Pandora’s Seed, Spencer Wells

In Book reviews on May 27, 2011 at 3:57 am

This book purports to be a synthesis of an enormous range of study – genetics, anthropology, history, medicine, and more – to explain the ‘unforeseen cost of civilization’. Well it’s certainly not that. Though it contains a lot of interesting material, it simply doesn’t deal with the areas it covers in enough depth to achieve its aim. At a little over 200 pages, there just isn’t enough room. I finished it feeling the author’s conclusions weren’t substantiated.

Also, the author’s personal anecdotes throughout the book mostly just aren’t illuminating. The very start of Chapter One, for example, is a description of his car journey out of Chicago – why?

That said, I found the earlier parts of the book quite interesting – covering the origins of agriculture and the consequent changes in our nutrition. But other chapters on mental health and climate change were quite pedestrian, and didn’t justify some of the author’s conclusions.

Recommended if you’re interested in the origins of agriculture, and some of its consequences, but not if you’re looking for the grand theory the book claims to contain (for such a book that doesn’t disappoint, check out The Master and His Emissary)


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