Book: The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True by Richard Dawkins (2011)

The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really TrueI picked up this book with the hope that it would be good bedtime reading with my 3-yr-old and 5-yr-old. They enjoy reading books about space and other aspects of science, so I thought that this one might be a good one to add to the rotation. Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit that bill, because there’s a lot more information here than my little ones will be able to enjoy and process.

I’m still really glad I bought it and read it, though, because it’s a gorgeous and interesting book that will be great for them in about five years.

Dawkins covers a dozen general topics of science (“Who is the first person?”, “What is the sun?”), starting almost every chapter with ancient myths regarding the topic and then diving into the real science of the matter. His explanations are in clear, understandable language.

It’s interesting to see when Dawkins the evolutionary biologist is in territory he understands well (“Why are there so many different kinds of animals?”) compared with topics in which he’s admittedly not an expert (some of the physics of “What is a rainbow?”). When he’s not an expert on a topic, he lets us know up front what the limit of his understanding is, which is charming at times, and also gives the book a personal, familiar tone.

The illustrations throughout are fantastic, and they really illuminate the related text content throughout. I’m happy just to turn page after page looking at the brightly colorful pictures.

I can see why some Christians have objected to this book – some of the mythological explanations used in the beginning of chapters come from the Bible. For Dawkins, this makes sense, as he considers Judeo-Christian stories as no more grounded in reality than any mythology. There will definitely be many who read his reluctance to give Christianity special treatment as a targeted attack, but I personally think he’s correct when he treats Christian stories equally with other stories.

Additionally, the final chapter, “What is a miracle?” will be seen by many as an attack on religion. That might be Dawkins’ intent, but it’s more clear that he’s trying to prove his overall point, that the wonder of the real world is more impressive than either stage magic or supernatural stories.

Overall, this is a great general introduction to the wonders of science for preteens to adults.

Note: This review is cross-posted from my personal blog.

Statements in this review do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.