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An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist (Richard Dawkins' Memoirs #1)

3.62  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,212 Ratings  ·  287 Reviews
Here, for the first time is an intimate look into the childhood and intellectual development of the world’s most famous atheist and evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, “one of the most outstanding intelligences in modern science.” (Evening Standard) and “one of the greatest nonfiction writers alive today” (Steven Pinker)
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 24th 2013 by Ecco (first published 2013)
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Brendon Schrodinger
'An Appetite For Wonder' is the first part of Richard's autobiography and cover his life up until the publication of The Selfish Gene as well as some material about his parents and grandparents before he came along. It is written in the usual Dawkins style, witty charming and self-effacing and filled with anecdotes about great people in his life and how their influence has helped him become the man he is today.

The initial part of the book deals with Richard's lineage and while it is a bit dry it
Jan 02, 2014 David rated it really liked it
In this short autobiography, Richard Dawkins covers the first half of his life. The book ends with the publication of his first book, The Selfish Gene. The book is filled with short anecdotes about Dawkins' life growing up, from the youngest age.

The first half of the book covers his childhood; in this section Dawkins frequently wonders why he did so many "unthinking" things, often devoid of curiosity. He wonders how he was influenced to become a biologist; and both his parents were interested i
Dec 04, 2013 Marvin rated it liked it
Richard Dawkins gets a bad rap. Sure, I understand he can be critical of religion and maybe a little arrogant.. He thinks the world would be better off without religion but never advocates its banishment. So what? I hate beets but i won't stop others from eating them. But Dawkins has never knocked on my door at 7 AM and shoved a religious pamphlet in my face. He never insisted on his ideas being read in Sunday school to provide a balanced viewpoint. And he never threatened eternal punishment if ...more
Sep 03, 2013 David rated it it was amazing
Dawkins has given us some idea of how he has come to be the man he is, and how he has been influenced or not by the times in which he lived and the people and circumstances of his existence. Born during WW-II, in Africa where his Father served the King's African Rifles in Kenya, he relies heavily on his Mother's journals to exhibit details of those early years. History may relegate the African campaigns to North Africa and the exploits of Rommel, Montgomery and Patton, but the war influenced col ...more
Sep 17, 2014 Charbel rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, biographies
Richard Dawkins has a reputation. He’s considered the leading figure in the “militant atheism” movement, as well as religion’s harshest critic. In scientific circles, however, he’s also well known as a major contributor to ethology, animal behaviour science, and evolutionary biology. In short, he is, as he put it, a “labourer in Darwin’s vineyard today”.
An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist takes you on a journey where you get to know the man behind the persuasive arguments, celebrat
Sep 27, 2013 InYourFaceNewYorker rated it it was amazing
We've all heard the stereotypes about kids who grow up to be scientists: precocious, prodigious little children, lonely and isolated from their peers, who lock themselves in a room for several hours at a time doing experiments. By his own admission, Richard Dawkins was none of these things. When he lived in Africa as a boy, he was apparently more interested, for example, in playing with toy cars than watching a pride of lions devour its prey. However, he was-- and is-- a lover of words, and that ...more
Marc Faoite
Sep 03, 2013 Marc Faoite rated it liked it

An Appetite For Wonder is Richard Dawkins’ latest book and unlike The God Delusion is unlikely to be burned. It is essentially a memoir, and follows the first half of the author’s life, up until the publishing of The Selfish Gene. The second part of his life will be dealt with in a later volume.
Dawkins is just about as British as you can get, including the plum in mouth accent that comes through his writing style and is his actual voice in real life. However, like many of his contemporaries bor
Sep 28, 2013 Ron rated it it was amazing
The only reason I gave it only four stars is that a couple of the chapters describing his research were very arcane and way above my ability to follow! Other than that, this is a great book, telling of this great scientist's life from birth until the publication of his surprise best-seller bombshell THE SELFISH GENE. If you want proof of evolution, you need go no farther than his explanation of the revealingly "bad design" of the recurrent laryngeal nerve and how it traces directly back to our e ...more
Kim Olson
Oct 09, 2013 Kim Olson rated it really liked it
It's hard for me to imagine a world without Richard Dawkins, because his books have contributed so much to my understanding of the world (as they've done for so many others). I've often wondered how exactly he became the man that he is. I have to say that his background is pretty much as anyone might imagine--an African childhood spent wandering the bush (although he downplays its significance), a botanist father, prep school and then Oxford, where his father and several other family members had ...more
Bob Schnell
Aug 28, 2013 Bob Schnell rated it liked it
Richard Dawkins shares his life story up to the point of the publication of his first book "The Selfish Gene" (now famous for coining the word "meme"). While I am always fascinated with autobiographies of British people I was a bit disappointed in how much of the book had already been covered in his previous books. I would have liked more personal insight regarding his "appetite for wonder" and fewer lengthy passages lifted directly from his other writings in explanation of his experiments. The ...more
Nov 17, 2013 Jafar rated it liked it
I think I should have skipped this book and waited for the second volume where – presumably – Dawkins will talk about how he turned from a scientist into a public intellectual and the face of unapologetic atheism. This volume covers his childhood years in Kenya and then his Oxford years – none of which I found particularly interesting. Nor did I really like the rather long sections describing his doctoral research. The book got more interesting for me towards the end when he talks about the publ ...more
Dec 27, 2013 Armin rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in his origins
"An Appetite for Wonder" is a memoir covering Dawkins evolution from his idyllic childhood in colonial Africa to the 1976 publication of his seminal work "The Selfish Gene". He explains toward the end of the book that the other half part of his life is the subject of yet another autobiographical work to be published in two years time. I am really looking forward to it, since I really liked this one, the first one.

