An Appetite for Wonder: Book summary and reviews of An Appetite for Wonder by Richard Dawkins

An Appetite for Wonder

The Making of a Scientist

By Richard Dawkins

An Appetite for Wonder
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2013,
    304 pages.

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Book Summary

Born to parents who were enthusiastic naturalists, and linked through his wider family to a clutch of accomplished scientists, Richard Dawkins was bound to have biology in his genes. But what were the influences that shaped his life and intellectual development? And who inspired him to become the pioneering scientist and public thinker now famous (and infamous to some) around the world?

In An Appetite for Wonder we join him on a personal journey back to an enchanting childhood in colonial Africa. There the exotic natural world was his constant companion. Boarding school in England at the age of eight, and, later, public school at Oundle introduce Dawkins, and the reader, to strange rules and eccentric schoolmasters, vividly described with both humorous affection and some reservation.

An initial fervent attachment to Church of England religion soon gives way to disaffection and, later, teenage rebellion. Early signs of a preference for music, poetry and reading over practical matters become apparent as he recalls the opportunities that entered his small world. Oxford, however, is the catalyst to his life. Vigorous debate in the dynamic Zoology Department unleashes his innate intellectual curiosity, and inspirational mentors together with his own creative thinking ignite the spark that results in his radical new vision of Darwinism, The Selfish Gene.

From innocent child to charismatic world-famous scientist, Richard Dawkins paints a colourful, richly textured canvas of his early life. Honest self-reflection and witty anecdotes are interspersed with touching reminiscences of his family and friends, literature, poetry and songs. We are finally able to understand the private influences that shaped the public man who, more than anyone else in his generation, explained our own origins.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[Dawkins] relates numerous tales from his academic life...but he rarely scratches the veneer of his experiences. (To be fair, he admits he is "not a good observer," though he tries "eagerly")...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." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. Enjoyable from start to finish, this exceptionally accessible book will appeal to science lovers, lovers of autobiographies - and, of course, all of Dawkins's fans, atheists and theists alike." - Library Journal

"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." - Kirkus

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Author Information

Richard Dawkins Author Biography

Lalla Ward

Clinton Richard Dawkins was born in March 1941 in Nairobi, Kenya.  When he was eight his family moved to England where he attended Oundle School, and then Balliol College, Oxford, where he obtained a second class BA degree in zoology in 1962, followed by MA and DPhil degrees in 1966. 

He describes his childhood as "a normal Anglican upbringing", but he started to doubt the existence of God when he was about nine years old.  He later changed his opinion persuaded by the argument that a designer had been necessary to create the universe; however in his teens when he better understood evolution, he came to the conclusion that evolution could account for the complexity of life and that a designer was unnecessary.

For two years starting in 1967 ...

... Full Biography
Link to Richard Dawkins's Website

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