Written In Stone: The Hidden Secrets of Fossils and the Story of Life on Earth, By Brian Switek

Things won't only get better

In this enthralling book, Brian Switek offers a popular introduction to evolution, challenging the view that life develops from primitive to "advanced" forms through a series of linear, law-like mechanisms.

He focuses on so-called "transitional" species – feathered dinosaurs, wading whales – whose discovery in the fossil record proved Darwin's notion of a messy, contingent process which results in a few successful adaptations and a great many evolutionary cul-de-sacs.

Switek's narrative is sweeping and fast-paced, and he has a knack for communicating difficult scientific ideas to a lay audience. Given how accessible his account is, I think he could have done without crowd-pleasing vulgarisms like "prehistoric poop".

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