Review of Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body (NY: Pantheon, 2008)
Don’t let Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish fool you into thinking it’s Evolution 101 or Paleontology Lite. Cutesy titles such as “Handy Genes” (a chapter on limbs and fins) or “Getting Ahead” (a chapter on cranial nerves and gill arches in the head) belie Shubin’s folksy voice: he’s your caring teacher and he’s a hard-hitting well-known paleontologist. Just check the footnotes where Shubin discusses his academic sources for each chapter.
The best part of the book is Shubin’s infectious joy in his own profession of paleontology. We’re with him as he stumbles during his first field trips, as he makes his first finds, as he organizes his first expedition. The study of very old rocks becomes a profession we might all want to practice, especially if it yields the kind of excitement Shubin shares.
The thread throughout the book is how we are all connected, from shark to chicken to mouse to fly to human.