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An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist Paperback – 12 Sep 2013

4.2 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Press (12 Sept. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0593070909
  • ISBN-13: 978-0593070901
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 395,195 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Most geeks cannot write; this one can... Equipped with an undoubted gift for expression, Dawkins the writer comes with a unique pedigree" -- Richard Fortey Guardian "Lyrical... brilliant... Dawkins' style [is] clear and elegant" Financial Times "This eloquent, witty and instructive book reveals the true Richard Dawkins. It's a great read." A.C. Grayling "Throughout and as usual, Dawkins's writing is graceful, sparkling with anecdotes and wit" Eugenie Scott, Nature "Affirmative nostalgia suits [Dawkins], and so does the good humour that imbues his writing about home... The voice is familiar but the tone is new, and the result is some of his most pleasing prose... The clarity and passion with which he recalls his childhood is matched by the clarity, passion, concerns and imagery - fairness, bullying, kindness to animals - with which he expresses the values he has maintained since then... An Appetite for Wonder speaks eloquently about where his values and preoccupations came from... Warmly illuminating about the making of Dawkins the humanist." Marek Kohn, Independent

Book Description

An early memoir from the world's most famous atheist, and scientist. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am a great admirer of Dawkins, although I read his atheist and humanist works before dipping my toe in 'The Selfish Gene' pool. As such, I was predisposed to be charmed by 'An Appetite For Wonder', and in many ways it didn't disappoint. The early part of the book, with its loving descriptions of talented ancestors and stories of African childhood, had me gently chuckling, particularly the anecdote about the lions and the "vroom vroom".

As Dawkins began to describe his schooling, I found myself puzzled. The prose seemed ever so slightly stilted, lacking the elegant styling and perfect expression of thought I was expecting. Perhaps this is the inevitable product of memories incompletely recalled? Perhaps Dawkins the writer-scientist has too much integrity to flesh out a reminiscence with words or details for which he has no evidence? And on one or two occasions I found myself noticing repetition of thought - perhaps some things are of such significance to the writer that he deliberately repeated them, or perhaps an indulgent editor let them pass.

The harshness of Dawkins' self-criticism took me aback - on just one spread he writes, of his schoolboy self: "What was the point of such boasting? I shall never know..."; "That attitude was so stupid it's pretty self-evident that I didn't deserve to do well in class anyway..."; "I was evidently very confused..."; "It ludicrously occurred to me..."; "Among many other things I got wrong here..." Why so hard on himself? He was just a boy at the time. Then again, as he points out, there is no physical part of Dawkins now that was also in the boy Dawkins, so in some ways he is writing of an Other to which he is linked only by the quasi-miraculous chance of memory.
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Format: Hardcover
Private Eye did a hatchet job on this book and they were being completely unfair. It's not a masterpiece but it's still a good read.

They criticised Dawkins for being arrogant but I don't see it: he strikes me as the opposite here, often expressing sentiments like `I didn't deserve it', or `I should have worked harder'. OF COURSE there's going to be a few `boasts' that some (particularly the jealous and antagonistic) will object to - Dawkins IS one of the world's greatest scientists and thinkers; there's only so humble a man like this can be.

The Eye, in its hyper-critical, hyper-cynical way, also complained about Dawkins expressing his scepticism of religious beliefs while he discussed his formative years. But these comments are very occasional. And I wished there was more of them - one of the slight disappointments of the book is that there isn't more criticism of religion.

They were right to say the book is essentially in two halves, the first Dawkins' childhood and `non-scientific' reminiscences, the second sometimes very technical descriptions of his work at Oxford. I too would have liked a little more about the person and other subjects besides the ones he dwells on. But it's a solid book, and sometimes a highly amusing one, and I look forward to part two in two years time, which I suspect will be better.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I must say I really enjoyed this book. I don't know very much about Dawkins, other than the fact that he's a prominent scientist and has outspoken views on religion but this first half of his autobiography was very interesting, much more so than the 'celebrity' autobiographies that clutter up our high street book stores.

The book takes you through a bit of family history, then from his early years living in colonial Africa, then to his later childhood in England, and up to the point where he published The Selfish Gene. The second part of the autobiography is yet to be published and is hopefully forthcoming.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an interesting and enjoyable book - mainly autobigraphical in content, but with a fair amount of scientific explanation along the way. Taking the reader through a brief history of his family and his early life, Dawkins covers his childhood in Africa and England, his time at boarding school, and his formative experiences at Balliol College, Oxford, before concluding with the publication of his first book, the Selfish Gene, in 1976 when the author was thirty-five.

For the most part this makes for light and entertaining reading. There is little in the way of disclosure about the author's personal life here- instead this is, as advertised, the story of the making of a scientist - it is more about the author's cerebral life and intellectual development than it is a conventional autobiography. I found one or two of the chapters, particularly the chapter entitled ' a computer fix' in which Dawkins goes into some detail about his development of computer programming as part of his researches, very technical and rather hard to follow.

However, the fascinating concluding chapter in which Dawkins muses on whether life follows a path, or is the result of random events like a sneeze, more than makes up for the few pages which i found hard to follow, and I shall look forward to the publication of the second volume of these memoirs in due course.
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