- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Profile Books (16 April 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1861978480
- ISBN-13: 978-1861978486
- Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.4 x 24 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 433,530 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution Hardcover – 16 Apr 2009
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Boldly tackling some of these apparently irreducible complexities... This is a science book that doesn't cheat: the structure is logical, the writing is witty, and the hard questions are tackled head on (Tim Radford Guardian 2009-06-20)
If Charles Darwin sprang from his grave, I would give him this fine book to bring him up to speed. It's a breathless bulletin from the accelerating rush of news about the secrets of life on planet earth. (Matt Ridley)
A clever concept is carried through with a clarity and enthusiasm that belies the sophistication of the science (Guardian Summer Reading 2009-07-18)
Excellent and imaginative and, similar to life itself, the book is full of surprises.... Life Ascending is a fascinating book for anyone interested in life and evolution, and how these discoveries were made (Lewis Wolpert Nature 2009-07-23)
Original and awe-inspiring... an exhilarating tour of some of the most profound and important ideas in biology (Michael Le Page New Scientist)
An excellent book. It is great fun, readable, bubbling over with enthusiasm, and not afraid of controversial, even weird, ideas... Hopeless as a bedside book: you'd never sleep (Chemistry World)
With clarity and vigour... Lane shows how thoroughly, if provisionally, we can reconstruct evolutionary developments (Peter Dizikes New York Times Book Review 2009-08-30)
The emergence of life itself remains obscure. But as Lane shows with clarity and vigor, fascinating studies on the subject abound (Peter Dizikes New York Times Book Review 2009-08-30)
Lane is that particularly rare breed: a scientist who can not only offer a bird's-eye view of an entire field but also tell you about his own very interesting ideas (Carl Zimmer Science)
'If Charles Darwin sprang from his grave, I would give him this fine book to bring him up to speed. It's a breathless bulletin from the accelerating rush of news about the secrets of life on planet earth.' - Matt RidleySee all Product description
Top Customer Reviews
The premise requires covering certain inevitable subjects, and so I approached the dull-sounding chapter on photosynthesis, for example, as a necessary evil: yet who could have expected that the molecular processes involved could be so exciting? Similarly, the unpromising topic of the mechanical operation of muscle fibres turns out to be fascinating. I found the chapter on consciousness comparatively weak, but it asks a lot for a biochemist to crack that one!
The book's apparatus includes illustrations, an annotated bibliography and extensive index. There are also endnotes: these contain commentary rather than citation, so are better read as one goes along (footnotes might have served the reader better).
This book passes my 'bus test': it made me want to get on the bus to work, so that I could continue reading it!
It is a tribute to the writing skills of the author, that the ten separate inventions follow from each other so smoothly and logically.
Particularly outstanding chapters included the subjects of DNA, photosynthesis, sight, hot blood and death. Here, the level of understanding conferred far exceeded the average poular science book.
A few of the chapters proved quite a challenge, notably the origin of life and conciousness. Whilst these subjects arguably deserve their status in the top ten, the difficulty is possibly that they are less well understood by the current status of science.
Overall, if you really want an inspiring, deeper understanding of the mechanics of evolution, I can't fault this book. If however you are fairly new to the subject, then Richard Dawkins classic "The Selfish Gene" still lays the foundations of understanding without dumbing down.
Some subjects really are more complex than a post-it note explanation, intellectual effort is required, but Life Ascending makes the quest both accessible and richly rewarding. An awesome read!
In Life Ascending, biochemist Nick Lane examines his particular candidates for the top ten "inventions" of evolution. These are; the origin of life, DNA, photosynthesis, the eukaryotic cell, sex, movement, sight, hot blood, consciousness and death.
The book itself is a fascinating account of some of the central themes of life, from the origin of life itself, through to consciousness and, finally, death. It is extremely well written by a passionate scientist and provides a clear and lucid insight into current scientific thinking regarding the evolution of the subjects selected for inclusion in the book. While the whole book is comendable, one of my favourite chapters is the very first, which explains how the discovery of submarine hydrothermal and alkaline vents, their structure and chemistry have transformed our understanding of the origin of life on this planet.
The author isn't afraid to tackle some difficult concepts head on and the first 3 chapters in particular deal with some pretty complex biochemistry. Whilst this is obviously intended as a popular science book, I would suggest that it possibly isn't all that suitable for the evolution/science novice.
Overall, a fascinating and well written account of our current understanding of the evolution of the chosen subjects, although if you are looking for a more "introductory" text, or a more general overview of evolution, I would suggest something like Jerry Coyne's excellent; "Why Evolution is True" or Dawkins' most recent offering; "The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution".
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent book and an excellent service from Wordery Highly recommendedPublished 7 months ago by minoru
I bought in hardcover this for my niece (she asked for it) she loves it and it was great for me to be able to buy her a gift that she wanted. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Lizey
Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in the **real** details in micro-biology/chemistry and evolution. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Ralph Hickman
Fantastic read, ideal for all those with an interest in the biosciences.Published 13 months ago by Marlon
While reading the book you have the feeling that you are present at the creation of scientific research and discovery at its best and finest. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Serghiou Const
This book is a new look at evolution via what the author describes as its ‘ ten greatest inventions’, and each of its ten chapters has an appropriate heading: The Origin of Life,... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Brian R. Martin