David Quammen is the author of fifteen books, including Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic. His latest book is The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life. (April 2020)


The Brilliant Plodder

Darwin’s Most Wonderful Plants: A Tour of His Botanical Legacy

by Ken Thompson

On the Backs of Tortoises: Darwin, the Galápagos, and the Fate of an Evolutionary Eden

by Elizabeth Hennessy
We can’t stop reading and talking about Darwin, 138 years after his death, because the great theory of which he was co-conceiver and chief propounder was so big and startling and forceful, yet so unfinished when he died in 1882, that there’s always more work to do. We’re still trying to figure out how evolution by natural selection applies to every aspect of life on Earth, from virulence in coronaviruses to human social behavior.


A poster for a US public health campaign urging precautions against malaria, circa 1920

The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator

by Timothy C. Winegard
If Alexander the Great hadn’t died of malaria in the sumpy outskirts of Babylon, on his way westward toward Arabia and North Africa (and Gibraltar and Europe?) in 323 BCE, the Western world and its history might look much different. That’s just a mote of what you’ll learn from Timothy …

The Concrete Jungle

Leopard cubs at Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mumbai, India, 2014

Darwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution

by Menno Schilthuizen
Menno Schilthuizen is a Dutch biologist based at Leiden University, in a country whose population is more urban than rural. In other words, he inhabits the future. His new book, Darwin Comes to Town alerts us to new evidence about the pace of evolution. By watching the evolutionary play as it runs in urban theaters, not just wildish ones, Schilthuizen and some colleagues—you might think of them as postmodern biologists, making the best of highly urbanized twenty-first-century landscapes—have noticed that evolution’s tempo can be surprisingly brisk. Fast evolution in cities is the theme here, unfolding toward a suggestion that perhaps new species are being born in our time, while many older ones are being driven to extinction.