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Deep in tropical jungles around the world are birds with a dizzying array of appearances and mating displays—from pheasants with 3D feathers to moonwalking manakins—traits that seem disconnected from selection for individual survival. Culminating 30 years of fieldwork, Richard Prum, the Head Curator of Vertebrate Zoology at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History and a world-renowned ornithologist, revives Darwin’s long-neglected theory of sexual selection in which the act of choosing a mate for purely aesthetic reasons—for the mere pleasure of it—is an independent engine of evolutionary change. Sharing from his latest work, The Evolution of Beauty, Prum presents a unique scientific vision for how nature’s splendor contributes to a more complete understanding of evolution and of ourselves in a conversation with evolutionary biologist Amy Parish.

Richard Prum

Richard O. Prum is William Robertson Coe Professor of Ornithology at Yale University, and Head Curator of Vertebrate Zoology at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. He has conducted field work throughout the world, and has studied fossil theropod dinosaurs in China. He received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2010.


Amy Parish

Amy Parish is a biological anthropologist, primatologist, and Darwinian feminist who has taught at University of Southern California in the gender studies, arts and letters,anthropology, and preventive medicine programs and departments since 1999. Dr. Parish has been studying the world’s captive population of bonobos for the last twenty years. In all of her research, Dr. Parish uses an evolutionary approach to shed light on the origins of human behavior. Her work has been featured in Ms. Magazine and she has appeared on Nova, National Geographic Explorer, NPR, and Discovery Health Channel productions.


Reservation Policy for Free Programs:
As most ALOUD at Central Library programs are free of charge, it is our policy to overbook. In the case of a FULL program your free reservation may not guarantee admission. We recommend arriving early. Space permitting, unclaimed reservations will be released to standby patrons at approximately 7 PM.

Standby Policy:
Standby numbers are distributed in person only one hour before the program, on a first-come, first-served, basis. There is no advance wait list for full programs. Standby patrons will be admitted subject to availability. Most programs will be available via podcast.

Book Signing Policy:
ALOUD is one of many free programs at the Los Angeles Public Library made possible by the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. Most ALOUD author programs are followed by book signings. At least one copy of the author’s book must be purchased from The Library Store in order to participate in any post-program book signing, and you will be asked to show proof of purchase. Please be prepared to show your proof of purchase when you enter the book signing line. Proceeds support the Los Angeles Public Library.

Main image:  In the bower… Credit: Doug Riley


Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the reservation policy for ALOUD?

    As most ALOUD at Central Library programs are free of charge, it is our policy to overbook. In the case of a FULL program your free reservation may not guarantee admission. We recommend arriving early. Space permitting, unclaimed reservations will be released to standby patrons at 7 PM.

  • Why do programs fill so quickly?

    ALOUD provides a unique experience for the public to engage with scholars, authors, and artists in the intimate 235-seat Mark Taper Auditorium. Library Foundation Members have the benefit of reserving for programs in advance of the public. Consider joining as a Member to receive this benefit, and check the website on an on-going basis for program availability. Be sure to subscribe to our email alerts, and visit our Media Archive for podcasts and other items from our recent programs.

  • Where does ALOUD take place?

    Unless otherwise noted, ALOUD programs are held at the downtown Central Library’s Mark Taper Auditorium.

  • Where should I park for ALOUD programs?

    We recommend taking public transportation. Parking for the Central Library is at the Westlawn Garage at 524 S. Flower Street. For more information, visit the Library’s website.

  • Should I purchase the author’s book in advance?

    We encourage you to purchase books from the Library Store. All proceeds benefit the Los Angeles Public Library. Books are made available for purchase when you reserve for a program online, and are also on sale at programs. In order to participate in the book signing, you must purchase at least one book from The Library Store. Members receive discounts on purchases.