Before The Dawn by Nicholas Wade
Nicholas Wade is a science writer with the New York Times and has previously worked for the scientific journals Nature and Science.
Tracing the history and the evolution of the human race from our common ancestor with chimpanzees 5 million years ago in a 300 page book was an ambitious undertaking, but Wade was clearly up to the task. If you are interested in human evolution and the history of mankind, this book is required reading.
Wade has relied upon dozens of past and recent scientific studies to identify and explain critical junctures in human evolution that occurred in the distant past and, which may come as a surprise to some, in the more recent past. The book is filled with interesting facts, and the author has done a magnificent job in explaining complex anthropological and linguistic theories in terms that most intelligently people will be able to understand. It is particularly impressive how he has been able to do this without detracting from the precision with which the essence of the individual studies is communicated to the reader.
The book is deferential to the often stifling political correctness of mainstream anthropologists and sociologists while at the same time providing enough facts that the folly of some of the mainstream assumptions is exposed to the perceptive reader. For example, the book does an effective job of debunking the fashionable thesis that race is purely a cultural construct without genetic basis, and it does so in a gentle fashion that shows that recognition of the reality of race, particularly in the field of medicine and pharmaceuticals, promises significant benefits in such tangible areas as the diagnosis and treatment of disease. The author effectively presents evidence showing that human history was almost certainly much more violent than is commonly thought, and that humanity has and is continuing to evolve towards a more peaceful nature, particularly in terms of violence between communities or nations, i.e. warfare.