Book Recommendations
September 16, 2010 2:09 PM   Subscribe

Looking for books on genetics, archaeology, and anthropology for a 14 year old interested in history and non-fiction.

I've been asked by one of our teachers to do some research on interesting books for one of our students. She's a reader, she loves history, non-fiction and biographies. She wants books about popular science, genetics, archaeology and anthropology that are more like non-fiction reading and less like studying.

Having said that, I'm going to bring in a largish stack of ethnographies from my college days, it'll be a start to the anthropology section.

Any recommendations for the rest?
posted by saffronwoman to Science & Nature (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Hm; well some of my favorites are:

Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond.

A Brief History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Mother Nature by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy
posted by emjaybee at 2:17 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Larry Gonick's "Cartoon Guide" series is a great introduction to several fields, and feel more like reading comics than a textbook. I'd recommend Cartoon Guide to Genetics and Cartoon History of the Universe.
posted by cosmicbandito at 2:24 PM on September 16, 2010

YES! on Guns, Germs and Steel. Nothing better for a 14 year old than a grand design narrative.

In the same vein, I suggest Cosmos, by Carl Sagan. It's not just astronomy. It's a history of how humans have discovered the real world, and a spiritual celebration of that beautiful world.
posted by General Tonic at 2:25 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Mithen's books are pretty readable. After the Ice: a Global Human History, 20,000-5000 BC pretty much fits the bill.The Prehistory of the Mind: The Cognitive Origins of Art, Religion and Science is a very speculative theory of mental development from originally distinct organs of thought, but fun to read with a grain of salt.

Cavilla-Sfourza's Genes, Peoples and Languages is I think the less technical, popular version of his The History and Geography of Human Genes, add is a must-read on this subject. Again, his theories, especially on whether genes and memes spread via replacement or transmission, are controversial.

Jared Diamond's books, but note the recent controversies over whether he really knows genocidists.

Donald Johanson, discoverer of "Lucy", has written several enaging books on Lucy and the practice of paleoanthropology. I think I've read and enjoyed Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind. and Lucy's Child: The Discovery of a Human Ancestor.

For genetics:

Trivers who proposed the theory of reciprocal altruism, recently co-authored Genes in Conflict : The Biology of Selfish Genetic Elements which is fascinating but difficult -- it nearly isn't a "pop sci" text as much as a text.

Of course, you want Dawkins's The Selfish Gene and The Extended Phenotype, and probably any of Steven Pinker's popular works.
posted by orthogonality at 2:26 PM on September 16, 2010

Yeah, I came on here to suggest The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins as well. While it's primarily focused on genetics, it gives a nice dose of examples about behavior and game theory, which leads one to wonder about anthropology and ecology. I'm not sure if it's a bit too advanced for a 14 year old though.
posted by lacedcoffee at 2:32 PM on September 16, 2010

A fun book with specific emphasis on women and their traditional work of weaving and spinning is Elizabeth Wayland Barber, Women's Work: The First 10,000 Years.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:36 PM on September 16, 2010

nthing Guns Germs and Steel - that book is exactly what he needs.
posted by AngryLlama at 2:39 PM on September 16, 2010

The Moral Animal by Robert Wright. Genetics; anthropology; enjoyable, nonacademic writing; helps you understand the world.
posted by John Cohen at 2:41 PM on September 16, 2010

These are all wonderful and very helpful. Keep recommending, cause I'm finding things here that I want to read too.
posted by saffronwoman at 2:43 PM on September 16, 2010

For genetics, I would recommend The Seven Daughters of Eve, which I think would be just perfect for an interested 14-year old. (BTW, "Eve" refers to mitochondrial Eve, not Adam-and-.)
posted by Knowyournuts at 4:08 PM on September 16, 2010

Anything by Carl Zimmer, one of the best science journalists out there these days, and one who understands genetics and evolution very very well. I can't imagine a 14 year old boy who wouldn't love Parasite Rex especially. Though it's not explicitly about genetics, it focuses a lot on the special role of parasites, as distinct from the predators and prey that one thinks about normally, and how their impact can really drive ecosystem dynamics. It's a fascinating book full of amazing discussions of particular organisms, a quick read, and one that totally changes how you look at nature.
posted by Schismatic at 4:15 PM on September 16, 2010

The Mute Stones Speak
The Greek Stones Speak.
Old, but not bad, not bad at all.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:56 PM on September 16, 2010
Really enjoyed the easy reading style of this book when I was younger
posted by Redhush at 7:33 PM on September 16, 2010

Dawkins again, The Ancestor's Tale
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:23 PM on September 20, 2010

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