Gaia Vince. Photo: Phil Fisk

Gaia Vince. Photo: Phil Fisk

Environmental journalist Gaia Vince wanted to experience the impact of globalisation and a rapidly-increasing population on the environment first hand, so she bought a ticket to Kathmandu in Nepal.

A trip that was meant to last six months turned into two-and-a-half-years travelling through over sixty countries, backpacking and documenting examples of human ingenuity from all corners of the world.

The book based on what she saw, Adventures in the Anthropocene, won the Royal Society Prize for Science Books in 2015 becoming, incredibly, the first woman to do so in its near 30-year history. Vince's latest book, Transcendence, looks at how human culture enabled us to become the most successful species on Earth. 

Here, she discusses her latest book pile with us.

On Chapel Sands by Laura Cumming

This is a biography that reads like a thriller. The beautiful, almost claustrophobic story of Cumming’s mother, who was kidnapped as an infant, is told through an art-lover’s lens. The archival detail and the empathetic portraits of ordinary people living a century ago make it utterly compelling.

Lanny by Max Porter

What a treat of a book! This is a fairy story for grown ups with a cast of delightfully authentic children living in a magical countryside in which wordplay, poetry and artworks combine.

Superior: The Return of Race Science by Angela Saini

A brilliant and timely exposé of the absurdities of race science and how eugenicists used the emerging tools of genetics and evolutionary biology to assert (false) biological categories for people that persist today.

Harvest by Edward Posnett

This delightful book, about seven ‘wonders of the natural world’, is a foray into remote communities around the globe, exploring the kind of improbable natural materials that people infuse with cultural value, from sea silk made by mussels to coffee pooed by civets.

This Land Is Our Land by Jedediah Purdy

A beautiful, powerful polemic essay on a new kind of social and environmental commonwealth that might arise out of the American landscape, created from the fragments of racism, class division, poverty and degraded nature. A hopeful and important work.

And two that I’m looking forward to finishing:

Sitopia by Carolyn Steel

This is published in March 2020 and deals with that all-important question: how are we going to feed our growing global population into the future. Eating is not just a necessity, it’s one of my greatest pleasures, so I’m hoping for answers.

Figuring by Maria Popova

Figuring is a mammoth book exploring the search for meaning in science and art, featuring a cast of mostly women (many of them gay) through history. Perfect for dipping into.


Gaia Vince's latest book, Transcendence, is out now. 

  • Transcendence

  • 'A wondrous, visionary work' Tim Flannery, scientist and author of the bestselling The Weather Makers

    From the prize-winning author of Adventures in the Anthropocene, the astonishing story of how culture enabled us to become the most successful species on Earth

    Humans are the most successful species on Earth; a planet-altering force of nature. Meanwhile, our closest living relatives, the now-endangered chimpanzees, continue to live as they have for millions of years. Yet we evolved through the same process. What are we then? And now we have remade the world, what are we becoming?

    Setting out to answer this question, Gaia Vince retells our evolution story. Unlike any other species on earth we determine the course of our own destiny, something that she argues rests on a special relationship between our genes, environment and culture going back into deep time. It is our collective culture, rather than our individual intelligence, that makes humans unique. Vince shows how our four evolutionary drivers - Fire, Language, Beauty and Time - are further transforming our species into a superorganism: a hyper-cooperative mass of humanity that she calls Homo omnis, or 'Homni'. Drawing on cutting-edge advances in population genetics, archaeology, palaeontology and neuroscience, Transcendence compels us to reimagine ourselves, showing us to be on the brink of something grander - and potentially more destructive.

    To think of humans as a smarter sort of chimp with cool tools is to miss what is truly extraordinary about us. Look around you: we are the intelligent designers of all you see - including ourselves.

  • Buy the book

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