Tamed by Alice Roberts

I bought Tamed by Alice Roberts – Ten Species That Changed Our World when I was in London for Darwin’s Day, back in February. It was a lovely evening where Richard Dawkins talked and, after that, my husband and I bought a few books, including one that I already read, the Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. I still have books to read from that time, but with all the books I’m still borrowing from the library, it will be a while to read all of them. Of course, Alice mentions a few times in the book, Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (link to my review), a book I would recommend.

Tamed by Alice Roberts. Book photographed near my dog.

In the book, she talks about 10 species: dogs, wheat, cattle, maize, potatoes, chickens, rice, horses, apples, and humans. It was fascinating to read all sort of details on how the domestication started and evolved. It is quite a good selection of plants and animals, as some originated in Asia, some in Europe, and others in the Americas.

The only thing I wasn’t keen on is how she wrote the book. It seems very much like a TV show, with a bit of a cute story, followed by some technical details, using terms like allele (variant form of a gene) and talking about GMO (a bit too much for me). In a book this approach is a bit confusing. Maybe she should have written two books, one for adults with the main focus on technical bits and a short one, for children, with stories on how domestication might have happened. I’m not a parent, but I would think a story book like that would be amazing for children, instead of some random fictional story like Cinderella.

I was also puzzled by how many times she said “9000 years ago (7000 BCE)”. It is a non-fiction book on anthropology, one might easily assume that the readers are familiar with what 9,000 years ago means. Of course, this small thing might have bugged only me, but well, this is my review.
I would recommend the book though, despite these little annoyances because it is interesting.

Tamed by Alice Roberts

Details about the picture: Festus kindly agreed to be tamed and pose with the book.
My rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: Yes
Published by: Windmill Books
Year it was published: 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre(s): Non-fiction. Anthropology
Pages: 360

About the author: Alice Roberts is an anatomist, physical anthropologist, palaeopathologist, television presenter, and author. She studied medicine at Cardiff University, before earning a PhD in paleopathology from the University of Bristol. Now she is Professor of Public Engagement with Science at the University of Birmingham since 2012 because she thinks Universities need to engage with the general public.
Currently she is the president of Humanists UK.
In 2001 she made her first TV appearance on Channel 4’s Time Team. Went on to present Coast on BBC2, The Incredible Human Journey, Origins of Us, Digging for Britain and Britain’s Most Historic Towns.
As an author, she wrote books, including: The Incredible Human Journey, The Celts, Don’t Die Young, The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being: Evolution and the Making of Us.
Website & Social Media Links: alice-roberts



1 thought on “Tamed by Alice Roberts”

  • I think this sounds really good. I might be more interested in the animals listed than the plants, but it all sounds fascinating.

    I agree that it can be irritating when an author talks down to the reader, as in your example about the repeated explanations on the dates.

    Looks like Festus gives his approval of the book. 🙂
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