What makes us human? It is an age-old question, and Richard Wrangham has a new answer: our ability to cook. In “Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human,” the author of “Demonic Males” posits what he refers to as “the cooking hypothesis.” Wrangham, who studied with the well-known primatologist Jane Goodall, explores how learning to cook impacted human development and gender relations. He presents his findings clearly and succinctly (the book is just over 200 pages). The New York Times calls it “a plain-spoken and thoroughly gripping scientific essay that presents nothing less than a new theory of human evolution.” Publisher’s Weekly unabashedly praises “Wrangham’s lucid, accessible treatise”:
the result is a tour de force of natural history and a profound analysis of cooking’s role in daily life. More than that, Wrangham offers a provocative take on evolution—suggesting that, rather than humans creating civilized technology, civilized technology created us.