Review In 500 Words: The Incredible Unlikeliness Of Being – Alice Roberts

Title: The Incredible Unlikeliness Of Being

Author: Alice Roberts

Publisher: Heron Books (2014)

Price: £19.99

Rating: 9/10


The Incredible Unlikeliness Of Being is a book which I had sat on my shelf for almost three years (oh the curse of having too many books to fit around a busy schedule) but finally, finally I got round to reading it. It definitely did not disappoint.


From the outset I was in a good mood as I started the book because the cover is astonishingly beautiful. I realise this doesn’t necessarily make a good read, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and all that, but for me holding such a beautiful hardback edition with such an aesthetically appealing cover just made me want to dive right in. It certainly stands out on a bookshelf, that’s for certain.


The book itself is split into categories which essentially take you on a tour of your body and how various parts of it have evolved. Each chapter is like a small story in itself, thus making for very easy reading. When you’re busy you can promise yourself “okay you can finish Guts And Yolk Sacs now then when you’ve done everything you need to you can move on to Gonads, Genitals And Gestation this evening.” At an average of 28 pages a chapter it makes for manageable chunks so that you’re not having to mark your page and remember what you were reading about when you return to the book.


The text is interspersed with illustrations which are, put simply, beautiful. Simple in their style but completely fitting of the classiness of the book (can a book be described as classy? Well it can now.) The illustrations really enhance the story being told in the text. From the cochlea of the ear to lung buds in an embryo, these drawings by the author herself really make it easy for a reader to visualise just what it is that is being described.


The book is written in a way which makes it feel like you’re sat down with a cuppa as Alice talks to you about the evolution of man. As far as scientific books go, I think this is hugely successful because it makes the topic more personal rather than just a series of facts. The little anecdotes about filming documentaries or childhood antics make the whole book just feel that bit warmer, and you find yourself almost endeared to the subject.


Now, I’m very big on science being accessible to the masses. For me, this book is one which does that. Compared to other books on the topic, this tale of the making of man is, on the whole, pretty simple to follow. There is some scientific jargon in there which science novices may need to look up, but on the whole I would say that most complex aspects are explained well and clarified using relatable anecdotes.


This is a book which takes you on a journey of wonder and awe at just how complex the process of evolution is. As autumn nights draw in, curl up with this.


Feel free to talk about this book with me over on twitter.



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