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The Wisdom of the Bones (thoughts)

December 12, 2008

Hello Darlings! It turned out my fibro wasn’t quite done; a stomach bug brought it right back. I’m finally feeling better, but that means that I am so behind on stuff to do I can’t even think about it without wanting to cry a little. I’m sure I’ll get through it, and the best part is that I’ll be home on Thursday night, when I can get back to blogging regularly (and get those reading lists up and running for the World Citizen Challenge!).

All of that being said, I’m going to do a quick review of Alan Walker’s The Wisdom of the Bones, just to keep myself in the habit. ;) Walker is a paleoanthropologist who has spent much of his professional career researching the ancestors of homo sapiens. This book, written in 1996, is centered around his discovery of an almost-complete skeleton of an adolescent male of homo erectus (the species thought to be the ‘missing link’ between humans and our common ancestor with apes). Thus, Walker’s study of the skeleton drives the book. But interwoven with this are chapters covering the history of the search for the missing link and lots of scientific information. There’s a good balance between the science stuff and the personal stuff-Walker’s own experiences digging in eastern Africa, and various character sketches of other scientists on a similar question. And while the book is full of well-told anecdotes and well-explained science, its greatest strength is that it always keep the big picture in mind: our fundamental need to know who we are. The result is an erudite, compelling account of the scientific attempt to discover our history.

That being said, every once in awhile it seems like Walker is indulging in score-settling (when discussing how his views differ from other scientists’ theories). Also, towards the last quarter of the book, the scientific details start coming fast and furious. The tone feels a bit different from the rest of book, and for awhile it was a little jolting. These details dropped it from five stars to four, but it’s still well-worth the read. Recommended!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 13, 2008 5:47 am

    It sounds great! I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, but I might have to pick this one up. :)

  2. December 13, 2008 10:42 am

    Oh, I’m so sorry you aren’t feeling well still/again. I hope you get feeling better in time to finish off the semester with a flying colors!

    Sounds like a very interesting book. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

  3. December 13, 2008 1:12 pm

    I’m sorry to hear you weren’t feeling well, Eva! I’m glad you’re doing better now.

    The book sounds excellent, even with the problems in the last quarter. You always recommend great nonfiction!

  4. December 14, 2008 3:41 am

    Jessi, I hope you enjoy it! :)

    Rebecca, thanks so much. Fibro has definitely been making itself known lately.

    Nymeth, thank you! I’ve read a lot of good nonfic this year. :)

  5. December 14, 2008 7:01 am

    Hope you feel better soon.

  6. December 16, 2008 7:07 am

    Oh thank you Eva! Rich has about 30 books on human evolution (one of his many passions), but I’m fairly certain he doesn’t have this one. And I’m always on the lookout for book ideas for him! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    And sweetie, I hope this time you’ll stay feeling good for a nice long time!

  7. December 16, 2008 10:32 am

    Jeane, thanks!

    Debi, wow-I hope Rich likes it. It seems like such a heavy responsibility for my poor little book blog! :)


  1. The Sunday Salon: the Privileged Post « A Striped Armchair

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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