Library Run – SCORE!

Stella and I visited the public library at the end of our street (a mere 1½ blocks away). She had a purpose in mind; I did not. But I came home with Richard Dawkins’s book, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True. When I got home, I opened the book and read about a quarter of the way through it without stopping. It’s that good.

I had not realized that it is a book for children as well as adults. If I had an intelligent, aware 10-year-old, I would make sure s/he had an opportunity to read this book. What I’ve read so far deals with the scientific method and the basics of genetics and evolution, and I’ve never read a more straightforward, uncluttered but sufficiently detailed explanation anywhere. And the illustrations, by Dave McKean (whose work is so integrated with the text that he receives coauthor credit), will mesmerize you, even if you just sit down and thumb through the book without reading. Books don’t get any better than this one.

For some reason (having nothing to do with his “controversial” status among religious fundamentalists) I have never read Dawkins’s works before. I intend to remedy that deficiency.

My only complaint is that the retail price of this beautiful book is (understandably) a bit on the high side for children from families on a budget. But there’s always the public library…

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  • ellroon  On Wednesday January 25, 2012 at 11:38 am

    Cool! Thanks for the review.

    I’ve been nibbling at bits of his tome: Climbing Mount Improbable which tackles the actual process of evolution. I have no background in biology so it’s a little thick (or I’m a little thick) for me to wade through, but I like exposing myself to science I don’t clearly understand. ( It’s also a satisfying punch in the eye to the intelligent designers and the creationists.)

    I will keep my eye out for The Magic of Reality.

    • Steve  On Wednesday January 25, 2012 at 12:06 pm

      ellroon, it may be aimed at children younger than yours (they’re adults, right?), but there is not even a hint of “dumbing down” … I can read the book without cringing, and while I know many of the things written about, I am happy to know of a compact reminder that I can recommend to people. For me, it’s also a contrast: Dawkins is a gradualist regarding evolution (as was Darwin himself), while the late Stephen Jay Gould, from whom I learned most of my evolution, advocated punctuated equilibrium. Since no one really knows for certain, it’s good to have the contrast.

      I admire you for taking on one of Dawkins’s “serious” books aimed at other scientists. That must be formidable!

  • ellroon  On Thursday January 26, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Lol, thanks Steve, but I really meant ‘nibbling’… slooowly reading the book in between others. I also decided to read Wilkie Collins’ 1868’s story The Moonstone, another book to read slowly. The reader has to know it is meant to be savored and read with deliberation…. because the hero walks … to town… and then has a conversation… and then walks back… and then (ARGGGG get to the point!). It’s good (ARGGH) for me…

    • Steve  On Thursday January 26, 2012 at 5:24 pm

      ellroon, patience has never been one of my virtues, though my maladies force me to study it whether I learn it or not. I read Schlesinger’s The Coming of the New Deal in small snippets, usually subchapters, which fortunately are short enough to consume in one bite. I try to have one such book working and three or four others that I can finish quickly in the rest of my reading time. For obvious reasons, library books have high priority, and I try not to check out books that cannot be read in four weeks at most, preferably two weeks. Stella laughs at me for being unwilling to hold onto a book past due and to pay late fines, but hey, I’ve spent too many years working in various libraries to allow myself that guilty luxury.

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