Life Ascending – Nick Lane

I’ve just finished Nick Lane‘s book “Life Ascending”, which won the 2010 Royal Society Prize for science books.

It is a fantastic book, outlining as it does ten big developments required to build modern organisms. You’ll never think of blue-green algae the same way again (unless you were an evolutionary biologist who knew all this stuff before reading it).

He admits that some of the science presented is at the cutting edge, and isn’t broadly accepted, but much is, and the material is presented in a fashion which makes clear which is which.

I thought he was going off the rails a bit at the start of the chapter on consciousness, but he brought it back to earth suitably. The first two chapters on the origins of life, and DNA, are worth the price of admission.

The only down side is that this isn’t an easy read, it is only 280 odd pages but feels like an undergraduate course in evolution but without the homework or need to prove you understood the details. Still a definite “must read”.

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