Dennis Sewell

Little by Little

The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge

By

Fourth Estate 400pp £20 order from our bookshop

Over the years there have been dozens of books that seek to apply Charles Darwin’s ideas about evolution beyond the natural world of flora and fauna. There’s even one by Mark Sumner, published in 2010, with the title The Evolution of Everything: How Selection Shapes Culture, Commerce, and Nature. I have not read Sumner’s book, but I like to entertain the idea that it may be almost identical to Matt Ridley’s similarly titled work, different only as a result of a few random mutations or transcription errors. Which will prove better adapted to the current bookselling environment? Well, I note that Sumner’s publisher, a tiny outfit called PoliPointPress, based in Sausalito, California, has failed in the red-in-tooth-and-claw struggle for survival, having closed down in 2011. Ridley’s book, by contrast, appears under one of the imprints of HarperCollins, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, so irrespective of its intrinsic merits (which are many) it is sure to survive.

One common problem with the Darwin-extrapolation genre is the brutal, Procrustean lengths

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Sign up to our email newsletter below! Get free articles, highlights from the archive, and chances to win theatre… ,
    • RT : Founded in 1979, is a trusted independent source for reviews of new books across a variety of genres. A… ,
    • RT : Here we are - "Shelf Indulgence" by Ed Potten, a wonderful read, well worth your time: @Lit_Review,
    • 'Like going to a party hoping to get away as quickly as politeness allowed and at 4am finding myself still engrosse… ,
    • 'Neville never shed his sense of being the junior, and perhaps least-deserving Chamberlain.' From the archive, Mic… ,
    • 'The erecting and immediate destruction of a series of straw men rather detracts from what is for the most part an… ,
    • RT : A magnificent demolition job on this "acid laced tirade...unpleasantly self-obsessed...self pitying polemic...book… ,