While its opponents may sneer that "it's just a theory," evolution has transcended that label to take its place as one of the most important ideas in human history. Science journalist Carl Zimmer explores its history and future in Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea, a companion piece to the epic PBS series of the same name. The book, lavishly illustrated with photos of our distant cousins, anatomical diagrams, and timelines, is as beautiful as it is enlightening. While those closely following the field will find little more here than a well-written summation of the state of the art in 2001, readers who have watched the evolutionary debates from a distance will quickly catch up with the details of the principal arguments.
Zimmer's text is fresh and expansive, explaining both the minutiae of comparative anatomy and the grand scale of geological time with verve and clarity. Following the trend of turn-of-the-century evolution writers, he treats the religious beliefs of creationists with respect, while firmly insisting that the scientific evidence against their position is too compelling to ignore. Touching on biology, philosophy, theology, politics, and nearly every other field of human thought, Evolution will inspire its readers with the elegance and importance of Darwin's simple theory. --Rob Lightner