A second reading, some thirty years from the first and as brilliant as it was the first time; plus two more chapters and a host of endnotes to each ch...moreA second reading, some thirty years from the first and as brilliant as it was the first time; plus two more chapters and a host of endnotes to each chapter. As relevant now as then. Quite exceptional and should be read by everyone with an interest in evolution.(less)
I am a great fan of Richard Dawkins but dear, oh dear, he does go on sometimes! The problem is not with what he has to say, but his belief that people...moreI am a great fan of Richard Dawkins but dear, oh dear, he does go on sometimes! The problem is not with what he has to say, but his belief that people can't understand something explained once. So you can have a simple concept explained every which way and you find yourself wanting to scream 'Get on with it!'. To find the same thing repeated again, and again, in separate parts of the book gets very tedious. (Not as tedious as the repetition in The God Delusion, but that was in a class of its own!) If he needs to refer back to a concept or explanation, he doesn't just refer back to it, he goes through the whole damn thing again!
I started to read the book when it was first published and never finished. I did this time, but know why I didn't the first. I got to around where I finished last time and found I was saying under my breath: 'Please, please, don't say again "At the risk of repeating myself..."; you are, and please, please stop. I'm a busy man.' Speed reading saved the day.
He is also a little careless in how he demolishes people who he thinks hold eroneous opinions; there were several non-sequiturs in his arguments, even though his conclusions were correct. It seems he gets a little wound-up and doesn't edit out his worst excesses at the proof reading stage!
The book is now very dated. It is past its sell-by date and it's worth putting your time into something else on the subject of Evolution; I can recommend the Selfish Gene; although published earlier than The Blind Watchmaker, it is still as relevant as when it was written.(less)
Excellent and very readable. As a 'Very Short Introduction' it fits the bill admirably. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the subject...moreExcellent and very readable. As a 'Very Short Introduction' it fits the bill admirably. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the subject with one caveat: it could be slightly tough going and confusing in places for anyone without a basic scientific background and familiarity with the history of the Earth. Such a knowledge is assumed in places. However, that is a small drawback to what is an excellent overview of a topic conveyed in a highly readable way. The author has that rare knack of being able to write clear, comprehensible English that is a joy to read. He also has a keen sense of humour. It is remarkable what is covered so thoroughly in so few pages. (less)
'Evolution' gives an entertaining and up-to-date introduction to the subject and provides an overview of current thnking. Rather than follow the tradi...more'Evolution' gives an entertaining and up-to-date introduction to the subject and provides an overview of current thnking. Rather than follow the traditional format of revisiting all the old chesnuts, and rehashing previous school textbooks on the subject, 'Evolution - A Very Short Introduction' works from the basics through to current problem areas, using numerous fascinating examples including analogies in our modern non-biotic environment; such as the motor-car and computers. A good introduction for the novice; an entertaining read for the biologist.(less)
Futuyma is a well known evolutionary academic and his book, now into a second edition, is a leading text on the subject. Writing the book must have be...moreFutuyma is a well known evolutionary academic and his book, now into a second edition, is a leading text on the subject. Writing the book must have been a major undertaking and Futuyma is to be commended on producing such a fascinating and comprehensive book.
Unfortunately, large sections of the text are indigestible. A simple example of the general style will suffice:
'From studies of modern organisms, we know that much diversity resides in the great numbers of related species that reduce competition with one another by subtle differences in resource use.'
In addition, it is very common to find excessive use of words:
'...or those of any other species you are familiar with...'
Apart from general style, one finds oneself having to continually reread sentences. It isn't anything to do with the subject matter, or grammar, but with Futuyma's rather strange and clumsy construction of sentences. It is very common to get to the end of a long sentence to arrive at the subject matter of a new topic, idea or concept, ie 'because of x, y, and z, and the intervention of u, v and w, it is shown that a, b, c.' The sentence that was obscure until the end, makes perfect sense on re-reading. It is actually rather interesting how the text is perfectly clear on a second reading, but like wading through treacle on a first reading.
Overall, 'Evolution' is a good, up to date text on the subject. There is also an accompanying website for the second edition (this review refers to the first edition). But do be prepared to occasionally spend time unnecessarily rereading, trying to unravel exactly what Futuyma is saying, and to mutter under your breath: 'Why on Earth didn't he just say....'.(less)
This book is quite wonderful. It is an anthology of experiences from both World Wars, drawing on first hand accounts both military and civilian, allie...moreThis book is quite wonderful. It is an anthology of experiences from both World Wars, drawing on first hand accounts both military and civilian, allied and axis. Divided into sections such as Grim Reality, The Kindness of Strangers, Into Battle, The Human Cost, 'Lest We Forget' gives a fascinating historical insight into the human face of the two wars and, in particular the extraordinary strengths that lie behind quite ordinary people. The stories are fascinating and uplifiting; sometimes horrific and sobering. Most accounts take up a page or less. The impact of each one is out of all proportion to the word count. Highly recommended.(less)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book but it does have some quite severe limitations. Firstly, although it is clearly pitched at the general reader, unless h...moreI thoroughly enjoyed this book but it does have some quite severe limitations. Firstly, although it is clearly pitched at the general reader, unless he has a background knowledge of Earth Sciences he would often be left scratching his head. In the first chapters, possibly up to about half way, the book explains basic geological and evolutionary concepts in simple terms and then, as the book progresses, it skips through more complicated areas with little or no explanation at all. Secondly, the book is very light on diagrams that would help explain things. For example, there is a basic geological time chart early in the book that only shows Eras and Periods, but different Eons, Epochs and Stages are frequently referred to later in the text. Similarly, the changes in the cyconodonts, synapsids, dicynodonts etc across the Permian/Triassic boundary, as well as changes in many other taxa, are discussed in detail, but there are no cladograms to help get a handle on the interrelationship between them. For any reader, that would have been helpful. Thirdly, the book does rather give the impression of having been started carefully and then rushed through in the last third, with rather a lot of repetition.
