30-Second Evolution

ed. by Mark Fellowes & Nicholas Battey, 2015

Review is copyright 2017 by Wil C. Fry. All Rights Reserved.

Published: 2017.09.21

Copyright 2017 by Wil C. Fry.
Some rights reserved.
Full Title: 30-Second Evolution: The 50 Most Significant Ideas and Events, Each Explained In Half A Minute
Author: [multiple]
Editor: Mark Fellowes and Nicholas Battey
Year: 2015
Genre: Science, introductory
Publisher: Metro Books
ISBN 978-1-4351-5674-6
View It On Amazon


“30-Second Evolution” is part of a whole series of “30-Second” books I’ve seen, each functioning as an introductory level text to a particular subject (others include mathematics, philosophy, economics, etc.). The formatting is simple, with each page covering a different part of evolutionary theory, and each page formatted exactly like the others. Each page has the primary text explaining a particular facet, and then there are add-ons in the margins, including the “3-Second Trash” and the “3-Minute Thought”. Glossaries are scattered throughout the text, defining common terms.

I would describe this as a very basic, introductory text, relative to a few other science-related books I’ve read recently. It is for beginners, people who want to familiarize themselves with the most basic concepts of evolution.

What I Liked Least About It

I probably should have known from the title, but I was surprised at just how basic and barebones this book was. While every even page has text, every odd page is an image — and most of the images are simple drawings rather than impressive photos or charts. In other words, fully half of this book doesn’t contain information. While I did expect simple and concise explanations, due to the title, I did not expect how lightly each topic would be covered.

The weight of the book, which helped mislead me about the density of the contents, is also prohibitive. Since I do most of my reading at or near bedtime, I prefer books that aren't difficult to hold. This one is made of very thick, high-quality pages, with a sturdy, textbook-like cardboard cover.

What I Liked Most About It

I did like the structure of the book, with each page being confined to a single topic. For example, page 36 is “Species And Taxonomy”, and describes the process of classification of species, pioneered by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, for whom the classification system is named.

The fifty topics are divided into seven groups, and each group includes the biography of an important person in the field. I actually found these mini-biographies to be the most interesting parts of this book.

Because each facet is so concisely explained, I think this would make an excellent book for introducing the topic to beginners.


I wish I had read this book in high school, or at least a few years ago — but it didn't exist then. Instead, I had high school and college biology teachers that didn't understand or believe in evolution, so my introduction to the topic was quite flawed. But that time is gone, and I’ve done so much reading on the topic during the past three or four years that this book wasn’t terribly helpful for me.

My opinion is that the information contained in this book would have worked better as a website with a series of pages. But of course, the publishers wouldn’t have made any money that way.

I would recommend it to others only if they know next-to-nothing about evolution and the history of the modern evolutionary synthesis. Even then, I would hesitate to recommend it due to its weight, and the cost-to-content ratio. Instead of buying your own, ask me for my copy, and I’ll give it to you — if you’re interested in reading this book.

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