With beautiful illustrations by graphic artist Dave McKean, Dawkins' volume is as accessible as it is illuminating, covering a remarkable spectrum of subjects and natural phenomena -- from who the very first person was to how earthquakes work to what dark matter is -- in a way that infuses reality with the kind of fascination and whimsy we're used to finding in myth and folklore. Each chapter begins with a famous myth from one of the world's religions or folklore traditions, which Dawkins proceeds to myth-bust by examining the actual scientific processes and phenomena that these stories try to explain.
Here's an introduction from Dawkins himself:
The Guardian's Tim Radford sums it up nicely:
I cannot think of a better, or simpler, introduction to science as a good idea: simpler, because the starting point is the world's palpable, experienced reality rather than say formal subjects such as genetics, wave mechanics or astrophysics; better, because it could hardly be more up-to-date.
BBC has a great short segment, in which Dawkins explores the relationship between comfort and truth, and explains why evolution is the most magical, spellbinding story of all, more poetic than any fable or fairy tale:
When you think about it, here we are, we started off on this planet -- this fragment of dust spinning around the sun -- and in four billion years we gradually changed from bacteria into us. That is a spellbinding story. --Richard Dawkins
The book comes with a companion immersive iPad app.
In an age when we're still struggling to convince the powers that be of the value of public science and some public schools still perpetuate the mythology of creationism, Dawkins delivers a sober yet wildly absorbing and magical dose of reality in The Magic of Reality -- one that brings to mind Jonah Lehrer's reformulation of the famous Picasso quote: "Every child is a natural scientist. The problem is how to remain a scientist once we grow up."
This post also appears on Brain Pickings.