The Story of the Human Body

  • by Daniel Lieberman
  • Narrated by Sean Runnette
  • 14 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In this landmark book of popular science, Daniel E. Lieberman - chair of the department of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University and a leader in the field - gives us a lucid and engaging account of how the human body evolved over millions of years, even as it shows how the increasing disparity between the jumble of adaptations in our Stone Age bodies and advancements in the modern world is occasioning this paradox: greater longevity but increased chronic disease.
The Story of the Human Body brilliantly illuminates as never before the major transformations that contributed key adaptations to the body: the rise of bipedalism; the shift to a non-fruit-based diet; the advent of hunting and gathering, leading to our superlative endurance athleticism; the development of a very large brain; and the incipience of cultural proficiencies. Lieberman also elucidates how cultural evolution differs from biological evolution, and how our bodies were further transformed during the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions.
While these ongoing changes have brought about many benefits, they have also created conditions to which our bodies are not entirely adapted, Lieberman argues, resulting in the growing incidence of obesity and new but avoidable diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. Lieberman proposes that many of these chronic illnesses persist and in some cases are intensifying because of "dysevolution," a pernicious dynamic whereby only the symptoms rather than the causes of these maladies are treated. And finally - provocatively - he advocates the use of evolutionary information to help nudge, push, and sometimes even compel us to create a more salubrious environment.

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What the Critics Say

"No one understands the human body like Daniel Lieberman or tells its story more eloquently. He's found a tale inside our skin that's riveting, enlightening, and more than a little frightening." (Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run)
"Monumental: The Story of the Human Body, by one of our leading experts, takes us on an epic voyage that reveals how the past six million years shaped every part of us - our heads, limbs, and even our metabolism. Through Lieberman's eyes, evolutionary history not only comes alive, it becomes the means to understand, and ultimately influence, our body's future." (Neil Shubin, author of Your Inner Fish)
"A lucid, engaging account of how the human body evolved and the increasing disparity between the jumble of adaptations in our Stone Age bodies and the modern world." (Publishers Weekly)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Humans are dynamic not static

I loved the first half of this book. It's hard to find a good book on human evolution. The author steps you through the evolutionary development of man from 2.3 million years ago to 250 thousand years ago and does this part of the book as good as or better than any other book on the topic. He principally looks at why the homo species decided to walk upright and become bipedal and considers the relative advantages and the disadvantages that this brought. It's hard to find good books on that topic. I never grow tired about learning about Neanderthals, Denisovans and early man. He actually develops a theory that our evolution and development is best thought of in terms of calorie (energy) consumption and usage a pretty good theory at that.

At near the midway part of the book, the author says that he used to stop his lectures on human evolution at 40 thousand years ago. I wish he stopped the book at that point, but, unfortunately, he did not.

He states that the agricultural and industrial revolution are the worst things that ever happened to us and he seems to mean it. (He quotes Jared Diamond to that effect, but Diamond might say that but doesn't dwell on that in his much better books than this one). The author tells the listener that modern hunter gatherer groups live longer and with less pain when you factor out tobacco and alcohol. All the negative things the author says about our diet and exercise (lack thereof) is true, but we are learning and we are moving ahead and adapting culturally.

I'm a rational optimist. Humans are dynamic and we are learning as we progress and we just don't stand still as more data becomes available to us. The author is right, adult onset diabetes (Type II) is a scourge for out bodies, but we are changing are behaviors and we are learning from our past mistakes.
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- Gary "l'enfer c'est les autres"

A great discussion of human evolution/physiology

I love human evolution books. This one didn't get started for me until well into the 2nd chapter because it is basic knowledge. The rest of the book goes into length and specifics discussing hominid development from a physiological perspective. I am familiar with most of the material from other audiobooks but enjoyed the overview. It is easy to follow and discusses how pre-humans and early humans compare. 4 stars because much of the info is standard fair.
This is a good science book for audio.

It may be too familiar for some listeners [nerds] who are familiar with the topic.
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- G-Man

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-01-2013
  • Publisher: Random House Audio