The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
The Selfish Gene does a marvelous job explaining the core concepts of evolution for the lay person. It begins with the predominate theory of how life began in the primordial soup. It then explains how the first replicators became the genes that make up our DNA and how the natural environment shapes evolution by pruning the most adaptive and advantageous of those genes.
Genes are responsible for manufacturing organisms to help them replicate. They affect not only its own organism, but the surrounding environment and other organisms. The book explains how the genes affect the organisms behavior, and how the behavior of a population of species follows an Evolutionary Stable Strategy (ESS). The book’s title refers to the concept that genes are really looking after themselves first, but it also explains how altruistic behavior can arise from the gene’s selfishness. The author adamantly proposes that we are the first species that can defy our genes and oppose the ruthless nature of natural selection to make the world a better, friendlier place.
It worries me that many people are ignorant of evolution. Never once did my high school offer a class on the topic. In my opinion, everyone should be familiar with the concepts because I believe it’s important to know how we came to be. I recommend this book to everybody.