Some Assembly Required: Decoding Four Billion Years of Life, from Ancient Fossils to DNA (Paperback)
“Fossils, DNA, scientists with a penchant for suits of armor—what’s not to love?”—BBC Wildlife Magazine
Over billions of years, ancient fish evolved to walk on land, reptiles transformed into birds that fly, and apelike primates evolved into humans that walk on two legs, talk, and write. For more than a century, paleontologists have traveled the globe to find fossils that show how such changes have happened.
We have now arrived at a remarkable moment—prehistoric fossils coupled with new DNA technology have given us the tools to answer some of the basic questions of our existence: How do big changes in evolution happen? Is our presence on Earth the product of mere chance? This new science reveals a multibillion-year evolutionary history filled with twists and turns, trial and error, accident and invention.
In Some Assembly Required, Neil Shubin takes readers on a journey of discovery spanning centuries, as explorers and scientists seek to understand the origins of life's immense diversity.
“A rollicking ride . . . It’s light of touch, anecdote-rich and funny . . . satisfyingly informative . . . Fossils, DNA, scientists with a penchant for suits of armour—what’s not to love?”-- BBC Wildlife Magazine
"Another winner from Dr. Shubin, who skillfully and thoughtfully steers us through the incredibly fascinating world of DNA and fossils. Dr. Shubin’s clear and engaging writing rewards us with a deeper understanding of how all life on our planet is interconnected. Steeped in the paradigm of evolutionary theory, he inspires us to think more deeply about our connectedness with the natural world. Charles Darwin would applaud Dr. Shubin’s clear explanations and insightful rendering of the incontrovertible evidence for the evolution of all life on planet Earth."—Donald Johanson, director, Institute of Human Origins; discoverer of “Lucy”
“Neil Shubin shows himself to be a natural storyteller and a gifted scientific communicator.”—Wall Street Journal
"Intimate and thoughtful . . . Exciting . . . [A] sweeping evolutionary history . . . One of the book’s best features is a 30-page notes section at the end, in which each note could be fodder for an entire volume. These notes are separated by chapter, and many tell a short, engaging story, often accompanied by annotated suggestions for further reading. Readers will want to peruse this section and follow up on some of those readings."—Science
"Neil Shubin has been one of my favorite science communicators ever since I took his undergraduate anatomy course. In this ambitious and readable book, Shubin blends his own research, epic tales from the history of science, and the latest discoveries in paleontology and genetics to tackle some of the biggest mysteries of evolution. This is an engrossing account from a scientific storyteller at the height of his talents."—Steve Brusatte, University of Edinburgh paleontologist and author of The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs
“Shubin is a brilliant scientist storyteller—an eloquent narrator, who draws you into his rich, evolving world of walking fish and mutant flies, prehistoric birds and precocious biologists. Part adventure, part mystery, with twists and turns you couldn’t make up if you tried, Some Assembly Required is an irresistible read!"—Robert M. Hazen, Carnegie Institution for Science, and author of Symphony in C
"Through tales of remarkable creatures, and some even more remarkable people who study them, Neil Shubin unravels the mystery at the heart of evolution—how nature invents. From bacteria to brains, fish lungs to ballistic salamander tongues, Shubin decodes the surprising origins of the marvelous gadgets that have driven the riot of life’s diversity.”—Sean B. Carroll, author of The Serengeti Rules and Brave Genius
"[Shubin's] four-billion-year history from ancient fossils to DNA presents the true picture to the general reader, with engaging portraits of contributing scientists past and current."—Nature
"He has done it again. Shubin gives us an insightful, fun, and authoritative look at the big story of life and its major transformations. In Some Assembly Required, one encounters curious scientists, surprising histories and a clear sense of the ways in which a diversity of scientific perspectives provides a richer view of life than could any one perspective on its own. This terrific book is new and exciting enough to engage a biology professor (Rob) and clear and engaging enough to fascinate a high school student (Olivia). We couldn’t put it down (or rather, one of us would put it down for a minute only to have the other pick it up)."—Prof. Rob Dunn, author of Never Home Alone and Olivia Sanchez Dunn, high school student
"Enjoyable . . . Eloquent . . . This superb primer brings the intellectual excitement of the scientific endeavor to life in a way that both educates and entertains."—Publishers Weekly (starred)
“A welcome new exploration of the evolution of human and animal life on Earth . . . Shubin explores it with his characteristic enthusiasm and clarity . . . A fascinating wild ride.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“Exhilarating . . . [Shubin] is one of the best.”—Booklist (starred)
“A pleasure to read . . . The exposition is clear enough to be followed by readers without background scientific training, but the range of topics discussed, the choice of illustrative details, and the historical and biographical background are such that I would expect even experts to find much in this book to inform and delight. The endnotes, as well as providing leading references and background material of interest to those who wish to dig deeper, add numerous interesting details worthy of the attention of any reader.”—3 Quarks Daily