I don't know why but for some reason I expected the childhood part to be mundane,
Koen Crolla
In the past I've often denounced the whole genre of autobiography as being unacceptably self-indulgent, and Richard Dawkins himself, of course, is the walking embodiment of unexamined privilege, so I expected to dislike the smugly titled An Appetite for Wonder more than I did.
It's not that Dawkins has suddenly grown a sense of self-awareness† or that his account of his youth doesn't contain barely-concealed nostalgia for colonialism or the well-publicised trivialisation of child molestation—rath
Elizabeth Theiss
Oct 31, 2013 Elizabeth Theiss rated it liked it
Shelves: science, biography
Richard Dawkins is a man I would like to spend an afternoon with, sharing a bottle of wine and talking about interesting things. He is damn good company and I enjoyed his memoir. And yet, having finished it just a few minutes ago, I'm left mildly dissatisfied. He has given us an account of his intellectual development from earliest years through the publication of The Selfish Gene. He's told us amusing bits about the Great Men who inspired and mentored him. But I'm not entirely sure I learned mu ...more
Feb 27, 2016 Olga rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
My first memoir... It was really good.
I really admire Richard Dawkins so maybe I'm bias in this, I think he's brilliant and it was very interesting to know a little about his early life, about his passion for biology specially zoology and evolution. Very thought provoking for me and inspiring to continue my journey to become a better scientist and researcher.

It feels weird trying to rate a non-fiction book, but this one I think deserves the highest rating. It has a bit of everything and I just
Larry Bassett
Richard Dawkins as he recalls his early life

I am an admirer of Richard Dawkins because he has written some books debunking God. So I was attracted to this book because I was curious about is personal history. He was born in Africa two parents who were in service to the global domination of England. He grew up a fairly privileged life with his education culminating at Oxford. I experienced the book in its audible format read by author Dawkins himself with his wonderful English accent. You should
Oct 07, 2013 Jenny rated it liked it
Dawkins is one of my favorite authors. He has a wonderful ability to string together memorably precise phrases, and he is peerless in his position as an 'effective persuader' (as he refers to himself at the end of this book.) Of his books I usually would comment that he has done a great job of taking esoteric scientific concepts and parsing out the heavy data leaving behind reader-friendly knowledge bombs. However, the second half of this book is pretty dense as it explores his graduate research ...more
Richard Cytowic
Sep 20, 2013 Richard Cytowic rated it did not like it
A disappointing book of a life full of events, but short on what they mean to the author. It sheds little to no light on how Dawkins came to be the intellect he is, and fails as both conventional autobiography and memoir.
The purpose of writing is to illuminate what is hidden, and this book is far off the mark.

See my full review of Richard Dawkins' Appetite for Wonder in The New York Journal of Books.

