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4.1 out of 5 stars
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Showing 1-5 of 5 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 15 reviews
on February 19, 2013
Update on June 21, 2013: I do need to point out what I think is a rather obvious error in both the original hardbound versions and the later paperback version of this book. The graph in the early chapter, "Life: The Eternal Enigma" showing what has come to be known as the "Keeling" curve, is mislabeled! The increase in CO2 occurs in the winter in the northern hemisphere, NOT in the summer. In the spring and summer, northern hemisphere trees are leafed out and absorb large amounts of CO2, which REDUCES the total CO2 going into the atmosphere in these warmer months. In the winter in the northern hemisphere, deciduous trees lose their leaves and cannot then absorb this carbon dioxide, resulting in more CO2 in the atmosphere in the winter. Otherwise, this books deserves the 5 stars.

This is a fabulous, must-read book on the topic of "what is life", but I highly recommend buying only one copy of this paperback version. Then you need to go to Amazon's secondary sellers and find one or more "used, like new" copies of one of the two hardbound editions. Both of these hardcover editions are more impressive than the newer paperback, one being published in 1995 in London (Great Britain), and the second also being published in 1995, but by Simon & Schuster. Both of these hardcover editions were printed in Italy, by the way. The paperback version is printed on "permanent paper" but the quality, size, artisanship and design of the paperback version is not nearly as impressive as are the two hardbound editions.

This is why I recommend buying just one copy of the newer, compromised paperback (only because some of the scientific nomenclature has been updated), keeping in mind that the larger hardbound originals are so much easier to read and so much more "alive" (ironic, huh, given the title has to do with "life"), that I now find the paperback version to be overpriced and unable to match the awesome overall quality of the original hardbound.

In a sense, this difference in the two versions is much like the arguments that float out there about the relative value of e-books versus "real" books! If you ever wanted to understand the importance of typography, font selection, design, and binding of a book, then find a secondary seller here on Amazon (who has a "used/like new" version of one of the 1995 hardbound versions of this book), and buy that in addition to a copy of the "newer", less visually & emotionally impressive paperback.

By the way, Dorian Sagan comments in May of 2013 that he prefers the London hardcover version, the one printed in Italy. However, I can see no difference between this London (white cover) edition and the Simon & Shuster American edition (also printed in Italy, but with a black cover). Both were printed in 1995, and as far as I can tell they are identical.
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on January 7, 2003
I was as enthralled as other reviewers with the amazing facts in this book. My favorite: bacteria don't age; they can die from accidental causes but "programmed death" started with eukaryotes. The authors show that death is necessary for organisms (like us) that practice meiotic cell division.
But this book is far more than a random collection of facts. Margulis and her collaborators do an amazing job of assembling an understandable model of life using parts carefully selected from a vast body of biological knowledge. While a one-sentence definition is still elusive, the reader builds up a picture of life's most pertinent characteristics, as exhibited by the truly astounding diversity of living things on this planet. By the time I finished, I was satisfied that the authors had answered the question.
You don't need to be a biologist to understand and enjoy this book. Its beauty is that the greatest scientific thinking on the most complex topics has been presented in common english, with necessary scientific terms explained as they are introduced. If you are intrigued by the question of life, I doubt there's a more complete, accurate, understandable, and enjoyable answer available than this book.
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on May 16, 2016
Perfect conditions.
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on May 1, 2004
I was totally engrossed with this book and for several weeks it became
an appendage. It is filled with awsome facts and enlightenments.
My only disappointment was that I am just an animal like all others on
this earth and nothing was said concerning what happens to me when
fungi take over. I mean "Me". Where do I go? Right now I beleive I just
plain die. It makes life a bit harder to face, to think all this is gone when
I die. Can anyone recommend a book that will help to give me an idea
as to what happens to my consciousness when I die??
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on December 29, 2014
the book itself is wonderful. However i paid for 2 new books with covers. Only one had a cover and that was torn when i opened the package because the sticky seal of the package was attached to the cover. The packaging was inadequate for overseas travel, the corners and edges were badly scuffed, so i had to give a shoddy looking xmas present. Hopefully the great content will make up for it..
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