Books: The Red Queen

The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature

Following on from yesterday’s review of Sexual Nature at the Natural History Museum, I thought I’d give you a “recommended read”. I actually finished this book about a month ago, but am only just now getting around to reviewing it. Don’t expect any ground-breaking reflection – I’m a bit weary at the moment.

Well, the long and short of it is: Matt Ridley is great. I’ve known this since I read his “Nature Via Nurture” last year, at which point my dad recommended this.

Here, Ridley looks at the question of: why sex? Sex uses a lot of energy, is slow, and requires two individuals. And it leads to a lot of dangerous competition. Well, sex has its various advantages, and Ridley looks at these systematically.

But the more entertaining portion of the book looks at various sexual behaviours: from sexy-son theory, to the thousands of genders in the mushroom family, you’re bound to be in for a few surprises.

My main love of Ridley comes from his rare ability to impart brilliant scientific knowledge, whilst still keeping it all fascinating and entertaining (I would NEVER describe Ridley as “dry”). Phrases like “a gigantic experiment called communism in a laboratory called Russia…” are bound to raise a smirk. And you will be bowled over by the blunt illustration of the interconnectedness of all human-beings (as early on as p. 12). Be amused by the Coolidge effect! Finally understand why gentlemen prefer blondes (or not)!

Definitely worth a look in – I enjoyed it very much, and imagine I will be reading it again in the not-too-distant future.

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