To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human Paperback – September 7, 2010
|New from||Used from|
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
[A] fascinating study.... Wrangham's lucid, accessible treatise ranges across nutritional science, Paleontology and studies of ape behavior and hunter-gatherer societies; the result is a tour de force of natural history and a profound analysis of cooking's role in daily life.”
An innovative argument that cooked food led to the rise of modern Homo sapiens.... Experts will debate Wrangham’s thesis, but most readers will be convinced by this lucid, simulating foray into popular anthropology.”
The Harvard Brain
With clear and engaging prose, Catching Fire addresses a key and enduring scientific issue central to the quest to understand our species. It offers new insights for anyone interested in human evolution, history, anthropology, nutrition, and for everyone interested in food."
Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University
In this thoroughly researched and marvelously well written book, Richard Wrangham has convincingly supplied a missing piece in the evolutionary origin of humanity.”
Matt Ridley, author of Genome and The Agile Gene
Cooking completely transformed the human race, allowing us to live on the ground, develop bigger brains and smaller mouths, and invent specialized sex roles. This notion is surprising, fresh and, in the hands of Richard Wrangham, utterly persuasive. He brings to bear evidence from chimpanzees, fossils, food labs, and dieticians. Big, new ideas do not come along often in evolution these days, but this is one.”
Steven Raichlen, author of The Barbecue Bible and How to Grill; host of Primal Grill
A book of startling originality and breathtaking erudition. Drawing on disciplines as diverse as anthropology, sociology, biology, chemistry, physics, literature, nutrition, and cooking, Richard Wrangham addresses two simple but very profound questions: How did we evolve from Australopithecus to Homo sapiens, and what makes us human? The answer can be found at your barbecue grill and I dare say it will surprise you.”
Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma
Catching Fire is convincing in argument and impressive in its explanatory power. A rich and important book.”
makes a convincing case for the importance of cooking in the human diet, finding a connection between our need to eat cooked food in order to survive and our preference for soft foods. The popularity of Wonderbread, the digestion of actual lumps of meat, and the dangers of indulging our taste buds all feature in this expository romp through our gustatory evolution.”
The New York Times
Catching Fire’ is a plain-spoken and thoroughly gripping scientific essay that presents nothing less than a new theory of human evolution...one that Darwin (among others) simply missed.”
Brilliant a fantastically weird way of looking at evolutionary change.”
The San Francisco Chronicle
As new angles go, it's pretty much unbeatable.”
The Washington Post
Wrangham draws together previous studies and theories from disciplines as diverse as anthropology, biology, chemistry, sociology and literature into a cogent and compelling argument.”
Wrangham’s attention to the most subtle of behaviors keeps the reader enrapt a compelling picture, and one that I now contemplate every time I turn on my stove."
Richard Wrangham presents
Top Customer Reviews
Wrangham argues that Homo habilis learned to control fire and that that fact is both a necessary and sufficient explanation for this evolutionary leap.
First, fire is used for cooking, as all primates find cooked food more delicious (even monkeys know to follow a forest fire to enjoy the cooked nuts). Cooking gelatinizes starch, denatures protein, and softens all foods, permitting more complete digestion and energy extraction. As a result, the food processing apparatus shrinks, freeing energy to support a larger brain. (After the gut shrinks, the animal can no longer process enough raw food to survive, but is dependent on cooking. Wrangham reports that humans with even a large supply of well-processed, high-quality food lose both weight and reproductive capacity on a raw diet, and that there are no known cases of a modern human surviving on raw food for more than a month.)
Second, fire provides defense against large carnivores, permitting Homo erectus to descend from the trees and live on the formerly preditor-dangerous ground.Read more ›
Dr. Wrangham provides some fascinating material on how humanity began to physically separate from the apes, and how eating cooked food intensified the process and hurried it along. This has the potential to become impenetrably technical, but Dr. Wrangham writes clearly with the general reader in mind. I also enjoyed his coverage of the claims of present day raw-foodists, some of whom he interviewed. After that chapter I was left feeling simulataneous admiration for the dedication of raw-foodists and repulsion at the thought of following a similar diet myself! Dr. Wrangham has a good ear for an entertaining anecdote, such as the story of poor Alexis St. Martin, who survived a horrifying injury that permanently opened his stomach, thus involuntarily becoming an assistant to a researcher who wished to observe the process of digestion.
The text of this book is only about 200 pages. It is exhaustively researched and documented, with over 40 pages of notes, a 30 page bibliography, and a 20 page index. It will appeal to students of early man and to followers of Michael Pollan, with whom Dr. Wrangham shares a concern that humanity return to more natural and less highly processed food.
This is the kind of book that makes one wonder, "Why hasn't this been argued before?" While his book is rather small and the ideas are not deeply explored, this is largely because the hypotheses that Wrangham presents are quite new. I believe that his ideas will be supported, refined, and expanded by further investigation.
While some of his ideas appear outdated or unsupported (for example, he seems to suggest that hunter-gatherers were poorly nourished compared to later farmers, when in fact a substantial body of archeological evidence points to the contrary being true), and he makes some assumptions that are unfounded (for example, that human diets without cooking would be comparable to those of chimpanzees. This is highly unlikely, since pre-humans were bipedal, which suggests a far greater mobility geared toward different food preferences than apes that move on all fours or in trees.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Currently reading it. Will post more when I'm done with it. It's interesting so far...Published 2 months ago by R A Jolsvay
Interesting read. I actually bought this as a graduation gift, found myself flipping through the first few pages, and ended up reading it through. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
It's really interesting! My one gripe is that at times it ignores the current culture that we live in, and so the concepts get a little confusing. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Michelle Sklaver
Great book! very well researched an written in a way that is accessible to non scientists. Made me excited to cook more!Published 3 months ago by bell
Well written - easy to read for anyone - fascinating theory.Published 4 months ago by Frank Savastano