Life as We Made It

How 50,000 Years of Human Innovation Refined—and Redefined—Nature

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781541644182

USD: $30  /  CAD: $38

ON SALE: October 19th 2021

Genre: Nonfiction / Science / Biotechnology


Select a format:

From the first dog to the first beefalo, from farming to CRISPR, the human history of remaking nature
When the 2020 Nobel Prize was awarded to the inventors of CRISPR, the revolutionary gene-editing tool, it underlined our amazing and apparently novel powers to alter nature. But as biologist Beth Shapiro argues in Life as We Made It, this phenomenon isn’t new. Humans have been reshaping the world around us for ages, from early dogs to modern bacteria modified to pump out insulin. Indeed, she claims, reshaping nature—resetting the course of evolution, ours and others’—is the essence of what our species does.
In exploring our evolutionary and cultural history, Shapiro finds a course for the future. If we have always been changing nature to help us survive and thrive, then we need to avoid naive arguments about how we might destroy it with our meddling, and instead ask how we can meddle better.
Brilliant and insightful, Life as We Made It is an essential book for the decades to come.


“A brilliant combination of science, natural history, and first-person experience, Life as We Made It shows how our species has been manipulating nature for nearly as long as we’ve been around. Anyone who wants to better understand the future of life - human and otherwise - should read this book.”

Jennifer Doudna, winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
“[a] fun-filled survey...Shapiro’s anecdotes are full of energy...Perfect for fans of Mary Roach, this is science writing with much to savor."—Publishers Weekly
“The scientific study of ancient DNA preserved in extinct species and the possibility of de extinction make for truly fascinating reading. Employing just the right amount of paleontology, history, genomics, and archaeology, Shapiro warns that we stand on the precipice of fashioning a new, unnatural nature. The risk of messing up the future of other species and even the planet itself looms large.”

“For the past two decades, Beth Shapiro has pioneered using ancient DNA to understand the diversity of life. In Life as We Made It, her twin passions for cutting-edge science and natural history leap from every page. This book will entertain and challenge you to think in new ways about our role in the future of life on Earth.”

Neil Shubin, evolutionary biologist and author of Your Inner Fish
“In this brilliant new book, biologist Beth Shapiro tells the incredible story of how we’re remaking much of nature and lays out a thoughtful path for how we can survive and thrive by learning to more wisely apply our god-like powers.” —Jamie Metzl, author of Hacking Darwin
“Shapiro chronicles the many ways humans have influenced the evolutionary trajectories of other species, from prehistory through the present day. Tools like CRISPR are just the latest way we have shaped the life on this planet. She effectively makes the case that our use of evolution as a tool is ethically acceptable, if done carefully and with informed consent.”—Emma Marris, author of Wild Souls
Read More Read Less