Thoughts: Your Inner Fish, by Neil Shubin

The third and final book in my Non-Fiction Run! Your Inner Fish is about all the features of the human body that are leftovers from our seagoing ancestors. Lots of evolutionary fun. I’ve had a pretty busy day today, so forgive the shortness of this one. Let’s call it “short but sweet”, like the book itself.

Of all the non-fiction I’ve read so far, this is definitely the easiest read. It’s the most geared towards laypeople with no scientific background, and the shortest too. It also contains a lot of really great anecdotes about Shubin’s own experiences in archaeology, which, as someone who wanted to be an archaeologist (then palaeontologist), were fascinating. There is also a cool website here!

Sometimes I felt like the facts were a bit too simple in places, like I wanted more detail and more facts, as many as could be fit into a book. Occasionally there were things I’d heard before, but the archaeology stories more than made up for it. I never felt cheated, or that I’d wasted my money on something I already knew.

Shubin’s writing style is very clear but he lets his enthusiasm show through – this is a man who really likes weird old animals. A word of warning to those on e-readers though – make sure you know how to enlarge pictures on your e-reader of choice before reading this book! There are lots of cool illustrations and graphics and they appear very small on Kindle (not sure about other e-readers). And my favourite fact? Ear bones and jaw bones! I did not see that coming.

I feel like this was quite a gentle read? This might be affected by my previous subject matter, which includes the injustices and fallacies of intelligence testing and literally the history of most of humanity, so it might just be that there weren’t any terrible things going on here. Not that any scientific subject is necessarily without its controversies, but Shubin felt almost avuncular, telling me all these cool facts about the things we have in common with sharks. Which isn’t a bad thing, of course.

It’s sort of an iceberg book, the succinct result of hours and years of effort, of digs and interpretation and dusting rocks out of the ground. But for anyone interested in the design of the human body, it seems to me that it’s a pretty good place to start.

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