World Anthropology Day is celebrated on the 3rd Thursday of February every year. Since anthropology is a favorite subject of mine, I thought I’d celebrate by sharing a few books about it.
Anthropology is the study of human societies and cultures and how they make us who we are. Anthropologists study how humans have developed and changed over our evolutionary history as well as over more modern times.
The study of humans is broad, allowing for many subcategories including studying human biology, culture, behavior, linguistics, and evolution. There is often a unique blend of hard science (DNA, fossils, timelines) mixed with a more interpretive view (culture, religion, art, tools) to create a complete picture of what it is to be human at a particular time and place.
The American Anthropology Association recognizes 4 subfields of anthropology:
- Biological Anthropology
- Cultural Anthropology
- Linguistic Anthropology
Want to learn more about what it means to be human? Then check out a few of these books below to get started!
#1: Lone Survivor: How We Came to be the Only Humans on Earth
I’m very excited to be reading this selection myself to celebrate World Anthropology Day. So far it is absolutely wonderful and well-written.
Chris Stringer is one of the world’s best paleoanthropologists, meaning he primarily studies fossils to understand our human predecessors.
#2: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
If you’ve never read Yuval Noah Harari’s works, this is the perfect one to start with. He’s also written Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.
I was amazed at the insights and detail in this book. You’ll never think of ‘humanity’ in the same light again.
#3: Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
Jared Diamond is very well-known for his award-winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel. With a title like that, how can you not be intrigued?
The title refers to the 3 key ways that one society overtakes another. These advantages lead to domination and elimination.
#4: Almost Human: The Astonishing Tale of Homo naledi and the Discovery That Changed Our Human Story
The bones of a new human species are discovered in a cave in South Africa, and Lee Berger is here to give his own account of the discovery and study of the fossils.
Homo naledi is the perfect example of how human species are discovered, studied, compared, and shared. Try this one if you want a more specific example of anthropology at work.
#5: The Anthropology of Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft
Don’t be afraid that this one is a textbook often used in introductory college anthropology classes. It’s beautifully done and contains a plethora of real-world examples.
You’ll learn about major world religions, past and present, and how they have affected humans across time and space.
#6: Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind
We all know “Lucy”, the representative fossil of the species Australopithecus afarensis. She is the most complete and well-preserved fossil of her kind.
She was lovingly named from the Beatles’ song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Here’s Johanson’s account of her discovery and the massive impact she had on the world.
Happy World Anthropology Day!
Grab a book about humans and enjoy the day. Happy reading!