Top Ten Tuesday: Neanderthal Stories I’ve Enjoyed

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Close-up photo of prehistoric art that has been carved into a large rocky cliff. The images carved into it appear to be various animals that resemble, among other species, cattle. It’s hard to tell what other animals are, but they have four legs and sometimes have tails and horns as well. Maybe they are goats? Those of you who have followed me for a while might remember how fascinated I am by Neanderthals, prehistory, hunter gatherers, anthropology, archeology, other extinct hominid species, and similar topics.

These are the sorts of things I love exploring, especially when new details are discovered about that era that upend our previous assumptions about it.

For this week’s Freebie post, I’ll be sharing some of the books about Neanderthals and early modern humans that I’ve enjoyed.

The site I found this photo on didn’t say for sure who carved these images, but there has been Neanderthal cave art found in certain caves that was created long before Homo Sapiens showed up in Europe. It amazes me to think about how similar they were to us!

Let’s dig into my list.  It’s mostly fiction because of how quickly new ideas can replace older ones in the nonfiction genre.  If you know of other wonderful fiction or nonfiction titles on this subject, I’d love to hear about them.

1. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Earth’s Children, #1) by Jean M. Auel

Genre: Fiction

Why I Loved It: This was my first introduction to fiction about Neanderthals. It was such a detailed and creative interpretation of what scientists knew about this subject in the 1980s.


2. The Inheritors by William Golding

Genre: Fiction

Why I Loved It: It was written from the perspective of Neanderthals. The 1950s assumptions about the differences between them and us  are quite different from modern assumptions, but the writing was crisp and clear.


3. Ember from the Sun by Mark Canter

Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction

Why I Loved It: Without giving away too many spoilers, this is about a scientist who finds a perfectly preserved Neanderthal embryo and decides to implant it into a human volunteer. This isn’t something that could ever actually happen, but the ethical and societal repercussions of bringing back an extinct human species made this a must-read for me.


4. Hominids (Neanderthal Parallax, #1) by Robert J. Sawyer

Genre: Science Fiction

Why I Loved It: I’ve often wondered what Earth would be like if Neanderthals had become the only surviving human species instead of us. This series does an excellent job of exploring that question in depth.


5. Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art by Rebecca Wragg Sykes

Genre: Nonfiction

Why I Loved It: There’s something to be said for conversational books about the latest scientific discoveries on a topic. I found this easy to read and was surprised by how much more we’ve learned about Neanderthals over the last decade or so.


6. The Ugly Little Boy by Isaac Asimov

Genre: Science Fiction

Why I Loved It: Well, I don’t know that love is the right word here. The antagonist’s decision to kidnap a Neanderthal child and bring him to the 1990s in order to be studied was a terribly unethical and dangerous one. I did love the way Asimov dove into all of ramifications of this choice, though.


7. Shaman by Kim Stanley Robinson

Genre: Science Fiction

Why I Loved It: I’m still reading it, but the writing is exquisite.


8. Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes by  Svante Pääbo

Genre: Nonfiction

Why I Loved It: Every era seems to bring a new understanding of what the differences were between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. I thought this was a well-rounded look at the topic as it was understood in the 2010s, but I haven’t gone back yet to reread it and compare to what scientists think in the 2020s.





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92 Responses to Top Ten Tuesday: Neanderthal Stories I’ve Enjoyed

  1. The Clan of the Cave Bear is a book I’ve heard about over and over again through the years. I still haven’t read it.

    You have created a novel list this week!

  2. I really don’t think I’ve ever read a novel about neanderthals? I need to do something about that. I think I might’ve started The Clan of the Cave Bear at one point, and abandoned it very early on, but I’m not sure why.

  3. Interesting use of your freebie this week! I wasn’t aware that there were so many books about Neanderthals though I suppose it’s not exactly surprising. Great list!

