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Appetite for Wonder, An: The Making of a Scientist

(Richard Dawkins' Memoirs #1)

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  3,259 ratings  ·  379 reviews
An Appetite for Wonder is a disarming account of world-famous evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins's early life, from his childhood in colonial East Africa to the writing of one of the twentieth century's seminal works, The Selfish Gene.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published August 26th 2014 by Ecco (first published 2013)
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3.66  · 
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 ·  3,259 ratings  ·  379 reviews

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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
Mar 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is pretty much entirely an autobiography, giving us all the stray bits of Richard Dawkin's childhood through college and, later, his pet projects and his interest in programming before later publishing The Selfish Gene.

As a writer, he's always good.

He seemed to have a rather interesting childhood in Africa with loving parents, becoming a rather bullied child in school, getting heavily into religion among other things, including a rather unfortunate sexual event. At least it didn't seem to
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
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
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
Emad Attili
Jun 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-reads

I thought I would LOVE this memoir, but I only liked it!
I'm not saying that I got disappointed, but I wanted this book to give me something else. Something more interesting.
This book [which is the first part of Dawkins' biography] tells the story of Richard Dawkins' childhood and his journey in science - as a student - until his GREATEST accomplishment: the publication of The Selfish Gene.

To be honest, I didn't find the story very interesting. It was an ordinary story - even boring at certain
He's best known for The Selfish Gene & an outspoken atheist. He also spent the early part of his life in Africa, so I expected to like this more than I did. It wasn't bad, but amazingly pedestrian. Overall, it was interesting, especially when he discussed his experiments & early computer programming.

Some of the great names he rubbed elbows with were fun to see in another light, too. It was also nice to know that the great man wasn't a child prodigy & he regrets many of the opportuni
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
Nov 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can it be? Dawkins the brilliant scientist, thinker and iconoclast, is actually a bit dull?
Start reading from the beginning (but how else could you read it?), and you might think so. It was only after I got to the second half, chronicling his life at Oxford and up to the age of 35 that I really began to appreciate this autobiography of a surprisingly diffident and self-effacing young man. The last chapter, in fact, where Dawkins looks honestly and uncompromisingly at himself, unsparing in his a
Sep 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies, science
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
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
Marc Faoite

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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kevin Shepherd
"Cliché or not, 'stranger than fiction' expresses exactly how I feel about the truth. We are survival machines - robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment. Though I have known about it for years, I never seem to get fully used to it. One of my hopes is that I may have some success in astonishing others."

In my humble estimation, Dawkins falls somewhere between Charles Darwin and Bertrand Russell, mayb
Bob Schnell
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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,
Richard Cytowic
Sep 20, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Menglong Youk
"An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist" is an autobiography of Richard Dawkins, from his childhood upto when he wrote the Selfish Gene, Dawkins is mostly known for his harsh critic on religions, so most people do not know that he's also a prominent evolutionary biologist. The tone in this book is quite different from the God's Delusion, and people may find the two books were written by different authors. I personally like both versions of Dawkins although I disagree with some things ...more
Elizabeth Theiss
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
won•der [wuhn-der] verb
1. to think or speculate curiously.
2. to be filled with admiration, amazement, or awe; marvel.
3. to doubt.

What a curious title Richard Dawkins chose for the first part of his memoir -- An Appetite for Wonder -- since he proceeds to make the case that he was never particularly filled with wonder as a child (a fact that was something of a disappointment to his wonder-filled parents). This should have been a fascinating life story: Dawkins was born in Africa at the twilight o
Alex Yard
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this, it was an unexpected treat. Since Dawkins has written two separate books that have a profound impact on how I perceive the world and live my daily life, it was fascinating to get such an intimate glimpse into his origins, upbringing, formative experiences. Interesting that he spent so much of his early years in South Africa.

It offers interesting portrayals of how "Times were different" back then, sanitary practices and values/beliefs/behaviors which would be condemned in modern tim
Sep 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 24, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are a fan of Dawkins, I expect you'd like this memoir just fine. I found it great; it's a more personal account of Dawkins' upbringing and start in the scientific community with his interest in what he would later coin as the Selfish Gene. It's not terribly interesting, if you are not interested in those details. Within this memoir, he exposes his emotional weakness to poetry, early teenage fan-obsession with Elvis Presely, and the beginning of his relationship with Mariam. I am always en ...more
Linda Harkins
Mar 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Other books in the series

Richard Dawkins' Memoirs (2 books)
  • Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science
“Shouldn’t children be taught critical, sceptical thinking from an early age? Shouldn’t we all be taught to doubt, to weigh up plausibility, to demand evidence?” 11 likes
“...none of us will have forgotten that lesson. What matters is not the facts but how you discover and think about them: education in the true sense, very different from today's assessment-mad exam culture.” 9 likes
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