There is considerable variation within eukaryotic genomes in the local rate of crossing over. Why is this and what effect does it have on genome evolution? On the genome scale, it is known that by shuffling alleles, recombination increases the efficacy of selection. By contrast, the extent to which differences in the recombination rate modulate the efficacy of selection between genomic regions is unclear. Recombination also has direct consequences on the origin and fate of mutations: biased gene conversion and other forms of meiotic drive promote the fixation of mutations in a similar way to selection, and recombination itself may be mutagenic. Consideration of both the direct and indirect effects of recombination is necessary to understand why its rate is so variable and for correct interpretation of patterns of genome evolution.