is an important accomplishment for our students and for evolutionary biology at large.” –Neil Shubin, University of Chicago, author of Your Inner Fish.

“A richly illustrated and very clearly written text, Evolution: Making Sense of Life brings forth the excitement, power, and importance of modern evolutionary biology in an accessible, yet sophisticated overview of the field.” –Sean B. Carroll, University of Wisconsin, Madison, author of Endless Forms Most Beautiful.

“If there was ever a book that makes it obvious why evolution is a fascinating topic—and a topic that goes to the core of understanding what biology is about—this is it. It truly makes you better understand and appreciate the biological world around us.” –Svante Paabo, Director, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

“Two master craftsmen in the art of scientific communication have combined to produce an excellent basic text on evolution: it informs, explains, teaches and inspires. The illustrations are outstanding.” –Peter R. Grant, Princeton University

“Carl Zimmer and Douglas Emlen have captured in this stunning new book the excitement and richness of twenty-first century evolutionary biology. They describe clearly and elegantly not only what, but also how, we are learning about evolutionary processes and the patterns they produce. The writing is compelling, the illustrations beautiful and truly informative, and the balance between breadth and depth of discussion on each topic just right. This is a book that would make anyone think about becoming an evolutionary biologist today.” –John N. Thompson, University of California, Santa Cruz

“Beautifully written and lavishly illustrated, here’s a superb textbook that can do double duty gracing the coffee table. This book is bound to attract many more students into the field of evolutionary biology.” –Richard Lenski, Michigan State University

“This is not your grandmother’s evolution text. Breathtakingly illustrated, this book covers not only the usual topics in evolution – adaptation, drift, phylogenetic analysis – but also a host of new and exciting areas where groundbreaking research is occurring.” –Marlene Zuk, University of Minnesota

You can pre-order the book on Amazon here. And here is information at the web site at our publisher, Roberts & Company. Excitingly, they are also creating an iPad version of the book, with many interactive features. The app itself is free, and you can use it to download the first chapter (also free). The remaining chapters will be rolling out soon, with the price to be determined later. (No Android version, I’m afraid!)


Comments (9)

  1. Just in time for my Evolution and Human Health course I offer to teachers getting their Masters in Science Teaching of Biology!

  2. Al Cibiades

    No android, no excerpt from Amazon. No iPad therefore no first chapter….
    $100 sight unseen…!

    How about a web page/pdf of first (or nth) chapter…?

  3. MAUCH

    The publisher has a PDF of the introductory chapter at:

  4. Any plans for a Kindle version?

  5. gradstudent

    Wow. The preview looks beautiful. Good work.

  6. Daniel J. Andrews

    You didn’t need to cite all those reviews. You had me at ” new textbook about evolution, intended for biology majors. ” (not as pithy as “Hello”, but good enough). That, and the fact I thoroughly enjoyed your other books.

    It’s 800 pages! Drool!!

    Re: iPad version of the book. Is it identical to the book except for added features, or is there less writing but more interactive components? I like books, but my iPad travels easier. If the writing and information is the same as the book, I’ll probably get the iPad version first, and will download the app soon as I post this.

  7. I am so excited to read this textbook. It should be required reading in high school, alongside perhaps Atlas Shrugged and Anna Karenina. Thanks to Zimmer and Emlen for enriching our lives and minds!

  8. Daniel J. Andrews

    Have read the first two sections of Chapter 1 now. I liked the link to Theodor Dobzhansky’s essay on evolution. I’ve heard that quote numerous times but have never read the full essay till now. I would vote for more media features like that versus playing clips of dolphins in water or an interactive whale evogram (the picture version told me what I needed to know).

    Another example is Figure 1.12. The animated version didn’t add anything that the still figure hadn’t already told me. The clips don’t seem to add anything new (but some people may prefer them to still figures as that’s how they learn). I can see the animated clips useful for some things, e.g. DNA replication, cross-over, mutations, etc.

    Other things I like:
    The media tab that allows me to quickly scroll through the presented figures. I don’t have to flip through the pages if I want a memory refresher. Excellent idea.

    The clickable citations. Icing would be if those citation links also came up with an abstract. And if iPad would allow you to link from there directly to journals for which you have a subscription so you could read the paper itself….

    Key Concepts, and the Quizzes. Also Glossary function. Only took me a few seconds to find synapomorphy and I even started spelling it with an “a”. The ease with which I can jump back to the quizzes from the front menu (Study button).

    The writing is good too, of course. I was a bit ‘worried’ from the intro that the book was going to be too basic (1000 hamburgers all at once, for e.g.), but that ‘worry’ didn’t last long at all. I learned/relearned a number of things just in the sections I read so far. So far it is an informative book that explains the concepts nicely.

    I’m looking forward to seeing the other chapters and how much they will cost compared to the book. I don’t want to be buying chapters piecemeal though. E.g. I could get 2/3rds of them and then the publishers might hike the prices for the last third making it more expensive than the hard copy book or more expensive than anticipated.

    Frankly, I do like the look and feel of a thick book in my hand, and looking good on my bookshelves, but I have lots of thick books I haven’t finished yet because I travel for work so often and can’t take them with me. From what I’ve read so far, I’m probably going to buy the e-version (sigghhh….I feel I may end up buying the soft-cover version as well when it comes out because I like Kindle and iPad but I really like books for reading in bed, a very old habit now).

    Sorry for the long post. I do like good books and this would be my first e-textbook, something that I’ve wished for since before computers were actually used. Nearly 30 years ago I also used to wish I could have my field guides on some Star Trek type reading device so I didn’t have to carry half a dozen guides into the field—heh, jump forward and you can guess what I have now on my iPad and iPod.


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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