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5 Stars (and in a perfect world, MORE than five stars) but the original hardbound editions are still the best!
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.