In the world of modern Paleo publications, the market is dominated by two basic categories. On one hand are the academic research papers–important, but narrow and often excruciatingly dull. On the other,  we have the diet books–important, but increasingly redundant.

And then there is Shaman, Kim Stanley Robinson’s masterpiece of ice age life. Hands down, this is the best Paleo book I’ve ever read. (followed closely by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas’s The Old Way)

Set 32,000 years ago, Shaman begins with an initiation quest, (a “wander”) that pits the young protagonist (Loon) against a range of natural forces including life-threatening cold, dangerous animals, rough terrain, injury and “the old ones” (Neanderthals).

Along the way, Robinson gives us a tactile, whole-body feeling for what life must have been like for our Paleolithic ancestors. It’s all here in story: The struggle against a long, cruel winter, the season of hunger, the hunting and gathering, the follies of tribal living, the oral tradition, the cave painting, the cross-country travel to the summer festival. And it even has plenty of sex!

Robinson does a remarkable and comprehensive job of capturing the flavor and spirit of ancestral living. Most importantly, he humanizes the Paleo experience in a way that no academic paper or diet book ever will. This is required reading for any Paleo enthusiast and for anyone who cares about our history.

Don’t wait for the paperback. Read this now.

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