Book Review: 'The Origin of Our Species' by Chris Stringer


Hey Readers!

 Today a very rare event has happened... Almost as amazing as Jason selling a caravan (for The Apprentice fans only)... It's above twenty degrees!!! I know it might seem immature, but I think a fabulous event such as this deserves more than one exclamation mark. Therefore I have taken the opportunity to sit out in my garden and write a post, instead of doing useful things that I said I would do, such as clear out my stuff from my brother's room in preparation for his return home from University this weekend. 

 To many of you, this is going to be a particularly boring review as I'm reviewing this strange thing called a 'non-fiction book'. This isn't just any non-fiction book though, this is one that talks about mtDNA, neutral drift and electron spin resonance. Yes, this book indulges me in my really geeky passion: Human Evolution. Just typing those words makes me happy.

 Chris Stringer, the author, is an incredibly intelligent guy and Research Leader of Human Origins at the Natural History museum in London (here is his page – it's rather nice to see somebody who didn't study at Oxford or Cambridge). My point is – as far as human evolution goes, this guy is the bomb. He also clearly likes skulls, judging by the pictures that come up on Google images. However this one [source] is my favorite, as he is clearly pondering which budding paleoanthropologists he is inspiring, and clearly thinking that the perfect one would have a blog and a slight crush on William Shakespeare. Cough cough.

 Originally I wasn't planning to read this book, but another of his: Homo Britannicus. I was pointed in that direction by the anthropologist teacher at my school when I told her about the fascination with human origins. So I wandered off to Waterstones and this was the only one of his I could find – I count that as a blessing. This is a pretty awesome book. Heavy stuff for somebody who is only doing their GCSEs. It was rather lovely for me as I already knew about 30% stuff from other reading, so I could really focus on and learn the really brilliant stuff like this:

 "Many domesticated dogs have an accentuated white scelera [the white of the eye], compared with their wild wolf ancestors, which perhaps evolved to augment the close relationship between dogs and humans"

 You have to admit- that's pretty cool. That was then followed by:

"Another remarkable feature of modern humans is the large size of the penis."

 The book covers a huge variety of topics: methods of dating objects (not like that you cheeky thing), art, communication, life ways,  genes, and the future evolution of Homo sapiens (us). The last topic was really interesting- Stringer offered up two opposing points of view: we have stopped evolving, and we are evolving at a very fast rate. The former, I imagine (although if not do comment below), is rather clear in why, but the latter argued that humans are having to constantly adapt and evolve to the different and environments and cultures we have found ourselves in of the last multiple thousand years as they have constantly changed.

 I do, however, have two issues with this book. The first being that I really needed a notebook, so I could jot down all the important and interesting facts Stringer splurges out of me as I had a habit of forgetting them quickly, so there were great swathes where I had no idea what he was taking about and found myself just nodding along and going "Yes... I know exactly what you talking about...". My second issue being whatever material the cover is made from- please could the publisher stop using it! It's rather rubbery and terribly distracting. 

 So reader, if this summer you're up for something a bit (hugely) interesting that will keep the cogs of your mind turning while you switch off from education, then why not go with this? It's fascinating, surprisingly amusing, and full of facts to sprout out at your friends (you could dazzle them with your knowledge of the human penis) then I would recommend you have a go at this- which I have given four stars.

 On a side note, if you managed to get to the end of this post, then you deserve a prize. Which comes in the form of this charming summer ditty that I had on repeat while writing this blog:

Have a lovely day!



  1. Ooh, it seems like a very interesting book. This is a great, very well-written review.

    I laughed at the bit about it being over 20 degrees because I would love love love if it was below 20 degrees here in Dubai right now. It's going up into the 40's every afternoon and the heat is so annoying because it just saps your energy.

    1. Haha :P To be perfectly honest I'm not a big fan of the heat as it usually results in mugginess, which just makes me really stressy and horrible to be around... So 22-25 degrees is my perfect temperature... Heat is totally overrated ;)