The Reluctant Mr. Darwin

Given the buzz over the Big Birthdays earlier this year—both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin turned 200 in February 2009—I had to read something in commemoration. David Quammen’s recent biography, The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution (2007), was the perfect choice: like most of Quammen’s non-fiction, this book is lucid, compelling, and, at times, ridiculously funny. Unexpectedly, Quammen begins after the famed HMS Beagle voyage, focusing instead on Darwin’s intellectual journey leading up to the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859. We follow Darwin through his earliest musings on evolution; his many, many years of studying barnacles; and his fright upon learning that another naturalist, Alfred Russell Wallace, had independently arrived at his own theory of natural selection and might steal Darwin’s thunder by publishing first. Quammen frequently speculates about Darwin’s state of mind but rarely exceeds the bounds of plausibility, and he makes genuinely interesting a book that is, ultimately, about one person’s thinking, studying, and writing.

~Stefanie Bluemle

This entry was posted in Recommended Reading. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s