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... I had to hang in there before this memoir caught me up.
I am a huge fan of Richard Dawkins - just to be up front about that. But it took a bit of persistence to stay with this second half of his memoir. Rather than lay the book out chronologically, he laid it out in "topics." Unfortunately, his first topic was all about the various conferences and talks and other such events in which he had taken part. Except for his discussion of the Royal Society Christmas Lectures, this was fairly dry and uninteresting to me. I was about to give up on this book but then...
...the DH and I went to an appearance of his in Kansas City and were privileged to both attend a small reception for him beforehand (a fund-raiser for his Foundation for Reason and Science for which we paid a tidy sum - full disclosure) followed by his public appearance. where he discussed his book and told stories from it...
...so I decided to stick with the book and am now glad that I did. I of course most loved his discussions of science, but I did end up enjoying the opportunity to learn a bit more about his life on a more personal level.
I enjoyed his narration to such an extent that I don't think the audio version could have been nearly as good without it. He has a lovely sense of humor, for all his very British reserve, and is clearly passionate about his science and the privilege he enjoys to share his knowledge and experience.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
I’ve never been much of a one for reading memoirs. I read Churchill’s memoirs from his World War II period, but that felt more like a history than a memoir. The reason I chose to listen to Dawkins' autobiography was that he, like Churchill I suppose, is one of my heroes. The Selfish Gene and the God Delusion changed my life twice over a 25 year period, and I’ve always enjoyed anything he’s ever written (although I confess I didn’t finish the Ancestor’s Tale).
What I like about Dawkins is his ability to explain concepts with superb clarity and rapier-sharp logic, using brilliant examples to illustrate his ideas. In a memoir you don’t really get much of this (except during occasional digressions, which were my favourite parts of the book). You do get some insights into what it is like to be Richard Dawkins (during the second half of his life at least, this being part 2 of his memoirs) and this is amusing and entertaining, but not riveting, fascinating or life-changing.
There is a structure to the book in that it is in chronological order, but aside from this it feels very casual and unstructured, just a series of anecdotes about the things that he got up to. There’s a lot of name-dropping, but not because he wants to impress us with the famous people he’s met, just that he has been increasingly surrounded by famous people and it would be silly to deliberately omit them from his story.
So, if you like Dawkins and you can tolerate the relatively mundane milieu of a memoir, then I’d say this book is definitely worth a listen. I never got at all bored or wanted to switch off, I just didn’t learn anything that altered my World View. It’s probably unreasonable to expect anything so transformative from a memoir.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful