Paul Eckert's Reviews > The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True

The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins
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May 05, 12

Read from April 08 to May 05, 2012

I've always enjoyed science, but I was never that good at it in school. Sure, I could pass a test, but I never really understood the concepts in a way that they really made sense to me. If only Richard Dawkins had written our science textbooks, I think I would've been way better off. In 260 pages, Dawkins managed to help me understand things that entire textbooks never could.

The aim of The Magic of Reality is to explain the ways in which science has discovered how our world works, and how the myths of our ancestors are inferior explanations for why things happen. The book seems to be aimed at kids, maybe around the 12-16 year-old range, but really it's fascinating for any age. I'm 30 years old, and I learned a lot from this book.

Each chapter of the book is based on a question a curious kid might ask about the world. Questions about why there are seasons, what the sun is, why there are so many different kinds of animals, and why bad things happen. For each question, Dawkins first presents how ancient cultures answered these questions through myth, and then how scientists have come to understand what they know about the subject.

I’ve never read any of Dawkins’ books before, so I don’t know how to compare it to his other works. But the explanations of complex scientific ideas made perfect sense, and I was amazed at how many things I suddenly understood which I never quite grasped before. The wonderful illustrations, masterfully rendered by the great Dave McKean, were as much to credit for this feat just as much as Dawkins’ prose. Visuals are a big part of how I learn abstract concepts like evolution and convection heating, and the visual presentations in this book will stick with me whenever I recall what I’ve learned in several of these subjects. It’s amazing how a vivid picture can help you understand and recall so much, so Dave McKean is as much to thank as Dawkins for this lovely book. His work summed up Dawkins’ prose in a brilliant and engaging way. I couldn’t wait to flip the page, just to see what it looked like.

I would highly recommend keeping this book on the shelf if you have kids. It makes learning science fun and approachable. They will learn how science has come to understand so much about our world, and they won’t have to get the wrong answers to these questions from somebody else. Also recommended for those adults like me who like science but find it hard to retain.

I borrowed the copy that I read from the library, but this will definitely be one I’ll buy as a permanent resident of my bookshelf. I just wish Dawkins would write a series of these type books.

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04/08/2012 page 19
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