Phylogeny and Ever Since Darwin
"Ontogeny and Phylogeny is a rich book, but it does not give
up its rewards without a struggle. The book, as Gould notes, is written primarily for
biologists. The documentation is voluminous, the arguments are precise and thorough,
technical language is used freely, and technical issues are met head-on.
is the best sort of popularization. Gould never mystifies science;
he shows both its power and its weaknesses."
The Panda's Thumb
"The Panda's Thumb as a whole serves to refine and bring up to date
our understanding of evolutionary theory. Not only does it make forcefully evident where
Jean Baptiste Lamarck, Alfred Russel Wallace, and Charles Darwin himself were
wrongwithout in the least detracting from their respective accomplishmentsit
also explains specifically how evolution is now thought to work.
There are few better
antidotes to [evolutionary] misunderstanding than a reading of The Panda's Thumb."
The Mismeasure of
"[T]he real interest of The Mismeasure of Man doesn't
really lie in the battle it wages against the intelligence measurers and the unfortunate
ends to which they have applied their results. Plenty of recent books have done that, and
they have tended to be tedious, either because they make the battle seem one-sided or
because the battle really is one-sided. The interest of Stephen Jay Gould's latest book
really lies in watching the author's intelligence at play."
Hen's Teeth and Horse's
"Exploring the richness of living forms, Mr. Gould, and we,
are constantly struck by the absurd ingenuity by which fundamentally inappropriate parts
are pressed into new roles, like toes that become hooves, or smell receptors that become
the outer layer of the brain."
"Mr. Gould himself is a rare and wonderful animala
member of the endangered species known as the ruby-throated polymath.
Flamingo's Smile is as much fun as a Bahamian vacation (with or without snail
research), yet it is also a densely informative and challenging book. These are not
the sort of nature essays to be read late at night in the last woozy minutes before
sleep. You'll want the full use of your brain."
An Urchin in the
Storm: Essays about Books and Ideas (1987)
"Though the pieces in
An Urchin in the Storm are technically book reviews, Mr. Gould tends to use the
subject at hand as a jumping-off point for more general discussions, and as he notes
in his introduction, the essays consequently share 'a particular view of nature and
human life: the perspective of an evolutionist committed to understanding the curious
pathways of history as irreducible, but rationally accessible.'"
Time's Arrow, Time's
"Time's Arrow may not attract as wide a readership
as Mr. Gould's essay collections it contains less of the whimsy and moralizing that
leaven the latter. Mr. Gould relies here on a close reading of Burnet's, Hutton's and
Lyell's texts. Yet the book is far from an exercise in historical esoterica: the Gould
style and wit remain, and the complex argument expands the play of ideas that is the
chief pleasure of reading him."
Wonderful Life: The
Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (1989)
exceptionally well placed to tell these stories, and he tells them with fervor and
I think more than a few readers will find themselves skipping over
the anatomical details, but no matterthe outline of the adventure is
straightforward and clear."
"After reading Bully for Brontosaurus, the
latest volume of Stephen Jay Gould's provocative and delightfully discursive essays on
natural history, one is tempted to imitate his idiosyncratic style.
Not only does
[Gould] always find something worth saying, he finds some of the most original ways of
"Reading Mr. Gould is rather like being the favorite
relative of some eerily precocious yet utterly charming child who insists on showing
you his secret collection of treasures."
Full House: The
Spread of Excellence From Plato to Darwin (1996)
"This volume may ultimately
be less substantial than his previous books, but a potboiler from Mr. Gould is still
worth 10 books by most other science writers. His central contention is that trends, in
any area, should never be considered in isolation, but only as aspects of an overall
range of variation (the 'full house' of the title). Put like that, his theme may
sound dauntingly abstract. But it is animated by his illustrations, and especially by
his elegant analysis of progress in the history of life."
Dinosaur in a
Haystack (1996) [Book
"I could not make myself care about hermit crabs in spite of the author's
cajolings that they made for 'a wonderful story
to which you simply cannot be
indifferent.' I was. But whether delighted or bored, I deepened my acquaintance with
that singular literary character, Stephen Jay Gould."
the Millennium (1997) [Book Excerpt]
"Stephen J. Gould's slim and attractive meditation, Questioning the Millennium,
is a trip to the beach. Mr. Gould focuses his wit and style on matters of definition and
calculation of the millennium and on their enduring fascination."
Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms (1998) [Book Excerpt]
"In [Stephen Jay Gould's new] essay collection
he wields his formidable
intellect, combined with an `insatiably greedy and infinitely curious’ nature, to explore
the myriad ways by which mankindthe quintessential `oddball rarity’ of
evolutionstruggles `to understand the whys and wherefores, and to integrate this
knowledge with the meaning of its own existence.’ Gould's incomparable style, by turns
colloquial, humorous, ironic and insightful, allows readers to revel in his unabashed
and contagious enthusiasm."
The Lying Stones of
Marrakech (2000) [Book Excerpt]
tandem with the closing of the millennium, Gould is planning to bring down the curtain on
his nearly thirty-year stint as a monthly essayist for Natural History magazine. This, then,
is the next-to-last essay collection from one of the most acclaimed and widely read
scientists of our time."