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An Urchin in the Storm: Essays about Books and Ideas

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  231 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
Ranging as far as the fox and as deep as the hedgehog (the urchin of his title), Stephen Jay Gould expands on geology, biological determinism, "cardboard Darwinism," and evolutionary theory in this sparkling collection.
ebook, 256 pages
Published November 29th 2010 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published October 17th 1988)
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Jan 28, 2013 Trevor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Years ago I was walking out of my local library with one of Gould’s books of essays – which this one isn’t, by the way, this is a series of his book reviews. It was to be the first of his books I was to read. A man stopped me and told me that he had just returned the book I was about to read. He told me he was a creationist, but an open-minded one, prepared to read things by people who didn’t just share his beliefs. But that he hadn’t been able to finish the book I was borrowing because its mess ...more
Juanita Rice
Jan 17, 2017 Juanita Rice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, science
These book reviews by Stephen Jay Gould first appeared from 1963 to 1987 in The New York Review of Books, a doughty publication if there ever was one, but Gould manages to hold to his infinitely readable style even in the company of the sometimes somewhat grandiose pontificators there. (I mean that in the friendliest of humor for I quite enjoy NYRB. ) And humor, as always with Gould, is a strength in these ruminations, which use book reviewing as another point of entry to lucid and persuasive ph ...more
Mar 31, 2009 Jamil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think Stephen Jay Gould will be remembered as one of the most brilliant natural scientists of his time, and probably for long time to come. Gould had a regular column in the NY review of books and this is a collection of those articles. As Gould says in the preface, these aren't "reviews" in the common usage of the term. "That so many book reviews are petty, pedantic, parochial, pedestrian (add your own p's and q's, querulous, quotidian, quixotic)—so much so that they have folded what might be ...more
Cindy Dyson Eitelman
Jun 04, 2013 Cindy Dyson Eitelman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-14
I wanted to give this 4-1/2 stars because it deserves better than a four; I'm not allowed to use fractions; and I just can't--honestly--give it a 5. I just didn't enjoy it as much as the other two of his books I've read. I'm not sure if it's me or the book--could be me--my brain's not as sharp as it used to be and my vocabulary scores are falling. It was hard.

Halfway through, I was even considering removing this from my bookshelf...and then I read the last three essays--

Keeping it. I want to rea
Jul 19, 2010 Marie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It made me think thinky thoughts almost every chapter, which is quite something to say about a collection of book reviews. Gould may at times be a bit linguistically complex, which can be off-putting when you're tired and just want to get through the page before bed so you can find your place better in the morning. He is fond of his clauses. Also, the author's personality is definitely in full evidence, a touch brash and definitely opinionated. There were a few times I found myself rolling my ey ...more
Nov 15, 2008 Gunnar rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Solid collection of various Gould essays, mostly published by the New York Review of Books. Lots of details and context is sometimes lacking, so be patient. But vigilance will pay off in better understanding of evolution. And not the pseudo-understanding of the mainstream. His regular books are probably better. But this is a nice sampling of his ideas.
Phil Mullen
May 25, 2010 Phil Mullen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Used this for bus reading in my 1st yr. of living at the Hickman. The complexities of a given article leave my memory pretty quickly ... but the reading is often pretty rewarding (in the way one enjoys a really *good* lecture). I'd gladly read another S J Gould essay collection ... but not immediately.
Mar 23, 2014 Bevan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am very partial to Gould, having read most of his books. This book contains reviews of titles from various authors, among them E.O. Wilson, igniting some real fireworks between those supporting theories of sociobiology and others, like Professor Gould, who were very critical. The controversy continues to this day; unfortunately, Dr. Gould is not around to prolong the debate.
Bastian Greshake
Jul 03, 2016 Bastian Greshake rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A collection of book reviews written by Stephen Jay Gould. What sounds super boring is a great read, as he not only likes to argue about books, but also does a great job of putting them into a bigger context.

And his rants on socialism, genetic determinism etc. are always fun to read. I wish (evolutionary) biology would have more characters like him.
Ken Bishop
Jul 21, 2007 Ken Bishop rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Gould reviews other works of natural history and tackles critical reviewers of these works on evolution, genetics, and why some reviews may have had more to do with the author being a woman than the science involved. See my comments on Ever Since Darwin.
Feb 02, 2015 Daphne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Always a joy to read a Gould book. This one is a collection of essays about several books and not-so-famous scientists. I enjoyed most of it. A few essays weren't to my taste, but that's the good thing about essay books - you can skim a few and still enjoy the whole.
Feb 09, 2012 Caleb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this, and could enjoy it if I was awake and had a running start. Never look away from the page, however
Nov 12, 2008 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pre-2008
Gould dispensing overdue thoughtful criticism and praise for academics(?) of natural history. Very enjoyable, some of Gould at his best.
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Stephen Jay Gould was a prominent American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was also one of the most influential and widely read writers of popular science of his generation. Gould spent most of his career teaching at Harvard University and working at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Most of Gould's empirical research was on land snails. Gould
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“No Geologist worth anything is permanently bound to a desk or laboratory, but the charming notion that true science can only be based on unbiased observation of nature in the raw is mythology. Creative work, in geology and anywhere else, is interaction and synthesis: half-baked ideas from a bar room, rocks in the field, chains of thought from lonely walks, numbers squeezed from rocks in a laboratory, numbers from a calculator riveted to a desk, fancy equipment usually malfunctioning on expensive ships, cheap equipment in the human cranium, arguments before a road cut.” 13 likes
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