Benton is a prolific author. Perhaps the drawbacks to the book are a reflection of the fact that it's unlikely he has much time to spend going back over his text to polish and improve. He is too busy with his next project!
Overall, the book is a very easy and enjoyable read for the Earth scientist and I would heartily recommend it. For the more general reader I would recommend the first half for the introduction to the subject of extinction, mass extinction in particular, and for the fascinating history of the subject from the early nineteenth century to the present.(less)
I thoroughly enjoyed this little book and only give it three stars as, from the perspective of someone reading one hundred and sixty-seven years after...moreI thoroughly enjoyed this little book and only give it three stars as, from the perspective of someone reading one hundred and sixty-seven years after it was written, it is a little hard-going at times and not as 'tight' in style as one becomes used to with modern fiction. It is well worth trying Dickens and, if you can't face a lengthy introduction (I would recommend that wonderful book: A Tale of Two Cities), then try this tiny volume. It can be read comfortably in an evening and you can close it at the end knowing you have added one of the world's true classics to your bookshelf.
Probably unusually, I read this book without having read any of Jane Austen's books although I have Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Emma and Sense an...moreProbably unusually, I read this book without having read any of Jane Austen's books although I have Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Emma and Sense and Sensibility in my bookcase. Like most people, I have seen all the recent screen adaptations, thoroughly enjoyed them, and have been meaning to read the novels: one day.
It seemed an excellent idea to read a book on 'How Jane Austen Conquered the World' to get a handle on the literature before settling down with the actual novels. I wasn't disappointed.
The book is wide-ranging in its coverage, moving from what is known of Jane's life and family and her, and her family's, literary ambitions, her publishers, and on through time examining changing literary criticism, stage plays and current film productions. If anything, the book is too detailed for the casual interested reader - at times one feels overwhelmed with the seeming flood of information, as if Claire Harman is determined to pack in every last piece of research. And researched it is! The 'Select Bibliography' runs to 11 pages, some 180 entries, and the 'Notes' to 22 pages, the index to 18 pages. Accordingly, I would put it in the category of 'Must Read' for any undergraduate studying English Literature; I doubt anything of any substance has been omitted.
For the less studious, it is hard going at times. This is accentuated as there are just seven chapters to cover every aspect of the subject. Within each chapter, different threads are simply separated by double paragraphing and ***. It sometimes seems as if the component parts of each chapter have been a little cobbled together and, when there is an obvious lack of continuity, three stars are used to separate. You feel after each separation as if you are launching into something new without knowing where it's going. It would have helped enormously to have had some chapter subheadings.
It therefore falls slightly between two stools; solid chapters to appeal to the more casual 'reader' with detail making them rather indigestible; and the detail and rigour of research to appeal to the 'academic' but this being buried in lengths of almost unbroken prose.
But the book is worth criticising. It is a wonderful piece of research and writing and one marvels at the sheer endeavour needed to produce it! I can recommend it to anyone with an interest in Jane Austen; but be prepared to take your time. It is not a book to be rushed.
(This book was received for free through Gooreads First Reads programme).(less)
The Franchise Affair is a wonderfully gentle romp through an England that, sadly, no longer exists. It is the England of quiet roads, courtesy, walkin...moreThe Franchise Affair is a wonderfully gentle romp through an England that, sadly, no longer exists. It is the England of quiet roads, courtesy, walking to the bus, and afternoon tea. It is the England which some of us remember, the England that post-war American tourists thought 'quaint'. It is the England before double yellow lines, McDonalds, the shopping mall, and rudeness.
The beauty of Tey's writing is that you can immerse yourself in this wonderful lost world, see what used to be, and soak up the atmosphere. The characters in the Franchise Affair are wonderfully drawn; you can see them with clarity and share in their worries and concerns.
I suspect that younger readers, unless they are students of historical culture, will be bewildered by the world painted within the pages of The Franchise Affair, as they would be by the world in the other Tey book I have read: Brat Farrar. However, in contrast to the latter, the Franchise Affair is not an 'exciting read'; it just bimbles along gently. I would recommend it, if for no other reason, to gain an insight into or remember how it 'once was' in England.
This book is ideally suited to be read in front of a log fire while eating scones. You won't be disappointed.
I only give it three stars as the ending is, in my opinion, weak; but don't let that put you off: the book is a delight.
This book is a wonderful tale of the unconscious. It explores a world of unconscious dreaming that is beautifully gentle in the way it slowly reveals...moreThis book is a wonderful tale of the unconscious. It explores a world of unconscious dreaming that is beautifully gentle in the way it slowly reveals something of the character of the narrator, and something about all of us. The black and white woodcuts, by Nicholas Garland, perfectly illustrate this short story.
The edition I read was the paperback, with a separate dustcover. It was a delight to hold; there was something about the binding, the texture, the layout, that perfectly suited the story.