This book derives from a set of three lectures. It is written in an easy style that is obviously related to the author's lecturing style (and I have had the good fortune to hear him lecture). Being based on three lectures, it isn't a great thick tome of a book; rather, it is as economical of words as the author can make it, and not a lot longer than the original texts of the lectures, I guess. Tomasello has a very good idea of how much and how fast a reader can absorb information and ideas, and the text is easy-going, easy reading and not over-demanding. The ideas are based on research work much of which has been carried out by the author and his colleagues, comparing the performance of chimpanzees with that of young children at different stages in their growth towards being socialised individuals with all the necessary cultural, cognitive and symbolising skills. For me as an prehistoric archaeologist it offers lots of fascinating information, answers all sorts of questions, and it also provokes some difficult questions about how Homo sapiens has evolved the advanced, complex and abstract skills that underpin the human ability to live in large-scale communities. Probably about a third of the book is made up of the responses written by a number of Tomasello's peers, people coming from related research fields whose research he has used. And that makes interesting reading, too. A very unusual kind of book.
This book is a landmark explanation simply because it tells you that having a "good enough" attachment process as a baby and child will result in you being an ultra-social and highly cooperative creature and this is the norm not the exception. This norm is endlessly repeatable. Its origin is currently unfathomable but analysis of the human genome revealed the cooperative aspect of life has been stripping out the beneficial genes from historic malignant viruses for billion of years suggesting very strongly that competition whilst vital for novelty or innovation is subordinate to cooperation. Great work by Michael Tomasello!