Books to review

HEB Book Reviews

The Human Ethology Bulletin is an online peer-reviewed journal publishing scholarly works within the broad research tradition of Human Ethology. Each volume includes reviews of recently published books that touch on ethology. Below is a list of books we are currently seeking reviewers for. If you are interested in reviewing one of the books on this list please click on the book cover below to automatically contact our book review editor, Amanda Hahn. If you would like to suggest a book not listed below, please click here to share your suggestion.


Books in Need of a Reviewer

The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional
Author: Agustín Fuentes

Fuentes weaves fascinating stories of our ancient ancestors’ creativity, arguing that this key quality has propelled the evolutionary development of our bodies, minds, and cultures, both for good and for bad. It’s not the drive to reproduce; nor competition for mates, or resources, or power; nor our propensity for caring for one another that have separated us out from all other creatures.

From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds
Author: Daniel Dennett

In Dennett’s most comprehensive exploration of evolutionary thinking yet, he builds on ideas from computer science and biology to show how a comprehending mind could in fact have arisen from a mindless process of natural selection. Part philosophical whodunit, part bold scientific conjecture, this landmark work enlarges themes that have sustained his legendary career at the forefront of philosophical thought.

The Origins of Fairness: How Evolution Explains Our Moral Nature
Author: Nicolas Baumard

Baumard explores the theory that morality was originally an adaptation to the biological market of cooperation, an arena in which individuals competed to be selected for cooperative interactions. In this environment, Baumard suggests, the best strategy was to treat others with impartiality and to share the costs and benefits of cooperation in a fair way, so that those who offered less than others were left out of cooperation while those who offered more were exploited by their partners. It is with this evolutionary approach that Baumard ultimately accounts for the specific structure of human morality.

Does Altruism Exist?: Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others
Author: David Sloan Wilson

Does altruism exist? Or is human nature entirely selfish? In this eloquent and accessible book, famed biologist David Sloan Wilson provides new answers to this age-old question based on the latest developments in evolutionary science.

Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations
Author: Dan Ariely

Payoff investigates the true nature of motivation, our partial blindness to the way it works, and how we can bridge this gap. With studies that range from Intel to a kindergarten classroom, Ariely digs deep to find the root of motivation—how it works and how we can use this knowledge to approach important choices in our own lives.

The Bonobo and the Athiest: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates
Author: Frans de Waal

De Waal delivers fascinating fresh evidence for the seeds of ethical behavior in primate societies that further cements the case for the biological origins of human fairness. With vivid tales from the animal kingdom and thoughtful philosophical analysis, de Waal seeks a bottom-up explanation of morality that emphasizes our connection with animals.

Population Wars: A New Perspective on Competition and Coexistence
Author: Greg Graffin

Population Wars is a paradigm-shifting book about why humans behave the way they do and the ancient history that explains that behavior. In reading it, you’ll see why we need to rethink the reasons for war, not only the human military kind but also Darwin’s “war of nature,” and find hope for a less violent future for mankind

What Would Animals Say If We Asked the Right Questions?
Author: Vinciane Despret

Despret argues that behaviors we identify as separating humans from animals do not actually properly belong to humans. Combining serious scholarship with humor, this book poses twenty-six questions that stretch our preconceived ideas about what animals do, what they think about, and what they want.

The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World – and Us
Author: Richard O Prum

A major reimagining of how evolutionary forces work, revealing how mating preferences—what Darwin termed “the taste for the beautiful”—create the extraordinary range of ornament in the animal world.

The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone
Author: Steven Sloman & Philip Fernbach

Humans have built hugely complex societies and technologies, but most of us don’t even know how a pen or a toilet works. How have we achieved so much despite understanding so little? Cognitive scientists Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach argue that we survive and thrive despite our mental shortcomings because we live in a rich community of knowledge.

The Ancient Origins of Consciousness: How the Brain Created Experience
Author: Todd E. Feinberg

After assembling a list of the biological and neurobiological features that seem responsible for consciousness, and considering the fossil record of evolution, Feinberg and Mallatt argue that consciousness appeared much earlier in evolutionary history than is commonly assumed. Combining evolutionary, neurobiological, and philosophical approaches allows Feinberg and Mallatt to offer an original solution to the “hard problem” of consciousness.

The Human Advantage: A New Understanding of How Our Brain Became Remarkable
Author: Suzana Herculano-Houzel

According to Herculano-Houzel, humans have developed cognitive abilities that outstrip those of all other animals – but not because we are evolutionary outliers. The human brain was not singled out to become amazing in its own exclusive way, and it never stopped being a primate brain. If we are not an exception to the rules of evolution, then what is the source of the human advantage?

Cultural Evolution: Conceptual Challenges
Author: Tim Lewens

While making a case for the value of evolutionary thinking for students of culture, Lewens shows why the concerns of sceptics should not dismissed as mere prejudice, confusion, or ignorance. Indeed, confusions about what evolutionary approaches entail are propagated by their proponents, as well as by their detractors. By taking seriously the problems faced by these approaches to culture, Lewens shows how such approaches can be better formulated, where their most significant limitations lie, and how the tools of cultural evolutionary thinking might become more widely accepted.

Review Guidelines

A book review should incorporate your own opinion on the work as well as allowing the HEB readership to learn about the book and whether or not they, themselves, may want to read it. In particular, a review should include discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the book.

The main text of a book review is typically 700-1600 words, unless the text itself is particularly lengthy. Authors will additionally provide a brief description of their relevant background and/or experience. Please contact our book review editor for a full description of the HEB book review guidelines for authors.