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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
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on 10 June 2017
With his clear and accessible writing style and with many facts to throw about, the author succeeds in keeping my attention all the way. Also extremely appreciated is that the author presents all the different points of view, before arguing for one, which may not always seem to be clear to other popular science book writers. Must read!
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on 8 October 2013
I think that if your interested in evolutionary biology you have probably read Dawkins which is informative, well explained and easily digested, this book goes much deeper into the subject into the biochemistry of life, all the big subjects are here and Nick Lane explains them as clearly as possible. But this is not an easy read, a few chapters I had to reread, hard work but rewarding .
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on 22 September 2017
very interesting book. content excellent but spine of the book is very stiff and to open the book out to read it split the spine
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on 26 August 2017
excellent very interesting. Some parts demand great thought and concentration but worth it
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on 17 February 2015
Very interesting and readable
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on 29 June 2009
I don't think it is an overstatement to say that every one of these ten chapters could be expanded to fill ten books! This book is therefore very fast moving, absolutely packed with information and bang up to date.

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!
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on 14 June 2017
This is an excellent book. Nick Lane is a consummate communicator who manages to (mostly) demystify the most esoteric and obscure ideas in biochemistry and evolution. It is full of difficult and often controversial concepts but he manages to strike a good balance between writing for the lay reader and drawing the reader's attention to the scientific disagreements while still justifying his own view of the evidence. He also includes quotes and anecdotes from a wide range of scientific and non-scientific authors that, all in all, adds to the general feeling of erudition as well as injecting some humour into what could a very dry subject. Having said that, however, the from print to the Kindle edition suffers from some appalling and distracting errors. To give a few examples: almost every apostrophe is preceded by a space; many hyphens betray the existence of line breaks in the printed edition which are absent in the digital edition. Worst of all is the haphazard linking of footnotes in the text; the first few chapters are largely accurate but then it breaks down with some non-existent links and some links pointing to completely the wrong footnote. This is such a shame as it spoils the enjoyment and smooth flow of is otherwise an extraordinarily well written and researched book.
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VINE VOICEon 18 March 2010
Life Ascending

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".
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on 27 July 2009
This is one of the best scientific books I have ever read and understood,and written for the non-scientist!! Lane takes the reader beautifully from the origins of life to the finality of death. The chapter on the origins and evolution of sight stands out especially, while the one on photosynthesis isn't far behind.
I will reread it endlessly.
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on 26 February 2010
This book is well worth a read, as unlike many others in this field, the author discusses in detail, a variety of different topics. These topices range from basic cell structure, to muscles, sight, consciousness and death to name a few. For me, some chapters were fasinating (Consciousness)and not long enough, while a couple of others (muscles), were a bit on the long side. It is almost like ten different books in one, and if it were not for a couple of chapters, which I found repetitive, then it would be a definite 5 stars.
Having said that, if you are at all interested in the evolution of life, buy this book.
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