An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist

Richard Dawkins, Author
Richard Dawkins. Ecco, $27.97 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-222579-5
Reviewed on: 06/24/2013
Release date: 09/24/2013
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As anyone familiar with his work might expect, Dawkins’s memoir is well-written, captivating, and filled with fascinating anecdotes. Beginning just prior to his birth in colonial Kenya during WWII and concluding with the groundbreaking publication of The Selfish Gene in 1976, the book illuminates the underpinnings of Dawkins’s intellectual life, à la Tony Judt’s The Memory Chalet. He relates numerous tales from his academic life—from boarding school in Kenya, to England for prep school at Chafyn Grove, public school at Oundle, and university at Balliol College at Oxford—but he rarely scratches the veneer of his experiences. (To be fair, he admits he is “not a good observer,” though he tries “eagerly”). Interestingly, he bemoans his tacit participation in minor acts of bullying during these school days, though he refrains from commenting on contemporary accusations of intellectual asperity. He often hints at themes that would preoccupy him later in life, including his firm atheism and opinions regarding pedagogy, but while he whets readers’ appetites, he rarely sates them. Finally, Dawkins interweaves an informative gloss on natural selection with an account of the making of The Selfish Gene, whereupon he clears the table to make room for a promised second course. Hopefully that one will be more satisfying. Photos. Agent: John Brockman, Brockman Inc. (Oct.)
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