Review: The Evolution of Everything

November 18, 2015 Uncategorized 8 ★★★

Review: The Evolution of EverythingTitle: The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge
Author: Matt Ridley
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Summary: This book covered a ton of fascinating topics, but was a bit disjointed and biased by the author’s politics.

Although we’re often taught that history is shaped by the actions of a few critical individuals, Matt Ridley argues that even the biggest changes throughout history have been the inevitable result of incremental change. He briefly argues for the evolutionary development of each of the biggest phenomenon in human history, from philosophy and religion to money, technology, and the internet.

This book and I started out on the wrong foot. Because I loved Ridley’s previous book, Genome, so much, I was hoping for more biology and science from this book. Instead, the first chapter was a history of philosophy that I found somewhat dense. I also thought the concept of incremental change he treated as novel was already obvious in many arenas. To make things worse, the transition between chapters was rough. I had to get into the book over and over again with each new chapter.

At some point, though, my expectations started to match the book better. I started to think of this as a collection of short essays on interesting phenomena in science, technology, politics, and history. This let me start to enjoy it for what it was. Each of the short little chapters did grab my attention and made me want to read all of the books the author mentioned to learn more. I do think it’s worth noting that the author seems to be pushing a certain political agenda, so I’d also want to read other books on the same topics before accepting all of his conclusions. Nevertheless, this was a fascinating book full of the fun facts I love in nonfiction. I think it could be an even better read for someone who went into this looking for a collection of short essays reviewing the history of many important components of modern society.

8 Responses to “Review: The Evolution of Everything”

    • DoingDewey

      Thanks 🙂 I don’t feel as though the author was especially subtle about his political opinions, but I still strongly prefer my nonfiction to be objective unless it’s a memoir. I liked his previous book much better!

  1. Naomi

    As someone interested in evolution, the title of this book grabs me. I’m glad I read your review, though – it gives me a good idea of what the book will be like if I decide to read it. Still sounds interesting, like it touches a little bit on a lot of things.

    • DoingDewey

      The word evolution is a large part of what grabbed my attention too, in addition to knowing the author. It really was interesting and I think I would have enjoyed it more had my expectations matched the book better.

  2. Geoff W

    This made me think of what a panel of rare book sellers said this past weekend: If it’s a large book about something small or limited it’s probably great. If it’s a shorter book about something broad or gargantuan it probably has severe limitations. Sounds like it could be an interesting premise, but the actual work wasn’t that great.

    • DoingDewey

      Haha, that’s a good point. This was an interesting overview of a lot of topics, but I think the author may have been trying to do too much. I’ve seen books spend too much time on too narrow a subject for my taste as well though. It can go either way!

    • DoingDewey

      I’m not sure my expectations made complete sense given the book description, but I still hoped for something a little different. It was a pretty good book anyway though 🙂

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