Joined: Jan. 2006
Just finished Valentine's "On the Origin of Phyla."
Awesome. Even if you don't want to read about the fine structural and developmental details of, oh, priapulids, Valentine is such a smooth writer that you keep on plugging away as if you were gonna learn whodunit just around the next paragraph (hint: not Teh Designist).
And VAlentine's an especially good writer when he's not writing about inividual phyla or fossils or traces or embryos. When he's writing about the "combinatorial" construction kit of the genome, or overviews about almost anything, he's just awesome. In fact, the further he drifts away from his academic and career specialties, and the more he has to explain things that are at least somewhat novel even to him, the more clarity and muscularity he brings to his writing.
Great illos and diagrams as well.
And that's almost without presenting any form of critter that's newer than the ordovician. No cute and cuddlies: 97% invertebrates. And no "higher" cephalapods like octos, either. But what cool-ass vermiform little invertebrates!
I can't reccommend this more highly for digging into the meat of the Cambrian "explosion" and the origin of metazoan phyla.