Wellcome Book Prize 2015: The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being by Alice Roberts
The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being by Alice Roberts covers embryology, genetics, zoology and more in an accessible and entertaining manner (there are Star Wars references in there) - making it an enjoyable and enlightening read.
It takes the often seemingly incomprehensible, religion-inspiring ideas of creation and breaks them down from head to toe, from birth to death, in a way which leaves the reader feeling no less awe-inspired than if there was something greater than ourselves at play.
Though still dealing with complex topics, Roberts’ is personable and engaging - she is adept at communicating her passion and field of expertise regardless of the ability of the reader, the incredibly unlikely being in mention. The text thereby is not intimidating, instead the reader is invited to learn and digest at their own pace, which is a true pleasure. The comparative anatomy explained in TIUOB is particularly fascinating, learning about the similarities between a shark’s gills and our own voice boxes for example, or indeed that as embryos we all have gill arches before evolution steers us in a less watery direction. Roberts’ highlights that we are not perfect beings, we are a mix of present day traits and ancient remnants, thus enabling us to reflect on our personal history and place ourselves somewhere in the history of, well, pretty much everything.
Roberts’ has said that in becoming a mother: ‘I had this flash of realisation, just an image of my part in this chain of life’. This realisation was partly what inspired the text. Women in science are still sadly rare and it is therefore somewhat satisfying, and hopefully inspiring, that this educative book is written by a woman and a mother.