Life, A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth, by Richard Fortey, 1997.
This is my second book by Fortey and I enjoyed it and learned a lot despite it being 20 years old. In those 2 decades many new fossils have been discovered and molecular biology has made huge strides in our understanding of the genetic relationships between living organisms.
Fortey does a wonderful job summarizing the earliest fossils of simple life forms and where the rocks that bare them are found. Throughout the book he relates the fossils with the types of habitats they inhabited and the positions and states of the continents.
He tells the stories of the discovery of many important fossils and the people who discovered them and the disputes about their interpretations. His stories include his own personal explorations and discoveries around the globe. Much of his story is a search for tropical or equatorial fossil environments looking for Trilobites that favored those habitats. I found it very interesting that those fossils could be used to indicate the past positions of those locations relative to the movement of the continental plates.
Fortey gives detailed descriptions of how specific groups of fossils can be used as "index fossils" to show relative ages of sedimentary formations around the globe. The later chapters detail human fossils and what they tell us about human evolution. Much of his view of human evolution is outdated because so many discoveries in terms of fossils and molecular data have occurred in the past 20 years.
All in all, I can recommend this book to anyone interested in paleontology and paleo-biogeography.
What if Eleanor Roosevelt had wings? -- Monty Python
One important characteristic of a theory is that is has survived repeated attempts to falsify it. Contrary to your understanding, all available evidence confirms it. --Subbie
If evolution is shown to be false, it will be at the hands of things that are true, not made up. --percy
The reason that we have the scientific method is because common sense isn't reliable. -- Taq
Well I thoroughly enjoyed his other book on trilobites so I may have to read this one as well!
I read a interesting book last year by Peter Brannen titled The Ends of the World which is about the five major life extinctions in Earth's history. It was very interesting on how they detected mass extinctions and their probable cause(s).