Most of the profound questions we will explore in our lives (such as those involving evolution, global warming, or stem cells) have to do with science. So do a lot of everyday things, like our ice-cream melting, our coffee getting cold, and our vacuum cleaner running (or not). What does our liver do when we eat a caramel? How does the horse demonstrate evolution at work? Are we really made of stardust? (Yes we are.)
In The Canon, Lewis Thomas meets Lewis Carroll in a book destined to become a modern classic, because it quenches our curiosity, sparks our interest in the world around us, reignites our childhood delight in discovering how things work, and instantly makes us smarter.
This is a playful, passionate, ebullient guide to the science all around us by a Pulitzer Prize winner and best-selling author.
©2007 Natalie Angier; (P)2007 HighBridge Company
"A pleasurable and nonthreatening guide for anyone baffled by science." (Publishers Weekly)
"Every sentence sparkles with wit and charm...it all adds up to an intoxicating cocktail of fine science writing." (Richard Dawkins)
I generally listen to non-fiction and I like to refresh and update my understanding of science. I have read this author's science reporting in the NY Times enjoyed it.
Based on that experience I purchased this book. I could not listen to more than 2 hours of it! Far too basic. The writing style is little more than a sting of quotes from scientists and comes off as a hard to follow "he said this and she said that." The result is tedious and hard to follow. Worst of all the book is littered with remarks that attempt to amuse, but really serve only to annoy.
Oh, the narrator makes all that is bad in this book that much worse because of her over to top perkiness.
This is the first review I have written after listening to many, many audiobooks and it feels like a civic duty to warn others to avoid this book. The insufferably preachy and tedious first chapter is the author's diatribe against adult Americans' disinterest and avoidance of science. Since the vast majority of people reading the freaking thing are probably doing so without a gun being held to their head, it's fairly obvious she's preaching to the choir. And she tries (again and again and again) to be funny. Ugghhh! Don't waste your time or money. Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything is so much better. Even if you feel stupid, you won't want to gouge out your own eardrums to avoid listening to the book.
The Canon, excellent piece of work. It is both a torch and booster shot for sophomore and juniors mired in the science memorization/regurgitation quagmire of high school. Filling the reader with both science fact and enthusiasm. The book and it’s author seem like a stimulus for encouraging school boards to vest more funds in high school science. A must read for science teachers rich with ideas geared towards making science interesting and meaningful.
As a science teacher I loved listening to this book. Written so as to explain some complex scientific principles in simplistic lay terms; with a touch of humor added. I have found myself repeating some of the material in my freshmen biology classes, and the kids love it! Rates 5 stars from me, and my classes as well!
Business Physicist and Astronomer
Not to sound like a snob, it may be that I'm a bit beyond this "People Magazine" style of writing. I found the constant barrage of attempts at wit annoying. There's far too much "cuteness" in this audio book for my taste. By the second part I began to feel like I was on a bad date with a woman who wouldn't shut up. Yack yack yack.
I also found her tirade on natural selection to be a bit preachy for a supposed scientific piece. Okay, I get it, creation bad. But it's not really necessary to hammer that point at length. Just give the science and leave the "I know better" stuff out. By the way, her bit about the purity of the scientific process is nonsense. Consider the chaps that discovered the H-Pylori tie to stomach ulcers---the scientific community did all they could to block and defame their work. Carl Sagan had many people "black balled" who did not agree with his pronouncements. Science is tarnished by competition for grants and fame---stop kidding yourself, honey.
Go with "A Short History of Nearly Everything". She got most of her material from that book and "Short History" is far better written and narrated.
If we could "resell" audio books, this one would go to Ebay.
This is intended as a lay person's primer on the basic sciences. It is quite comprehensive in its approach. The author writes in a breezy,casual style and frequently peppers her sentences with quips, puns and alliteration. I found all this interfered with content and my understanding. It was too rapid, too cute for the subject matter. Further, the narrator's voice grated on me and I couldn't wait for the book to end. If you want a lay person's primer, listen to Bill Bryson's book. Even better if you want a comprehensive lay person's approach, buy (or get from the public library) the masterpiece set of CDs by Professor Robert Hazen. His "The Joy of Science" is a best seller of The Teaching Company (also known as The Great Courses).
Listening to this book reminded me of being stuck in a conversation with someone who loves to hear his/her own voice. The Author would have better served her audience by including more science and less superfluous language.
I found this book to be quite good. The author does have a distinctive style of writing that uses a number of cliches and idiom, but I found it amusing.
Her coverage of the subjects is a good introduction for someone who isn't already familiar with all the concepts. An enjoyable book for those who like basic science.
Everytime the author seemed on the verge of informing or educating me, she inserted a "cute side comment" grounded in pop culture that served to disrupt my concentration and take me away from the subject at hand. I am not sure why she feels that science needs "dumbing" down, in order to sell books, but it detracted from the listening experience. I will make sure that I never purchase another of her audio books. I will not recommend it to anyone.
The Canon is a wonderful listen. The science was fascinating, the tone lighthearted, and the narrator was pleasant to listen to.
Reading other reviews here and elsewhere, though, it seems clear that there are many aspects that you'll either love or hate, depending on your preferences. There doesn't seem to be any in-between. Many of the aspects of this book that other people complain about are things that I found very enjoyable.
Some people, for example, are put off by the author's use of puns. I personally felt that the puns were a delightful addition. Few of them were laugh-out-loud funny, but most of them at least made me smile. I felt that they were included tastefully and didn't get the impression that they were excessive in any way.
I personally would not say that the use of puns detracted from the contents.
Some people were put off by the narrator's voice. I personally found her voice to be very pleasant. I don't think there's any way to really quantify this disagreement, so I'll refrain from listing the qualities they found distasteful and my response of qualities I found pleasant.
I guess you either like her voice or you don't. I recommend listening to the sample provided above and deciding for yourself.
Most of the things other people complained about in this book are aspects that I thoroughly enjoyed. Many people seem to agree with me, judging by the reviews. If you find yourself nodding along to the complaints, then this may not be the right book for you. Otherwise, I highly recommend checking the book out for yourself.
To move on to other, less divided, aspects of the book - I really enjoyed how she put in a section on probability theory and understanding randomness. It's an important subject that often gets ignored.
Some areas, such as quantum physics, get a little detailed. But it's not a subject that can be easily simplified.
Overall, though, I finished the book with a smile on my face. I highly recommend it.
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