One of the joys of reading non-fiction and especially science books is that the readers can increase and consolidate their knowledge and wisdom. This is especially the case when a relatively small book can bring overarching focus to the big picture.
I was thrilled to find a real gem of an interesting reading experience at the Norfolk Public Library the other day. The Universe Within — Discovering The Common History Of Rocks, Planets, And People by Neil Shubin was sitting on a shelf in the new books section. I must admit that I was a bit wary of the promise of so many topics to be contained within the covers of such a thin book.
Well, the book exceeded my expectations by a mile. Shubin has cogently presented the history of earthly life in easy to understand language that doesn’t talk down to the reader. I was amazed at how beautifully the interdependence of astronomy, geology, botany, paleontology, biology, and anthropology came together in this book. Shumer’s thesis is that the evolution of the universe itself is mirrored in our human bodies. The story of the evolutionary journey is a real page turner.
Rock and fossil hunting around the ice cap in Greenland provides the contemporary ground for the exploration of the tale of the human race. His personal adventure in codiscovering the fossilized fragments of Tiktaalik roseae, a small rodent-like creature begins the adventure.
As a lover of history, I was happy to read Shubin’s historical accounts as he gives credit and a resume’ of past researchers and scientists who contributed to the scientific canon. The personalities and pathways to their discoveries add to the warmth of the writing style. Neil Shubin’s writing style is entertaining but not pandering.
If you find yourself nodding off or getting stuck while reading Stephen Hawking, you’ll be glad to find that Shubin is more accessible. On the other hand, he has yet to develop into a personality such as Carl Sagan displayed. His first hand accounts of his own research efforts and adventures, paired with rock-solid data make The Universe Within a must-read popular scientific work.
The Universe Within — Discovering The Common History Of Rocks, Planets, And People by Neil Shubin. 225 pages, hardcover, Pantheon books. ISBN: 978-0-307-37843-9
The Blue Jay of Happiness found this book to be an eye-opening treasure.