    My TTT post this week:

  4. This is quite a niche genre. I never knew there were so many books based on Neanderthal man. I should check out the Asimov, I love his Robot and Foundation series.

  5. Asimov said “The Ugly Little Boy” was one of his favorites. I enjoy it well enough, but will always prefer “Nightfall”, “The Obvious Factor”, and “The Feeling of Power”. I went with ten completely RANDOM books for my list this week.

  6. Athena

    Interesting list, I just bought a new set of Auel books a few weeks ago 😅

  7. Not a subject I’d ever intentionally seek out, but interesting all the same. You might like The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni. It has a similar theme.

    Here is our Top Ten Tuesday. Thank you!

  8. You caught me by surprise that Isaac Asimov wrote a Neanderthal story. I’m not surprised he did, it’s that I didn’t know about it.

  9. I love that you built a list around a topic you are interested in. That seems like a fun idea and something I should remember for next time I have to create a topic. 🙂 Thanks so much for visiting my website today! Appreciate this.

  10. What an interesting topic to be fascinated with. I’ve not got much experience with this topic but did recently review a book called Live Like a Hunter Gatherer: Discovering the Secrets of the Stone Age for kids and thought it was so interesting. Enjoyed discovering your choices for the topic.

  11. Interesting topic for your freebie this week. Thank you for stopping by my blog 🌞📚💜

  12. I love this topic – the most prominent Neanderthals I can think of are either Stig of the Dump or The Eyre Affair… I don’t know if you’d be interested in reading The Gift of Stones by Jim Crace, which I found deeply moving and beautifully written – but Stone Age rather than Neanderthal!
    I decided to go for books set in Rome for my freebie!

    • Thank you!

      I do keep trying to comment on your posts, Michael, but the comment system you use doesn’t like me for some reason. LOL.

      I’m looking up The Gift of Stones. It sure sounds good from your description. So thanks for mentioning it.

  13. Fascinating list! Your comment about the Asimov story resonates… I’ve found a lot of times with classic fiction I don’t so much enjoy the STORY as I enjoy the thought experiment paths that the story led me down.

    I need to look into more Neanderthal nonfiction. There’s a lot we’ve learned since I was in school, and I’ve not kept up with this part of prehistory even though it is a subject that interests me.

    My TTT:

    • Yes, exactly! I hope you find a lot of great Neanderthal nonfiction to read. I’m happy to share suggestions if you want them, but no pressure if you don’t.

  14. wow cool list! I have been tempted to try Auel’s books.
    Oh I didn’t know this book by Asimov, I need to check this out, thanks!
    Just added it to my TBR actually. And lots of these scifi titles sound really good! Thanks!

  15. What a topic. I loved Clan of the Cave Bear and some of the books that followed it.

  16. I’d love to read more stories like this. It fascinates me too. The Auel books have always intrigued me but I haven’t read them. Ember from the Sun sounds fascinating too, and the Asimov one. I love the idea of time travel to explore those ideas.

    • If you find more, please let me know! I’ll do the same for you, too, if you wish. 🙂

      • I don’t know if you’re interested but Julie Eshbaugh’s books Ivory and Bone and the sequel Obsidian and Stars were pretty good. Not necessarily strictly Neanderthal- it’s been a few years since I read em- but pretty good. They’re YA. There were a few things that took me out of the prehistoric mindset- likke when they refer t otheir cooking area as a “kitchen”- I was like wha??- but overall. I enjoyed them.

  17. We have non in common this week.

  18. Oh, this is an interesting list. I don’t think I have read a Neanderthal story though I have had Clan of the Cave Bear on my TBR for more years than I want to admit to. I should really get around to reading it. I’m pretty intrigued by a number of these so I should add them to my TBR.

    • I hope you like them if or when you read them!

      I reread the Earth’s Children series every five years or so. It’s a great thing to dive into when the weather is too hot or cold to go outdoors as each book in that series is nice and long. 🙂

  19. Interesting list and topic, thanks for sharing! Have a great week!

  20. What a great idea for a topic (and quite niche). I also find the topic of Neanderthals fascinating, but haven’t read any fiction about it. Will look into your recommendations.

