Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish is an attempt to link, through evolution, virtually every organism that has ever lived on earth. As professor of Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago, he is certainly qualified to approach this topic; particularly as his research focuses on understanding how new anatomical features evolve.
It is difficult to see how the human body can be even remotely related to that of a fish, and Shubin has set out to remedy this particular deficiency. At first glance, it may seem impossible for such a slim volume (coming in at just over 200 pages) to sufficiently explain evolutionary biology; however, the brevity of the book is in reality a strength. The reader is not given pages enough to become bored. Each concept is explained in a concise manner, allowing the excitement of newly obtained knowledge to remain fresh. Shubin is able to contain all of this in a small package because of his ability to explain theories in a simple manner.
Your Inner Fish is Shubin’s first book, but he has already developed an ability to explain biological and evolutionary concepts in layman’s terms. The subject matter flows quite naturally, whether discussing how the jawbones in fish eventually evolved into the bones that allow us to hear or revealing that the same gene directs a chicken embryo to grow a wing as well as a fish to produce a fin. This talent for simplifying explanations is certainly appreciated, particularly by anyone who has lost themselves in the lingo of less thoughtful scientists.
Though the simplicity of the explanations and the shortness of the book are strengths, they also introduce a weakness. There never seems to be a truly “Aha!” moment. Overall the subject is quite fascinating, but the text never gave me what I like to call the “Did you knows.” This disease causes one to turn to the nearest person and annoy them with brilliant lines from a book.
Nevertheless, Your Inner Fish is certainly a great read. Neil Shubin books will be welcome on bookshelves everywhere if he continues to write with such clarity and enthusiasm. There is no reason to be scared away from this book based on its subject matter. Dive in and enjoy; it will be over all too soon.