Sunday, March 22, 2009

Best short Darwin biography?

I just finished “The Reluctant Mr Darwin” by David Quammen. This book is an absolute gem, and I had a hard time putting it down. At ~200 pages, even those with the shortest of attention spans will find this an enthralling read. This is a refreshing look at Darwin the mortal, Darwin the ever-curious naturalist with – even by Victorian standards – rather curious social habits. This may inspire me to give the original Desmond and Moore biography a second try, though it has sat on my shelf for a good number of years gathering dust….

My favorite passage in Quammen’s book is when he is giving a very strong endorsement for a reading of the Origin in the original: “Ignore the paperback reprints of the sixth edition. Trust no one; before you buy, before you read, check the small print in front under ‘Notes on the Text’ or the discrete line of dating opposite the title page…do yourself and Charles Darwin a favor: Find a reprint of the first edition. That’s the book with all its courageous freshness and its flaws, that provoked the most cataclysmic shift in human thinking within the past four hundred years.” I just loved that! I think my next reading project might be a facsimile of the 1859 edition…

1 comment:

Glor said...

Right on man. This book is one my favorites too. Just before reading it, I had finished laboring through Janet Browne's wonderfully detailed two volume biography of Darwin. Perhaps for me these books laid a foundation, but the Quammen book packed more insight. (I may even love this book more than Geneious)