Evolution: Making Sense of Life

Co-author Doug Emlen is interviewed by Nature about creating an ebook version of Evolution.

“If there was ever a book that makes it obvious why evolution is a fascinating topic—and a topic that goes to the core of understanding what biology is about—this is it.” —Svante Pääbo, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

In 2011, science writer Carl Zimmer and evolutionary biologist Douglas Emlen teamed up to write a textbook intended for biology majors that would inspire students while delivering a solid foundation in evolutionary biology. The result was Evolution: Making Sense of Life, a widely praised textbook that introduces the fundamental concepts of evolutionary theory, such as natural selection, genetic drift, phylogeny, and coevolution, while also driving home the relevance of evolution for disciplines ranging from conservation biology to medicine.

Now in its third edition, Evolution offers riveting stories about evolutionary biologists at work everywhere from the Arctic to tropical rain forests to hospital wards, the book is a reading adventure designed to grab the imagination of the students, showing them exactly why it is that evolution makes such brilliant sense of life.

Evolution: Making Sense of Life is accompanied by extensive online resources. If you teach an evolution class you can request a free exam copy here.

What People Are Saying

Neil Shubin, University of Chicago
Exciting is a word not often used to describe a new textbook. But by using powerful examples, beautiful images, and finely wrought prose, Zimmer and Emlen have produced a book that not only conveys the explanatory power of evolution, but is also permeated with the joy of doing science. Their text can only be described as an exciting moment for our field: it is an important accomplishment for our students and for evolutionary biology at large.

Sean B. Carroll, University of Wisconsin, Madison
A richly illustrated and very clearly written text, Evolution: Making Sense of Life brings forth the excitement, power, and importance of modern evolutionary biology in an accessible, yet sophisticated overview of the field.

Peter R. Grant, Princeton University
Two master craftsmen in the art of scientific communication have combined to produce an excellent basic text on Evolution: it informs, explains, teaches, and inspires. The illustrations are outstanding.

John N. Thompson, University of California, Santa Cruz
Carl Zimmer and Douglas Emlen have captured in this stunning new book the excitement and richness of twenty-first-century evolutionary biology. They describe clearly and elegantly not only what, but also how, we are learning about evolutionary processes and the patterns they produce. The writing is compelling, the illustrations beautiful and truly informative, and the balance between breadth and depth of discussion on each topic just right. This is a book that would make anyone think about becoming an evolutionary biologist, today.

Marlene Zuk, University of Minnesota
This is not your grandmother’s evolution text. Breathtakingly illustrated, this book covers not only the usual topics in evolution—adaptation, drift, phylogenetic analysis—but also a host of new and exciting areas where groundbreaking research is occurring. It also shows how evolutionary biology is done, with glimpses of the real people behind the discoveries.

Richard E. Lenski, Michigan State University
Beautifully written and lavishly illustrated, here’s a superb textbook that can do double duty gracing the coffee table. This book is bound to attract many more students into the field of evolutionary biology.

Bronwyn H. Bleakley, Stonehill College
I think my students will be genuinely more at ease with their reading assignments and more able to assimilate and retain information from this text. The authors use their expert narrative skills to focus on the big conceptual ideas, which is what matters most in my students’ long-term education.

Sarah Tishkoff, University of Pennsylvania
Evolution: Making Sense of Life provides a comprehensive and compelling overview of the field of evolutionary biology. The text contains beautiful illustrations and up-to-date examples from recent research articles. The depth and breadth of the material, ranging from bacteria to humans, will be of interest to students, faculty, and the general public alike.