  21. I have only read the Clan of the Cave Bear from your list (and the other books in that series) and I remember it was huge when I was in school! There was always a waiting list to check it out.

  22. Now THAT’s a unique topic!

  23. What an interesting topic! I don’t think I’ve read a book with Neanderthals before.

  24. I loved Hominids and Clan of the Cave Bear, but I think those are the only books I’ve read about Neanderthals. Interesting list!

  25. I’m super impressed that you came up with an entire list of Neanderthal books! I read one thriller about Neanderthals years ago (and I think it was just called Neanderthal — very creative 🙂 ), but that’s it!

  26. What an intriguing list of books! I’m especially curious about Ember from the Sun.

  27. This is a great list! Ever since picking up The Clan of the Cave Bear, I’ve always been intrigued by Neanderthals and prehistoric stories as well. I’m looking forward to seeing what you think of these. I don’t think you read much YA, but there was also a book called Sisters of the Wolf that I read featuring a Neanderthal teen and a Cro-Magnon teen that team up.

  28. Wow, you’ve read so many! Cool topic!

  29. Interesting! This topic doesn’t really appeal to me, but I can see why you would be fascinated by it. I tried to read CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR once, but it didn’t go well…ha ha.

    Happy TTT!


  30. Some interesting ideas, Lydia. I’ve been wanting to read “The Clan of the Cave Bears” and its sequels for decades. Hubby read it in the eighties. Maybe it’s time.

    Thanks for visiting my TTT this week.

  31. Great list! I tried reading Clan of the Cave Bear at one point, but it didn’t take.
    As a librarian years ago, I had a regular patron who loved all the Clan of the Cave Bear books and was always looking for more like them. She liked the family saga style and all the passion in them, and she didn’t go for anything with a science fiction angle, so she had to branch out into books by Kathleen and Michael Gear, Sue Harrison, and Linda Lay Shuler, I remember — set in prehistoric North America. I don’t know how historically accurate they are, but she devoured them all!

  32. Oooo, what an interesting topic!! I actually started college as an anthropology major, so I’ll definitely have to look into these.

  33. YES! Thank you for this list. I’m also fascinated by Neanderthals. I’d like to read some good nonfiction about them.

  34. Wow, what an interesting topic! I would never have guessed there were so many Neanderthal fiction books!

  35. This is such an interesting topic! I don’t think I’ve ever read a neanderthal story but The Clan of the Cave Bear does sound like a great place to start.

  36. Definitely one of the most unique topics I’ve seen this week. Thank you for sharing!

  37. Great post, these all sound like fascinating reads!

  38. This is such a unique topic, I don’t think I’ve read any books about Neanderthals but these are very intriguing

  39. Jo

    I can’t say I’ve ever read any books about neanderthals, but it certainly seems like there’s quite a collection out there! You definitely win for most unique topic I’ve seen this week 🙂

  40. I read The Inheritors when I was in grad school and I thought it was fascinating. Definitely gave me pause.

  41. Love the topic! Very original.
    A few years ago i read Jean M. Auel and love it so much, i never finish the series but maybe one day

  42. RS

    This is definitely an interesting topic! I gotta say, not only is this not an area I read much about, I have never even thought to look for novels on the topic. Definitely some interesting ethics questions being raised in a couple of those there…I’m actually going to show a couple of these to my husband; I think he might like Golding and/or Asimov’s.

  43. vidya

    Really cool theme for the freebie.. didn’t realize there are so many books in this topic and on the other hand, realized that I have not read any of these (and maybe none at all in this topic)..
    My TTT this week:

  44. It’s so much fun when we find something we enjoy and can focus on in our reading life, isn’t it?! I’ve done that with Mount Everest, too.

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