Impressive and comprehensive, the term “tome” is a valid and positive descriptor of The Princeton Guide to Evolution. The volume’s heft, however, should not dissuade interested readers from this comprehensive and fascinating presentation of scientific and social aspects of evolution. Eight major sections present Phylogenetics and the History of Life; Natural Selection and Adaptation; Evolutionary Processes; Genes, Genomes, Phenotypes; Speciation and Macroevolution; Evolution of Behavior, Society, and Humans; and Evolution and Modern Society. Each section is subdivided into several subsections, most of which are familiar to biology teachers as central topics in the study of evolution: major events in the evolution of plants and animals, taxonomy, molecular and gemone evolution, epigenetics, phylogeny, speciation, natural selection, macroevolution, microevolution, sexual selection, evolutionary phsychology, aging… the list is far more extensive. The “Evolution and Modern Society” section is particularly interesting, covering less conventional or even more “controversial” topics such as Evolutionary Medicine, Evolution and Microbial Forensics, Evolution and Conservation, Creationism and Intelligent Design, and Evolution and the Media. This is far from an exhaustive list, and the table of contents invites the curious and interested reader to spend hours expanding their knowledge of evolution. A particular strength of The Guide from the teacher’s standpoint is the useful and uniform organization of each chapter: an outline gives a brief, abstract-like overview of the chapter’s topics, followed by a glossary of terms of particular significance in that section and by an extensive, 5- to 10-page discussion of the topic.
Although not perhaps the book for your bedside table, The Guide is a must-have for any good science library. Extensive in scope, it offers overviews of practically any topic in evolution that a teacher or student would want to access. Of obvious use as a reference on the shelf, The Guide could also be a more active source of fascinating and enlightening material for individual research on the topic of evolution. Particularly interesting topics, such as the evolution of antibiotic resistance and the evolution of linguistics, might form the basis of more extensive student explorations. Although there are illustrations throughout (including a Doonesbury cartoon!), and a color illustration section in the middle of the volume, some of the illustrations are beyond the scope of the average student and may not be of use in furthering understanding. However, The Princeton Guide to Evolution is without doubt a formidable resource to which any biology teacher would want to have access.