Sunday, April 5, 2009

Favourable reviews of The Rough Guide to Evolution: but what do you think?

I have to confess that I am a little disappointed that The Rough Guide to Evolution hasn't received more reviews, whether in the quality press or in blogs or even on the Amazon websites. I guess that the market is somewhat saturated with books on Darwin and evolution in this bicentenary year.

Anyhow, I am pleased to see three favourable reviews out there in cyberspace. The first, a five-star review on, has been up for some time and is from Ray Higginson from Pontypridd:
"This is a superb little book about evolution. Pallen's style is engaging, informative and at times funny (The section on Darwin's ipod, for example). What makes this such a good book is its up-to-date discussions on evolution and the science behind the 'theory'. Some textbooks on evolution can be a bit dry but this one is far from that and will serve as a great introduction to both evolutionary science and Darwin himself. A very fitting addition in the year celebrating 200 years since Darwin's birth. Great!"
Yesterday, this was joined by another five-star review, this time from John Kwok and on Kwok's review is far too long to quote in full (look at it here), but is generally highly positive:
"It is simply no exaggeration to regard [t]his book as the best, most succinct, introduction to evolution and its impact on human culture that I've encountered. It is, quite simply, an utterly delightful book, replete in clear, concise, prose."
Helpfully, Kwok includes a few hints at what should perhaps be included in the second edition (but note that many things had to be left out of the book for reasons of space!).

A couple of weeks ago, Gary McGrath McGath reviewed The Rough Guide to Evolution for the site LibraryThing. His review is also generally highly positive in tone, starting as follows:
The Rough Guide to Evolution is a very enjoyable and readable book on evolution, which everyone but the incurably ignorant can probably learn something new from. It presents some solid science without getting so deep as to lose non-specialist readers like me. It also has quite a bit of fun, citing The Simpsons and the Flying Spaghetti Monster as well as Mendel and Huxley.
Later, he quibbles over the fact that I mention in the book that the execrable film Expelled drew a legal challenge from Yoko Ono, but fail to mention that Ono lost the case. Well, there is no conspiracy here--when the relevant section was written, the case was still pending. I will make an amendment in the second edition. 

McGrath McGath also expresses a dislike for the Rough Guides house style, particularly the boxes that are interspersed with the body text. I find this curious, because, for me, this was one of the attractions of the house style, in that allowed one to go off on tangents and explore many more side topics that would be the case if everything had to be woven into one continuous narrative.

So, dear reader, what do you think of The Rough Guide to Evolution? What did you like or dislike? Did you like the boxes? Is there anything that you think I left out and should include in the next edition? Anything I should drop? And please feel free to add your own reviews to the and websites!


Anonymous said...

It's next on my list, I promise!

Danny Boy, FCD said...

I don't think it's available in my neck of the woods. I guess I'll have to bite the bullet and buy online.

Gary McGath said...

Thanks for the link, but that's "McGath," please.

Your publisher may not have been doing a good job of distributing review copies. A number were supposed to have been distributed through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, but it appears that none of those copies have been received yet. (My review was through a library copy, one of the perks of working for a big library.)

I'll update my review to mention that the Yoko Ono lawsuit hadn't been settled when you submitted the book.