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A Natural History of Families Hardcover – May 9, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; First Edition edition (May 9, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691094829
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691094823
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,084,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Forbes's repetitive and disorganized treatise is pinned on a fascinating thesis: that observing the family behavior of birds, ants, pandas and a variety of other animal species can help our own species better understand sibling rivalry, parental favoritism, twin births and Down syndrome. Human behaviors may have deep evolutionary roots, he argues, and his correlations between a beetle's cannibalism of offspring and human child abuse, for example, will make readers feel queasy and engaged. But despite dozens of such intriguing associations, Forbes's work is clouded with organizational and stylistic problems. His prose ranges from insightful to incomprehensible to flippant. "I could use myself as an example (babies really should come with owner's manuals) but instead will defer to brown-headed cowbirds," he remarks in a chapter called "Parent Blame." Such twisty lines-combined with the fact that Forbes doesn't adequately defend his sociobiological approach until late in the book-detract from his arguments for the benefits of such cross-species studies. (How, for example, looking at parent-offspring conflict in birds can lead to a better understanding of morning sickness in human mothers and even to new treatments for cancer.) A shorter and more straightforward version of this volume would surely have garnered a wider audience. As it is, this one seems destined for academic libraries. 18 line illustrations.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

One of Choices Outstanding Academic Titles for 2005

"Forbes's writing is lively. . . . He explains evolutionary theory lucidly and well. . . . Forbes is good at explaining the subtlety and frequent counter-intuitiveness of current thinking on these topics."--Seamus Sweeney, Times Literary Supplement

"This absorbing read is an entertaining but sober addition to the library of anyone who is interested in family conflict and the natural world."--Biology Digest

"All will welcome [this book] as an interesting, well-researched, extraordinarily well-written, and occasionally humorous work in behavioral ecology."--Choice

"This is certainly worth reading if this is an area that you are interested in. Forbes obviously knows his subject."--Nicola Vollenhoven, Biologist

"I found much of the medical material new. A Natural History of Families is recommended to anyone interested in evolutionary medicine, wanting a better understanding of pregnancy, or after a genetic perspective on family conflicts."--Danny Yee, Danny Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By onfire24seven on October 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book for a graduate level behavior class ay my university and I was impressed. At first, I was skeptical of the writing style after being used to reading labs but I was hooked once I got into it. The writing level is easily understandable yet remains intelligent. Also the author draws fantastic comparisons to history and pop culture to relate to all readers.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Newton Ooi on April 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book examines the different modes of reproduction and different types of family structures in the natural world, with an emphasis on vertebrates, especially birds and mammals. The goal is to see how different behavioral patterns and reproductive modes found in different species help to further the evolutionary survival of each species. The book examines this topic from multiple standpoints such as genetics, phenotypes, embryology, ecology, statistics, and common sense. The title of the book is a misnomer as there is little history in that the author does not examine extinct species, but only presently occurring species. The author also concentrates on how things exist now, and does not delve deep into how breeding patterns, courtship rituals, family structures and other issues related to sexual reproduction evolved over time.

The book repeats many points over and over again, which though tedious, makes the text helpful for the novice reader. This repetition also provides smooth transitions from one chapter to the next. As a book based on science, there is a lot of references to scientific literature, which is good. There are also sufficient diagrams, which is good. The book should have included more examples from non-vertebrates, such as invertebrates, plants, and maybe even fungi, if examples are possible. Overall, an interesting read.
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