A list of recent reviews can also be found on Richard Cytowic's profile page at the NY Journal o
Linda Harkins
Jul 18, 2015 Linda Harkins rated it it was amazing
I read several books by Dawkins during the '90s and discovered that he is the British ethologist who coined the word "meme" now embedded in the behavioral sciences. When Susan Blackmore ran with the meme ball, I also read what she had to say on the topic. This book, however, is a memoir of a person born into a family of privilege, a person whose hero is Charles Darwin, a person who writes in such a manner that I'm often amused and enlightened simultaneously. Dawkins is a talented writer who show ...more
Feb 19, 2016 Anysha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Měla jsem vysoká očekávání, která se mi bohužel moc nesplnila. Čekala jsem mnohem víc otevřenosti, lásky k přírodě a poznání, pozorování světa kolem, více úvah. Velkou část knihy zabírají životopisné informace (britský kolonialismus je zajímavý, ale přeci jen.. ) nebo vcelku zdlouhavé popisy výzkumů (kuřata :) ). Také mi občas neseděly přehnaně emotivní výkřiky na téma náboženství - názor můžu mít stejný, ale od vědecké kapacity bych čekala jiné podání.
Proč ale dávám knize 3 hvězdy? Protože jen
Stu Hall
Jun 25, 2013 Stu Hall rated it liked it
Started off interesting, faded and repetitive towards the end. I was hoping for a little more about the discovery of the evidence of his own beliefs and would have preferred less detail about the minutiae of pecking chicks.
Jun 16, 2013 Sara rated it liked it
Shelves: joint-reads, arc
While I really enjoyed the first part of the book and learning more about his childhood, for someone who has read most of his other work I found too much repetition from those older writings in the last third or so.
Jan 03, 2016 Ivana rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I love Dawkins. He is one of the most brilliant evolutionary biologist of our time. Having said that, I found his memoir largely boring, full of trite details and aspects of his life that, to a reader, bear no importance on his life as a magnificent scientist. I was on page 146 and still reading about his childhood and the fact that he had cold feet, that he once witnessed a child being bullied... So on and so forth.
His writing is magnificent, and his scientific achievements undeniable. I guess
Fares Alahmar
Dec 02, 2014 Fares Alahmar rated it liked it
Considering people aren't of my greatest interests, but ideas; this is the first autobiography book I have ever read. But also considering this man left a great amount of influence on my character, on me discovering where I came from and what's my life purpose from a scientific point of view, it would be such a shame not to know 'his own evolution'.

Although he spent almost half of the book talking about other people and family members rather than talking about himself, I have never seen 'THE' mo
I won an ARC of this book from Goodreads.
Dawkins is one of my favorite thinkers out there. I've loved - and usually have had to take the time to digest the books as they are science heavy, in the best possibly way - all his books I've read. Which is most of them.
This one is different. It's his autobiography. Less science, less atheism everywhere. And way more a look at his past. What made this young African-born British lad turn to be a fantastic scientist, and a big voice for the non-religious
Oct 12, 2013 Judith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title changed from what is written above to what is shown on the book jacket.

A different kind of autobiography. For one, it is intended to be just part 1. Part 2 is to come out in a couple of years, if all goes well. Part 1 takes us from childhood through the publication of Dawkins' first book, The Selfish Gene, in 1976. Although called "an intimate memoir" on the book jacket, the book skirts a lot of what I'd call "intimate". For example, his marriages are mentioned in passing, with no info
Carlo Ruggiero
Nov 18, 2013 Carlo Ruggiero rated it liked it
Received an Advanced Reader's Edition of An Appetite for Wonder through GoodReads Giveaway

I was somewhat familiar with Dawkins's work, having read selections from some titles and having listened to Magic of Reality on Audio... I had some difficulty with the first half of the book being more of a (private) school recollection; it profited me nothing to read about his old school masters. Dawkins is a brilliant scientist and can write well, but the content was a little lacking, in this reader's opi
Dec 27, 2015 Sarah added it
You wouldn't think a memoir of one of our century's most prolific scientists would be so cute. The first chapters are about his great-grandparents down to his childhood and it is entirely endearing. There are even sections about his early childhood written by his mother.

A few of the chapters Dawkins details a few of his research phases which gets quite dry, but if you stick with it, even a layman such as myself can enjoy it.

It feels very honest, but An Appetite for Wonder is not a tell-all. Da
The June Bug
Dawkins' early childhood is what one would predict of kids not interested in things that their parents have done, and having little or no influence on the actions of baby Dawkins. However, Dawkins lays out the methods or rather the exposure (to a host of renowned individuals and science practitioners) through which he has come around to study, teach and practice biology by his own means.

Funnily, half way through the book, Dawkins drops the idea that this is a memoir and dives deep into multiple
Shahine Ardeshir
May 03, 2015 Shahine Ardeshir rated it liked it
Memoirs and biographies are one of my favourite genres of books, so when I heard Mr Dawkins, the author of the Selfish Gene, one of my favourite books of all time, had written one, I couldn’t wait.

This book is common to all other Dawkins books I have read in one aspect – the man can write, and write exceptionally well. His point of view comes through clearly through the pages, in an articulate, polished and impeccably constructed manner. As a reader, I got a clear sense of the thought, effort a
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