With almost 20 genomes sequenced from unicellular ascomycetes (Saccharomycotina), and the prospect of many more in the pipeline, we review the patterns and processes of yeast genome evolution. A central core of about 4000 genes is shared by all the sequenced yeast genomes. Gains of genes by horizontal gene transfer seem to be very rare. Gene losses are more frequent, and losses of whole sets of genes in some pathways in some species can be understood in terms of species-specific differences in biology. The wholesale loss of redundant copies of duplicated genes after whole-genome duplication in the ancestor of one clade of yeasts is likely to have caused the emergence of many reproductively isolated lineages of yeasts at that time, but other processes are responsible for species barriers that arose more recently among close relatives of Saccharomyces cerevisiae.