The Book of Humans by Adam  Rutherford
(Orion, 2018)

The Book of Humans

by Adam Rutherford

We like to think of ourselves as exceptional beings, but are we really any more special than other animals? Humans are the slightest of twigs on a single family tree that encompasses four billion years, a lot of twists and turns, and a billion species. All of those organisms are rooted in a single origin, with a common code that underwrites our existence. This paradox - that our biology is indistinct from all life, yet we consider ourselves to be special - lies at the heart of who we are.

In this original and entertaining tour of life on Earth, Adam Rutherford explores how many of the things once considered to be exclusively human are not: we are not the only species that communicates, makes tools, utilises fire, or has sex for reasons other than to make new versions of ourselves. Evolution has, however, allowed us to develop our culture to a level of complexity that outstrips any other observed in nature.

The Book of Humans tells the story of how we became the creatures we are today, bestowed with the unique ability to investigate what makes us who we are. Illuminated by the latest scientific discoveries, it is a thrilling compendium of what unequivocally fixes us as animals, and reveals how we are extraordinary among them.


Adam Rutherford is a master storyteller. The Book of Humans is packed to the brim with intriguing tales, clever twists and up-to-the-minute scientific discoveries, offering a completely new perspective on who we are and how we came to be.”
- Hannah Fry, author of Hello World
If teaching is what makes humans special, then Adam Rutherford is superhuman - the paragon of teachers, a truly gifted transmitter of knowledge: lucid, enlightening, witty and delightful.”
- Kate Fox, author of Watching the English
I've learned more about myself and my species than I thought possible. A beautiful, compassionate book exploring not just human nature but also the human condition. I'm more in love with Adam Rutherford's writing than ever.”
- Angela Saini, author of Inferior
I loved this book - an outstandingly clear and witty account that shows beyond doubt how much we are part of the animal world, and yet at the same time how different we have become.”
- Henry Marsh, author of Do No Harm
[Adam Rutherford] writes with intellectual authority and also, as a popular lecturer and broadcaster, expresses himself in a clear and persuasive manner with natural charm”
- The Spectator
[The Book of Humans] is deftly outlined, concisely constructed and filled with intriguing observations and anecdotes. Rutherford is an engaging, witty writer. He is also a concise one. After several vast but worthy tomes about human nature that have been published recently, that makes this pithy homage to our species all the more welcome. An entertaining and blessedly succinct read.”
- The Observer