An Appetite for Wonder by Richard Dawkins
The Making of a Scientist

56%

9 Critic Reviews

This first installment reads like the work of a man who has already written abundantly about himself. He often tells stories that, he acknowledges, he has told before. He includes the texts of speeches he has made.
-NY Times

Synopsis

With the 2006 publication of The God Delusion, the name Richard Dawkins became a byword for ruthless skepticism and "brilliant, impassioned, articulate, impolite" debate (San Francisco Chronicle). his first memoir offers a more personal view.

His first book, The Selfish Gene, caused a seismic shift in the study of biology by proffering the gene-centered view of evolution. It was also in this book that Dawkins coined the term meme, a unit of cultural evolution, which has itself become a mainstay in contemporary culture.

In An Appetite for Wonder, Richard Dawkins shares a rare view into his early life, his intellectual awakening at Oxford, and his path to writing The Selfish Gene. He paints a vivid picture of his idyllic childhood in colonial Africa, peppered with sketches of his colorful ancestors, charming parents, and the peculiarities of colonial life right after World War II. At boarding school, despite a near-religious encounter with an Elvis record, he began his career as a skeptic by refusing to kneel for prayer in chapel. Despite some inspired teaching throughout primary and secondary school, it was only when he got to Oxford that his intellectual curiosity took full flight.

Arriving at Oxford in 1959, when undergraduates "left Elvis behind" for Bach or the Modern Jazz Quartet, Dawkins began to study zoology and was introduced to some of the university's legendary mentors as well as its tutorial system. It's to this unique educational system that Dawkins credits his awakening, as it invited young people to become scholars by encouraging them to pose rigorous questions and scour the library for the latest research rather than textbook "teaching to" any kind of test. His career as a fellow and lecturer at Oxford took an unexpected turn when, in 1973, a serious strike in Britain caused prolonged electricity cuts, and he was forced to pause his computer-based research. Provoked by the then widespread misunderstanding of natural selection known as "group selection" and inspired by the work of William Hamilton, Robert Trivers, and John Maynard Smith, he began to write a book he called, jokingly, "my bestseller." It was, of course, The Selfish Gene.

Here, for the first time, is an intimate memoir of the childhood and intellectual development of the evolutionary biologist and world-famous atheist, and the story of how he came to write what is widely held to be one of the most important books of the twentieth century.

 

About Richard Dawkins

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Richard Dawkins taught zoology at the University of California at Berkeley and at Oxford University and is now the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, a position he has held since 1995. Among his previous books are The Ancestor's Tale, The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, Climbing Mount Improbable, Unweaving the Rainbow, and A Devil's Chaplain. Dawkins lives in Oxford with his wife, the actress and artist Lalla Ward.
 
Published September 24, 2013 by Ecco. 323 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Religion & Spirituality, Science & Math, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Critic reviews for An Appetite for Wonder
All: 9 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 5

Kirkus

Good
Reviewed by Kirkus Reviews on Jul 07 2013

After delivering an entertaining account of his not-terribly-arduous youth and progression up the ladder of scientific academia, Dawkins ends with the publication of The Selfish Gene, but most readers will eagerly anticipate a concluding volume.

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Publishers Weekly

Below average
on Jun 24 2013

...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.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on Sep 18 2013

This first installment reads like the work of a man who has already written abundantly about himself. He often tells stories that, he acknowledges, he has told before. He includes the texts of speeches he has made.

Read Full Review of An Appetite for Wonder: The M... | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Richard Fortey on Sep 11 2013

Dawkins's account of his early years is surprisingly intimate and moving. His was the kind of childhood we might all dream of.

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Publishers Weekly

Below average
on Jun 24 2013

...while he whets readers’ appetites, he rarely sates them...he clears the table to make room for a promised second course. Hopefully that one will be more satisfying.

Read Full Review of An Appetite for Wonder: The M... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

NY Journal of Books

Below average
Reviewed by Richard Cytowic on Sep 18 2013

Although its subtitle promises to reveal “The making of a scientist,” the book delivers nothing close...The book is doubly disappointing given the high regard many readers have for the depth of his intellect.

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WSJ online

Below average
Reviewed by Charles C. Mann on Sep 27 2013

A memoir that combined charming reminiscences of Africa and weird stories about English school life with an evaluation of the forces that led this extremely smart man to adopt and argue for such an unusual perspective would be welcome. Perhaps that will come in the second volume of Richard Dawkins's memoirs, supposedly due in two years.

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NPR

Good
Reviewed by Jp Omalley on Sep 25 2013

This memoir is a fascinating account of one man's attempt to find answers to some of the most difficult questions posed to mankind.

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NPR

Good
Reviewed by Barbara J King on Sep 19 2013

It's a memoir that is funny and modest, absorbing and playful. Dawkins has written a marvelous love letter to science.

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