I'm not entirely sure why I checked out the title How Many Friends Does One Person Need?: Dunbar's Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks, by Robin Dunbar, but I'm guessing I saw it on my library's list of new nonfiction books and thought it sounded intriguing.
I wasn't wrong--Dunbar is a professor of psychology and offers here a variety of very readable science essays on evolution and other "evolutionary quirks" like why tall people seem to be more successful, why we laugh, what morning sickness could be for, and how many friends with whom we can really keep in actual successful contact (the number seems to be about 150, known as Dunbar's Number). For basic science writing, it's kind of light and easily understandable:
"Our brains are massively expensive, consuming about twenty per cent of our total energy intake even though they only account for about two per cent of our total body weight. That's a massive cost to bear, so brains really need to be spectacularly useful if they are going to be worth the cost. The consensus, at least for the primate family, is that we have our big brains to enable us to cope with the complexities of our social world...It seems that it is pairbonding that is the real drain on the brain. So let me ask: have you been struggling yet again with your partner's foibles?...Among the birds and mammals in general, the species with the biggest brains relative to body size are precisely those that mate monogamously." (p. 12.)
I enjoyed that a lot. Particularly in light of my and Mr. CR's recent and unsatisfying skirmishes regarding what constitutes a fair division of household duties.
So yeah, in bits, this is an interesting book. I did skip some of the chapters that were more blatantly about evolution, mostly because I just don't care about evolution as a subject at all.* If you're looking for a book that will provide some neat ah-ha! moments, you might like this one; but it will be liked best by those with a strong bent toward the topics of evolution and evolutionary biology and psychology.
*There is nothing I find more boring than the creationism/evolution debate. I don't even get why it IS a debate, frankly. If you believe that God can do anything, why is it hard to believe that God could create evolution? But much of that is probably my ignorance talking. I don't really know anything about the science of evolution, except that it seems to involve a lot of something I once saw on my brother's t-shirt. Two scientists, working at a chalkboard. On one side are equations, and on the other side are equations, and in the middle: "A miracle occurs." Evolutionary scientists always seem (to me, anyway) to be the types who say, "a million years ago was this, then a miracle occurred, and now we all have wider pelvises. At least we think it's because a miracle occurred, but we don't really know."