We like to think of ourselves as exceptional beings, but are we really any more special than other animals? Humans are the slightest of twigs on a single family tree that encompasses four billion years, a lot of twists and turns, and a billion species. All of those organisms are rooted in a single origin, with a common code that underwrites our existence. This paradox – that our biology is indistinct from all life, yet we consider ourselves to be special – lies at the heart of who we are.
In this original and entertaining tour of life on Earth, Adam Rutherford explores how many of the things once considered to be exclusively human are not: we are not the only species that communicates, makes tools, utilises fire, or has sex for reasons other than to make new versions of ourselves. Evolution has, however, allowed us to develop our culture to a level of complexity that outstrips any other observed in nature.
The Book of Humans tells the story of how we became the creatures we are today, bestowed with the unique ability to investigate what makes us who we are. Illuminated by the latest scientific discoveries, it is a thrilling compendium of what unequivocally fixes us as animals, and reveals how we are extraordinary among them.
Dr Adam Rutherford is a science writer and broadcaster. He studied genetics at University College London, and during his PhD on the developing eye, he was part of a team that identified the first genetic cause of a form of childhood blindness. He has written and presented many award-winning series and programmes for the BBC, including the flagship weekly Radio 4 programme Inside Science and The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry with Dr Hannah Fry. He is the author of two previous books, Creation, which was shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Prize, and A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived.
"Adam Rutherford is a superb communicator, who eruditely explores the borderlands of history, archaeology, genetics and anthropology in this fascinating tour of our species"
– Dan Snow
"Charming, compelling and packed with information. I learned more about biology from this short book than I did from years of science lessons. Adam Rutherford has a knack of making complex ideas understandable – and also fun. Our species is a lot stranger than I'd ever realised, but a lot more normal too. A weird and wonderful read."
– Peter Frankopan
"An outstandingly clear and witty account that shows beyond doubt how much we are part of the animal world, and yet at the same time how different we have become."
– Henry Marsh
"Adam Rutherford is a master storyteller. The Book of Humans is packed to the brim with intriguing tales, clever twists and up-to-the-minute scientific discoveries, offering a completely new perspective on who we are and how we came to be."
– Hannah Fry
"This delightful and charming book will change the way you see yourself, and your place in the natural world"
– Ed Yong
"I've learned more about myself and my species than I thought possible. A beautiful, compassionate book exploring not just human nature but also the human condition. I'm more in love with Adam Rutherford's writing than ever."
– Angela Saini
"If teaching is what makes humans special, then Adam Rutherford is superhuman – the paragon of teachers, a truly gifted transmitter of knowledge: lucid, enlightening, witty and delightful."
– Kate Fox