Number One on the list:
On the Origin of SpeciesRead about another book on the list.
by Charles Darwin
Last week saw news about the formal presentation of Ardipithecus ramidus, or "Ardi," a 4.4-million-year-old pre-human whose fossils were found in Ethiopia. The discovery of our extinct relative brought to mind Charles Darwin's observation in "On the Origin of Species" about the importance of extinction: In the process of natural selection, he wrote, the "extinction of old forms and the production of new and improved forms are intimately connected together." As he traveled in South America, Darwin marveled at the fossil evidence of species extinction. Sudden, catastrophic mass extinctions had no place in his scheme—they were illusions, he thought, created by gaps in the fossil record. Darwin's vision of extinction saw it exclusively as the outcome of competition: New species simply outdid earlier versions in the struggle for existence.
See: the five best books about Charles Darwin.