The Origin of Species

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Origin of Species
by Charles Darwin

In the past month I read three books that specifically mention Origin of the Species (including At Home and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.) I felt like I was being strongly nudged to check it out even though it’s a bit intimidating. 

I like reading classics that are influential pieces of our culture. I want to understand the background of books that are constantly being referenced and I want to have a working knowledge of them. So for those reason I'm glad I read it, but Darwin was no Mary Roach or Bill Bryson. He is a scientist, but writing an enthralling account of his research is not in his wheelhouse.

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been so bored reading a book before in my life. I’m talking mind-numbingly bored. Maybe that’s not fair, this isn’t a detective novel that’s supposed to speed along, but honestly I could hardly stand it. I listened to an audio version, which was read by David Case and that might have been part of the problem. I can’t stand his narration and he already ruined The Hunchback of Notre Dame for me.  

I do understand that this isn't a novel and it wasn't written to be entertaining, but I've read so many other nonfiction books that I loved. I'm not talking about the points he makes or what he's trying to prove, I'm talking only about the readability of the material. It was really hard for me to stay interested. 

BOTTOM LINE: Science is not my passion and I will never claim to be an expert in biology, but regardless this one was just not for me. It was like reading the driest of lab reports. I’m glad I read the work that is said to be the basis for evolutionary theory, but unless you love that subject I can’t say I’d recommend it. 

“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.” 

**Funny side note, I listened to this as an audiobook on CDs. In the middle of the 10th disc the narrator said, “This is the end of side A, please turn the cassette over and continue listening on side B.” Then a few second later, “This is side B of cassette 9.” That’s the one and only moment in the book that made me laugh.


LindyLouMac said...

I admire you for even attempting this. My husband was a biologist and was as such interested in this one, but definitely not for me. :)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

LindyLou - Unless you love biology I definitely wouldn't recommend it!

Anonymous said...

I can only imagine how dry and boring it must be! I'm impressed you even attempted it!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

misfortuneofknowing - Not my favorite reading memory, that's for sure.