It is well worth reading On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (John Murray, 1859); the masterly synthesis of innumerable facts on natural history to support the theory of evolution by natural selection is dazzling, and much of what Darwin has to say is still highly relevant. There are many reprints of this available; Harvard University Press have a facsimile of the first (1859) edition, which we used for our quotations.
Jonathan Howard, Darwin: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2001) provides an excellent brief survey of Darwin’s life and work.
For an excellent discussion of how natural selection can produce the evolution of complex adaptations, see The Blind Watchmaker: Why The Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design by Richard Dawkins (W.W. Norton, 1996).
The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins (Oxford University Press, 1990) is a lively account of how modern ideas on natural selection account for a variety of features of living organisms, especially their behaviour.
Nature’s Robots. A History of Proteins by Charles Tanford and Jacqueline Reynolds (Oxford University Press, 2001) is a lucid history of discoveries concerning the nature and functions of proteins, culminating in the deciphering of the genetic code.
Enrico Coen, The Art of Genes. How Organisms Make Themselves (Oxford University Press, 1999) provides an excellent account of how genes control development, with some discussion of evolution.
For an account of the application of evolutionary principles to the study of animal behaviour, see Survival Strategies by R. Gadagkar (Harvard University Press, 2001).
Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin, Origins Reconsidered: In Search of What Makes Us Human (Time Warner Books, 1993) gives an account of human evolution for the general reader.
J. Weiner, The Beak of the Finch (Knopf, 1995) is an excellent account of how work on Darwin’s finches has illuminated evolutionary biology.
B. Hölldobler and E. O. Wilson, Journey to the Ants. A Story of Scientific Exploration (Harvard University Press, 1994) is a fascinating account of the natural history of ants, and the evolutionary principles guiding the evolution of their diverse forms of social organization.
For a discussion of the fossil evidence for the early evolution of life, and experiments and ideas on the origin of life, Cradle of Life. The Discovery of Earth’s Early Fossils by J. William Schopf (Princeton University Press, 1999) is recommended.
The Crucible of Creation by Simon Conway Morris (Oxford University Press, 1998), which is beautifully illustrated, provides an account of the fossil evidence on the emergence of the major groups of animals.
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Evolutionary Biology by D. J. Futuyma (Sinauer Associates, 1998) is a detailed and authoritative undergraduate textbook on all aspects of evolution.
And a somewhat less detailed undergraduate textbook of evolutionary biology: Evolution by Mark Ridley (Blackwell Science, 1996).
Evolutionary Genetics by John Maynard Smith (Oxford University Press, 1998) is an unusually well-written text on how the principles of genetics can be used to understand evolution.
For a comprehensive account of the interpretation of animal behaviour in terms of natural selection, refer to Behavioural Ecology by J. R. Krebs and N. B. Davies (Blackwell Science, 1993).