Reading is one of the most magical things that we can do. The creation of written language goes back thousands of years, and constitutes “History”. Anything before systems of writing were invented, is determined to be “Pre-History”. Considering that writing has only existed for around 5 ky, and our species has been around for nearly 300 ky, most of our time on this earth is indeed, pre-historic. But once we discovered the magic of writing, our worlds expanded to bounds we had no concept of achieving before. Writing and reading allowed us to manage people and systems in ways that allowed populations to grow, for cities to form, for laws and regulations to be made and followed.
Reading has been an essential skill to the human experience for thousands of years. But, as with all things, reading evolves and changes. Sometimes we want to read a great book that we have heard about, or one that has been on our waiting list for a long period. A great new way to “read” books, is via listening to them. This comes in the form of audiobooks.
There are many providers of audiobooks out there, and you are free to use the service that you would prefer, the links provided here are to just get you to the book so you can have an idea of where and how to purchase it. Audiobooks are truly the next evolutionary step in reading and writing. It allows us to consume knowledge and wisdom while we do other tasks, such as driving, or doing chores. Multitasking may in fact be a less effective way to achieve tasks, but in some cases it is beneficial; and this is one of the cases.
Audiobooks are a great way to introduce the world of reading to people who may have trouble reading, for whatever reason, or for those who just do not have the time to sit down and read a good book. Thankfully, I have created this list of some of the top audiobooks that I have listened to that will enlighten you on the world of anthropology. All of these audiobooks, in my opinion, are 5 stars and are well worth the read. They are not listed in any particular order, and are all worth listening to, or getting a copy of and reading.
And with no further ado, here we go!
The Book of Hope by Dr. Jane Goodall
The Book of Hope by Dr. Jane Goodall is a wonderful tale of why we need to always look for the light at the end of the tunnel. While things may seem dark, both socially, economically, environmentally and more, there is always a way in which we can help. Even if we do the small things in life to contribute to the health of the planet, we can help those who need it most. There are massive ways we can change and develop new ways to live on this world, in a way that will not destroy it, or us. Listen to Jane herself, as she recounts many of her tales from her long, and exciting life. There are many ways in which we can find hope, and this book is a great way to plant and grow that seed.
The World Before Us by Dr. Tom Higham
The World Before Us is a great adventure into the past of Neanderthals, Modern Humans, and our relationships with them, which is found in the DNA. Dr. Higham is an expert in the fields of radio carbon dating, and exerts his expertise in this book to explain the last 50k years or so of human evolution. If you are interested in the history of radio carbon dating, as well as updates on the new dates for many well known sites, which reveals new information, and causes us to ask even more questions. As science develops, we are able to apply new techniques to old discoveries, which is what the focus of this book is, and the author does a great job of doing so.
First Steps How Upright Walking Made Us Human by Dr. Jeremy DeSilva
Dr. Jeremy DeSilva is a paleoanthropologist who is fascinated by the aspects of what caused us to start to walk upright, or bipedally. In this book, we explore the many theories, both plausible, and less plausible, that allowed for us to make this biological change. There are many reasons why we may walk bipedally, and in this book we explore many of those reasons in a well written, easy to understand way. Discover the history of some of the most famous fossil finds, such as those at Laetoli. Dr. DeSilva is on the cutting edge of bipedalism and the effects it has on the human body.
KINDRED Neanderthal Life, Love, Death, and Art by Rebecca Wragg Sykes:
Kindred is one of those books, which absolutely takes you on a journey. A journey through time with another set of people who were different, and thought differently than we do. Yet their world, is expressed in ways that we can understand. While many scholars will point to the fact that this is very much a book for anyone, with interpretations made through out, some with less backing than others, this is still an amazingly well researched book, which presents itself well in a way that is easy to process. This book is science communication at some of its best. If you are interested in Neanderthals, there is no better book to stay up to date and learn the very most about our enigmatic relatives.
Sapiens: A brief History of Humankind by Yuvai Noah Harari:
Considered to be a cornerstone of “what a moderne anthropologist should read” by many, the author of this book does not mince words. Analyzing the last 7 my or so, up until the rise of modern civilizations and the age of today, this book touches on a great deal of what it means to be a. Human in today’s society, and what it may have meant in the past. This book is a long, very scientifically written book, that, while not above the average reader, does require their full attention at times to understand what is going on. Despite that, another great addition to the list.
The Sediments of Time by Meave Leakey with Samira Leakey:
In this book, which is in a sense an autobiography of the author, with the help of her daughter, to recount the tales and stories of her time in the fields fossil hunting in Kenya (and other localities). Being an accomplished fossil hunter herself, being married to the son of the most famous, or at least boisterous fossil hunter to ever live, Richard Leakey. As a member of the “Hominid Gang”, Meave has a very unique and interesting view on the events that took place in Africa and the fossil world around these times, and if you are interested in the history of the field, this is a must read, especially in the light of the passing of Dr. Richard Leakey earlier this year.
The Creative Spark, How Imagination made Humans Exceptional:
The Creative Spark by Agustin Fuentes is wonderful book in understanding human behavior, from our earliest relatives, to the way that we behave today. Gong deep inside the reasons for why we do what we do and act how we act, this narrative is a great way to explore the human psyche, and to learn all about the evolution of our thoughts and minds. The Author does a great job of catching the readers attention, and keeping them entertained, and educated the entire time. If you are looking for a book on the early thoughts on human cognition, this is a great option for you!
The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by David Groeber & David Wengrow:
Written by two very well trained archaeoanthropologists, (one of whom which passed before the completion of the book), this book takes a very different approach on history and anthropology than any mainstream book before. Taking ideas that we have all long held dear, and shaking their foundations, and to their core. While the topics may not be new, the way in which the authors examine them in this book is beyond new thinking. While controversial for some, this book is on the leading edge of understanding what it means to be human in todays day and age.
Almost Human: The Astonishing Tale of Homo naledi and the Discovery That Changed Our Human Story by Lee Berger & John Hawks
This is truly an astonishing tale, not based so much on the anthropology itself, but rather of the life of a discoverer, and some of the massive discoveries he has made and contributed to this field. H. naledi is a new enigmatic species of human ancestor that continues to create new, and dramatically interesting questions about who they were, where they came from, and how they got in the incredibly hard cave that they were discovered in. Read along as you join the Rising Star cave expedition, and learn all there is to know about Homo naledi in the early days of its discovery.
Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes by Svante Pääbo:
If you are interested in Neanderthals, and their history, then this is another great book for you. While it does not focus on their culture, or who they were as a people, its main focus is the more genetic, the down right scientific. Within the last twenty years we have obtained, and deciphered the entire Neanderthal genome, but this did not start no where, and there has been a tremendous amount of work that has been put into this project. But there has been a great amount of reward from these endeavors as well. But what will come next? Read on to find out!
Well there you have it! While of course there are many other great books out there that did not make it on to this list, either because I felt these options were better, or perhaps even because I have not heard of, or read the books on your list! But I would love to hear what some of your top reads are!
Whether you are an amateur anthropologist and just starting out, or someone more adept in the field, all of these books listed here have something to offer, and I highly recommend checking each one out, and giving them a chance! Thank you, and happy reading!
World of Paleoanthropology