I first heard of Jared Diamond a few years back, when a summer student at the lab I was interning in, happened to mention him. The discussion was about Ethiopian success in the Olympics, especially in athletics. From there, the conversation moved to traits associated with hunter-gatherers versus agriculturists, and that’s when Guns, germs and steel was quoted. I was ignorant of the book and Diamond at that point, which was embarrassing for two reasons. Not only is Diamond a well-known biologist and popular science writer, but also because the conversation was with an undergraduate engineering student.
Jared Diamond’s work has crossed paths with me several times since then. In the General Biology class, with Prof. Gadagkar during introductions in the Animal Behaviour class (when I could smugly say I was reading the book), Kartik’s course on Community Ecology and in Hari’s introduction to his Ph.D. work (where he mentions Diamond’s work with birds in Papua New Guinea). Three years since I first heard of it, I’m still trying to finish it (I blame it on the small print) but I’m sure I will someday. When I do, I’d probably follow it up with the book on the left . Here’s why one might want to skip it, and here’s why one wouldn’t.
For the Animal Behaviour book assignment, I was handed A fish caught in time. The Search for the Coelacath by Samantha Weinberg. It is a very exciting story starting from the mystery surrounding the first fish which walked on land, to finding living populations of its predecessor in African and Indonesian waters. The human characters in coelacanth’s history show rich contrasts as well, from unyielding adventurers to ruthless scientists. Primed after reading this book, I got really excited about the Tiktaalik discovery back in 2006. The author of the second book on my list is one of the paleontologists who discovered the Tiktaalik fossil. Here is why one might read his book, Your inner fish.