One Minute With: Chris Stringer, palaeoanthropologist

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

In Earls Court: I'm looking through the window and can see a green square with children playing in it.

What are you currently reading?

'Earth' by Richard Fortey, a colleague at the Natural History Museum. I was not long ago in Italy, and he discusses the geology of Italy – such as Vesuvius.

Choose a favourite author, and say why you admire her/him

William Golding is someone I have read and admired a lot. He does reveal much about the dark side of human nature. 'The Inheritors' is one of my favourite books.

Describe the room where you usually write

It's a very tall Edwardian room, with big windows and high ceilings. I have a desk in the corner with my laptop set up. I often have music playing in the background – 'Late Junction' on Radio 3.

What distracts you from writing?

Emails and text messages. At the [Natural History] Museum, if I don't deal with them on a regular basis, they pile up.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

A character who fascinated me as a child was the unnamed time-traveller in HG Wells's 'The Time Machine'. I read quite a lot of Wells as a teenager.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

All ages, and always full of questions. There's a wide range of people who read the books, from schoolchildren to retired people who for the first time have the chance to read. I get to hear people's pet theories about human evolution. There are some interesting ideas out there!

Who is your hero/heroine from outside science?

I'm tempted to say Jesus Christ – but I'm not a Christian. He provided a code for living, but unfortunately built on that is a superstructure that he never intended.

Chris Stringer's new book is 'The Origin of our Species' (Allen Lane)