Critical Review

My Thoughts:

My largest takeaway from People of the Lake is that this book is important. I think it is important for everyone to understand where they come from and what makes them unique. This can come in many different forms, and this specific form is an anthropological view. Knowing where we come from and why we behave the way we do satisfies a uniquely human desire that I, personally, can never get enough of.

Although the book is a bit outdated at this point, I found it to have a great deal of information that lined up very well with what we have covered in class this semester. I learned a lot of in-depth information on topics that we did not have as much time to cover in class, which left me with a greater appreciation for the work that these scientists were able to conduct over this ten year period. The book covered a very wide range of topics regarding the origins of human life and how evolution shaped us into who we are today, but at times I felt that the authors got a bit off-topic and over detailed when describing factors that could not even be directly attributed to human evolution. Nonetheless, I found it to be very engaging and informative throughout.

In terms of the audience for this book, there are some prerequisites to reading it. In my opinion, this would probably be very difficult to understand without having at least some background in the field. I found it easy to follow due to the coursework that we have covered recently, but without that background I think I would have struggled to keep the time-periods and settings straight. This is partially attributable to the fact that Leakey is an anthropologist first, and an author second, which made the book a little less readable for style reasons. I think the influence of Roger Lewin probably helped a great deal in keeping everything together as he has a great deal of experience writing, but there were times when the scientist got through as opposed to the author.

I would definitely recommend this book to someone who is curious about the topic, although I would likely direct them to specific chapters that I found to be more interesting than others rather than reading the whole book for pleasure. My final thought and question that this book left me with would be the necessity for a follow-up. I am sure the information that has arisen since the publishing in 1978 is widely available, but it would be great to have it consolidated in one place like this. I found that the authors’ were frequently saying that they did not know answers or have enough fossil evidence to draw certain conclusions, and I would be interested to hear their thoughts following any evidence that has been put forth since then.


Overall Rating: 7/10