From Publishers Weekly
It's easy to hear why PW
named Grover Gardner Narrator of the Year in '05. He uses inflection, stress, rhythm and his rich vocal range to create an easy and often amusing conversational style. This is particularly appropriate for the modern idiom that makes Quammen's book so lively and readable. (He writes, for example, that Darwin did "a vast amount of scholarly nibbling and scribbling.") It took Darwin 21 years (and the threat that someone else might publish first) to publish his theory because almost all his contemporaries held theological views of nature, and his wife feared that she and Charles would not be united in heaven. Quammen explains that the synthesis of Darwin's theory of evolution and Gregor Mendel's genetic discoveries was essential to establish what now underpins all modern science. This short, highly readable book is as valuable as it is timely.
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David Quammen takes up Darwin's story after the Beagle
landed on English shores, a decision that allows the author to tighten his focus on the conundrum that presented itself to the famed scientist: when to let his discovery out of the bag? Though critics point out that the price of such concision is a lack of context, they agree that Quammen does an admirable job of giving information where it is needed and galloping over gaps for the story's sake. Those hoping for a more comprehensive tome on natural selection should look elsewhere (perhaps to Quammen's The Song of the Dodo
or The Flight of the Iguana
), but this entry in Norton's Great Discoveries series delivers an entertaining, enlightening glance at one of the world's most influential thinkers.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
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