An iconoclast and best-selling author of both nonfiction and fiction, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas has spent a lifetime observing, thinking, and writing about the cultures of animals such as lions and wolves, dogs, deer, and humans. In this compulsively readable book, she provides a plainspoken, big-picture look at the commonality of life on our planet from the littlest microbes to the largest lizards.
Inspired by the idea of symbiosis in evolution – that all living things evolve in a series of cooperative relationships – Thomas takes readers on a journey through the progression of life. Along the way she shares the universal likenesses, experiences, and environments of "Gaia's creatures", from amoebas in plant soil to the pets we love to proud primates and Homo sapiens hunter-gatherers on the African savanna. Fervently rejecting "anthropodenial", the notion that non-human life does not share characteristics with humans, Thomas instead shows that paramecia can learn, plants can communicate, humans aren't really as special as we think we are – and that it doesn't take a scientist to marvel at the smallest inhabitants of the natural world and their connections to all living things.
A unique voice on anthropology and animal behaviour, Thomas challenges scientific convention and the jargon that prevents us all from understanding all living things better. This joyfully written book is a fascinating look at the challenges and behaviours shared by creatures from bacteria to larvae to parasitic fungi, a potted hyacinth to the author herself, and all those in between.
1. About This Book
2. Our Bedroom
7. Dry Land
10. Arthropods on Land
19. From Monkeys to the Missing Link
20. The Line to Homo sapiens
22. Why Do We Look the Way We Look?
23. The San, Formerly Known as Bushmen
24. Gaia’s Rule One: Find a Source of Energy
25. Gaia’s Rule Two: Protect Yourself
26. Gaia’s Rule Three: Reproduce
27. The Present
28. The Future
Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, an anthropologist and animal behaviourist, has published thirteen previous books, including the New York Times bestseller The Hidden Life of Dogs, Dreaming of Lions, The Tribe of Tiger, The Old Way, and The Hidden Life of Deer. Her most recent book is Tamed & Untamed: Close Encounters of the Animal Kind, coauthored with Sy Montgomery. She lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire.
"A skillfully written, well-informed, and accessible reverie on the nature of life on Earth, both fascinating and highly recommended."
– Susan Waggoner, Foreword Reviews
"Life comes in countless variations, yet all are based on the same biological principles. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas loves them all – from lichens to fungi and from crocodiles to primates – and puts us on a time machine to go back to the turns evolution has taken, many of them surprising, and one of them leading to us."
– Frans de Waal, author of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?