• The Reluctant Mr. Darwin

  • Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution
  • By: David Quammen
  • Narrated by: Grover Gardner
  • Length: 7 hrs and 52 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (379 ratings)

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The Reluctant Mr. Darwin

By: David Quammen
Narrated by: Grover Gardner
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Publisher's summary

In September 1838, a young Englishman named Charles Darwin hit upon the idea that "natural selection" among competing individuals would lead to wondrous adaptations and species diversity. Twenty-one years passed between that epiphany and publication of On the Origin of Species. The human drama and scientific controversy of that time constitute a fascinating, tangled tale that illuminates this cautious naturalist who sparked an intellectual revolution.

Drawing from Darwin's secret notebooks and personal letters, David Quammen has sketched a vivid life portrait of the man whose work remains controversial today.

©2006 David Quammen (P)2006 BBC Audiobooks America

Critic reviews

"Grover Gardner is a first-rate reader who seems genuinely to enjoy recounting the foibles of Darwin's life. An excellent general audience title." (Library Journal)

"Grover Gardner’s reading pulses with the excitement of Quammen’s quest. As the author sifts through Darwin’s developing insights and personality quirks...Gardner is perfectly alert to the author’s subtle irony and humor..." (Audiofile)

"It's easy to hear why PW named Grover Gardner Narrator of the Year in '05. He uses inflection, stress, rhythm and his rich vocal range to create an easy and often amusing conversational style." (Publishers Weekly

What listeners say about The Reluctant Mr. Darwin

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Darwin portrait.

This is a well-written and entertaining book. It would be a fine introduction to Darwin and the Origin of Species. Grover Gardner is the best reader of non-fiction I have heard.

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16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

A very pleasant surprise

I picked this one up during one of Audible's $5 sales. I didn't know much about it but, as a science enthusiast and educator, I wanted to know more about Darwin and gave it a try. I finished it with a deeper reverence for Darwin's genius and an understanding of who he was as a human and scholar.

I enjoyed the writer's style and appreciate the amount of research he did to help the reader understand what Darwin's contemporaries believed. It's rather a mystery to us now that Darwin conceived of natural selection and let decades pass without publishing (see Bryson's "Short History of Nearly Everything"). This book explains why Darwin delayed and helped me better understand natural selection and, as I said, Darwin's genius to conceive of it at a time when other "biologists" attributed everything to God's handiwork. Give it a try and I think you'll enjoy!

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8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Contemplating the life and times of Darwin.

Would you listen to The Reluctant Mr. Darwin again? Why?

This book covers some biographical details surrounding his life and his theories, and what they meant socially and culturally at the time. Packed with fun facts and contemplation true to David Quammen's writing.

What about Grover Gardner’s performance did you like?

He is a good reader, unobtrusive, pleasant to listen to.

Any additional comments?

If you want to understand Darwin the man and how all his work came to be, read this.

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5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Heresy rewardex

Imagine you are alive when Christian apostates were still being burned at the stake, the last auto de fe was in 1852. Imagine further that your professional reputation is on the line. and you want to publish your idea that humans were created by natural selection. And that the wife you adored wanted to share eternity with you, an impossibility if you rejected Christianity.
This was Charles Darwin in the 19th century And this is a great book re that dilemma.

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4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

what i was looking for

Sometimes its hit or miss with a book like this. I, however, was very pleased with the production and the writing. I thought the narrator was perfect. You have to be interested in the topic, because Darwin did not lead a very daring life. Yet I found great interest in this book.

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4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Oddly Anachronistic Writing

A very interesting topic, perfect narrator, but the writing style was jarringly slangy and casual for a book about a brilliant 19th Century scientist. Still, my complaint is only severe enough to reduce my rating by one star.

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4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A paranoid gentle honest man.

Well written and well narrated book. The general intellectual environment is well described. Not too detailed and mentioned main points very well. It however had a bit too much of the author's opinions. Overall an enjoyable listen.

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3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Worth the read

If you are remotely a fan of Darwin or evolutionary biology, then you will enjoy this book. I've had a bit too much education on both subjects and the things covered in the book are both consistent with what I know, and expand on what I know. Very well written.

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3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Darwin's life and times

A great portrayal of a wonderful scientist who, using simple experiments and observations and using objective reasoning came to astonishing conclusions that although controversial have stood the test of time.
One of the great thinkers and observers of the 19th century that changed how we see the world.
I learned a lot.

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3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Insightful study of a great mind.

Darwin never set out to be controversial, but his pursuit of science dumped him into one of the greatest social controversies that resound in some places to this day. The book looks more at the man than his most famous insight, natural selection. It looks at how his reasoning and thinking changed in the light of the evidence that he collected, It explores how he groped with the implications of his theory, and how it impacted his relationship with others. A great biography about a critical phase in a life and an insight that has influenced every branch of biology down to today.

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1 person found this helpful