Richard Dawkins’s new book, and an interview with him today

June 15, 2013 • 6:40 am

Most of you probably know that Richard Dawkins has written a new book, and it will be out on September 24. It’s called An Appetite for Wonder, and you can preorder it on Amazon for less that $19 if you’re in the U.S. Although it’s nominally an autobiography, I’m told that it concentrates heavily on the scientists who knew and influenced Richard over his career.

Here’s the description from Amazon:

Born to parents who were enthusiastic naturalists, and linked through his wider family to a clutch of accomplished scientists, Richard Dawkins was bound to have biology in his genes. But what were the influences that shaped his life and intellectual development? And who inspired him to become the pioneering scientist and public thinker now famous (and infamous to some) around the world? In An Appetite for Wonder we join him on a personal journey back to an enchanting childhood in colonial Africa. There the exotic natural world was his constant companion. Boarding school in England aged 8, and later, public school at Oundle introduce him, and the reader, to strange rules and eccentric school masters vividly described with both humorous affection and some reservation. An initial fervent attachment to Church of England religion soon gives way to disaffection and, later, teenage rebellion. Early signs of a preference for music, poetry and reading over practical matters become apparent as he recalls the opportunities that entered his small world. Oxford, however, is the catalyst to his life. Vigorous debate in the dynamic Zoology Department unleashes his innate intellectual curiosity; and inspirational mentors together with his own creative thinking ignite the spark that results in his radical and new vision of Darwinism, The Selfish Gene. From innocent child to charismatic world-famous scientist, Richard Dawkins paints a colourful, richly-textured canvas of his early life. Honest self-reflection and witty anecdote are interspersed with touching reminiscences of his best-loved family and friends, literature, poetry and songs. We are finally able to understand the private influences that shaped the public man who more than anyone else in his generation explained our own origins.


This volume spans the period from Richard’s birth to the publication of The Selfish Gene; a second, which will appear in 2014, goes from 1976 to the present.

Reader Ross notes that there will be an interview with Richard about the book today at 5:15 (US Eastern Time) on C-Span2 (go here to watch):

Richard Dawkins, author and biologist, discusses his soon-to-be published memoir An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist.  Mr. Dawkins talks to BookTV at Book Expo America, the publishing industry’s annual trade show held at the Javits Convention Center in New York City.

I’m jealous: the man is a writing machine!



25 thoughts on “Richard Dawkins’s new book, and an interview with him today

  1. Jerry, YOU’RE a writing machine! Your religious-themed posts, of which there seem to be several every week, are always lengthy and detailed. Might these posts constitute prefatory work for a forthcoming book that we can put alongside Harris, Hitchens, and Dawkins? I’m hoping that’s the case.

  2. It has been long time ago that I have read anything from Dawkins, though “The Selfish Gene” and “The Blind Watchmaker” have had a profound impact on my thinking. If time permist, will probably read some of his newer books.

    1. Almost exactly what I intended to say…

      I came across his books on evolution as a young teenager and found them among the most fascinating things ever. The most notable strength: Here we actually had someone who truly thought and reasoned where others might just observe and describe—or speculate without great thought involved. The school books, in particular, were useless in comparison.
      (Gould, whom I tried next, was a major disappointment—it was not the field of evolution, but the author, that had made the difference.)

  3. Dawkins has long been an intellectual hero of mine. But I must admit, I get a little nervous when my heros start writing about themselves. In two volumes no less.

    1. At 70yrs, he owes it to us to share his professional and personal journey. I am so thankful for his leadership and integrity; and his book will have a wide appeal.

    2. People like reading about interesting things and I would think that Richard Dawkins has had an interesting life as he has spent his life researching and writing about things I find interesting.
      Consider that fictional novels are essentially biographies of fictitious people.

  4. I concluded the other day that Dawkins is perhaps the single person I am most inspired by. His combination of visionary work in evolutionary biology and then moving on to being a public voice for science and rationalism and just a great writer. Everyone here knows his contributions of course. I guess that means I should probably check out his book eh?

  5. And Jerry, wonderful opportunity to raise my same issue. Dawkins’ new book will be available for me to buy on the Kindle app on the US store. Aussies buy from the US store, however, certain books are not available as the publisher, hasn’t paid whatever rights/dues are necessary. So I’m looking forward to owning WEIT on my iPad. I have all the other horsemen in my collection, however not Prof Coyne, who I have so much respect for.

    1. And Jerry – to your comment about him being ‘a writing machine’. One of the many things I have valued about you is your commitment to the wider community. This email-list alone takes much time and intellectual grunt. He has no teaching load, professorial duties and all that jazz. And yes, he is a writing machine! 😉

    2. Yes, I am peeved about still not being able to buy WEIT for kindle.
      Could you explain what you mean about buying Dawkins new book from the US store?

  6. I’m not a great fan of biography, thinking it’s an all to human voyeuristic obsession with the lives of people rather than with their ideas. In Dawkins case however I’m willing to make an exception, particularly as the book is described as mostly focusing on the development of the concepts of modern evolutionary biology as driven by the larger-than-life characters and extraordinary scientists involved in that development: Fischer, Haldane, Maynard Smith, George Williams, Gould, Bill Hamilton, George Price etc. etc. – what insights will that intimate insiders perspective that Dawkins has of these times and all these ideas reveal? And the several conflicts that arose over these ideas, and the struggles of academic scholarship itself…? I just can’t wait ……

    1. ….. not to mention what exactly drives a scientist from just the struggle to expand scientific knowledge itself, but to take a principal role in the mainstream cultural wars of our time?

      1. I’d hazard a guess that Dr Dawkins was offended by attacks on scientific knowledge and the scientific method made for extraneous reasons (whether religious or daffy strains of ‘philosophy’ – he has been equally scathing about some post-modernist philosophers). And the reason he found himself in such a prominent position is simply because he’s such a fluent and persuasive communicator.

        That’s my 2c worth, anyway.

    2. Well I would say try Segerstrale’s biography of Hamilton, recently out – a true examination of his intellectual life.

  7. “The man is a writing machine” – Well don’t beat yourself up – he doesn’t have the primary research & the teaching that you have.

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