Ten books by Richard Dawkins

You don’t have to agree with everything professor Dawkins stands for to acknowledge that, since Carl Sagan, he has been one of the most prominent science popularizers lately. He has succeeded in putting his message across several times throughout his more-than-30-year-long career as a science writer. I decided to draw up a list of his books and give a short account of each, though I must admit I haven’t read them all myself.

The Selfish Gene (1976)
The one that made him famous and controversial overnight. In it he argues that natural selection acts on genes, not on the level of populations as previously held. This is where he invented the term meme as a unit of cultural transmission, analogous to the gene. This is still the book most people identify Dawkins with, although some of the ideas might seem outdated.

The Extended Phenotype (1982)
Here he elaborates on the ideas put forward in The Selfish Gene, but in a way that’s a tiny bit more technical, while retaining its readability. Dawkins regards this book as his most significant contribution to evolutionary biology. Subtitled The long reach of the gene, phenotypes are not necessarily limited to the organism itself, but can be manifestations extended beyond that. Think of the beaver’s dam.

The Blind Watchmaker (1986)
One of his most popular works, in it he takes on the task of explaining how evolution works, using the metaphor of a blind watchmaker, meaning that evolution has no purpose in creating endless forms. He wrote the book to, in his own words, “persuade the reader, not just that the Darwinian world-view happens to be true, but that it is the only known theory that could, in principle, solve the mystery of our existence.”

River Out of Eden (1995)
His shortest book, it basically contains summaries of topics mentioned in his previous books. He goes on to explain evolution through genes and human ancestry. He also contemplates how Darwinian evolution may take place outside our planet.  The title comes from Genesis. Illustrations by his wife, actress Lalla Ward, can also be found in here.

Climbing Mount Improbable (1996)
This work is a book-long rebuttal of the obnoxious creationist claim that the chances for complex organs, like the bacterial flagellum or the human eye, to evolve are so meagre that they surely must be the handiwork of an intelligent designer. At first glance it looks improbable, but evolution moves across the adaptive landscape gradually, and given enough time, it will certainly reach the peak of that metaphorical mountain.

Unweaving The Rainbow (1998)
The relationship of science and art is dissected here. John Keats once blamed Isaac Newton for destroying the rainbow by simply explaining it. He tries to persuade the reader that natural wonders like the rainbow do not necessarily lose aesthetic value once their mystery is solved. To the contrary, dissecting nature has the capacity of actually enhancing its beauty.

A Devil’s Chaplain (2003)
This is a collection of essays written over the years. The subtitle says it all: Reflections on hope, lies, science, and love. The topics are diverse, it contains a eulogy for his friend Douglas Adams, an essay that disrobes postmodernism, as well as an open letter to his then minor daughter, giving her advice on how to evaluate evidence and view things with a critical and open mind.

The Ancestor’s Tale (2004)
In the fashion of The Canterbury Tales, Dawkins takes a pilgrimage to the dawn of evolution starting from humans. Along the way he stops at every major cornerstone to relate the most interesting facts (tales), and what we need to know about that particular ancestor. Spanning billions of years he finally arrives at the origins of life. My personal favourite. It’s time for a re-read, I reckon.

The God Delusion (2006)
Sold over 2 million copies, this one virtually made him an international superstar and an iconic figure of atheism. It became one of the four great books of the so-called “new atheism”, the others being The End Of Faith by Sam Harris, God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens, and Breaking The Spell by Daniel Dennett. Not the easiest read, but well worth the effort.

The Greatest Show On Earth (2009)
He had written books on evolution for decades, before he realized he never actually laid out the evidence for it. With the upsurge of the intelligent design movement and its dumbed down version creationism, he felt the need, alongside other notables like Jerry Coyne or Neil Shubin, to lamentably write this book. The evidence is clearly demonstrated here, to deny it, like all creationists do, would be an act of lunacy.

As revealed in recent interviews, Dawkins is currently working on a children’s book, in which he intends to explain evolution in a way that’s understandable even to the youngest of the inquirers.

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10 Comments

  1. December 19, 2010 at 01:43

    Well done for posting this!
    I totally agree that Richard Dawkins has an exceptional ability to make scientific connections that without a doubt contribute to a deeper understanding of our evolution. Naturally he is not without controversy! 🙂 I find his writings absolutely fascinating despite having a spiritual belief. I too am a scientist and an ardent supporter of the evolution theory, but I see absolutely no reason for an abyss between science and divinity, but rather a complementarity the enhances the beauty in both – Science with Soul. Sure, this is a subject for a long discussion! I have not read Dawkins most recent book, but “The Ancestor’s Tale” has been my longtime favourite.

  2. Me said,

    April 26, 2011 at 15:23

    Thanks for making this list. I wanted to see in the interwebs had a Pdf for any of these besides just the God Delusion, and I could’nt find what books were his. but yeah. thanks.

  3. pradhyumna said,

    October 14, 2011 at 16:05

    Richard Dawkins Rocksssssssssss……….I am his admirer…..richard is the modern philosopher….the human messiah of science……Atheism rockssssssssssss…………

  4. Keith Allen said,

    October 18, 2011 at 02:34

    What a sad bunch of losers you all are!

  5. Nanda Wickremasinghe said,

    November 25, 2011 at 17:13

    It is heartening that RD is writing a book for children. All types of religious beliefs muddle the child’s brain and stunt his intellectual growth. I am seventy three . I gave up Buddhism at the age of fourteen and am proud of it. My simple argument with the Buddhist priest who tried to stop me was, ‘what remains after death?’

    Who created God?
    God believers divest nature of its inherent quality of eternity in time and space , and transfer it to an imagined, entity or power outside
    nature. [ nature with a simple n!]. They call the original a duplicate!. Apart from everything else this violates the principle of economy of thought.
    The question is . why do people still believe in this obvious falsehood ? The analysis of that is a socio-psychological question.
    I an looking forward to RD’s Visit to Galle next January

  6. Dr. Russell Rohde said,

    May 21, 2012 at 06:27

    I’ve read this book,”The Blind Watchmaker”, twice. The logic and arguments are profound. My first reading of Darwin’s “The Origin of Species” was in 1946 and directed my foray into genetics & biology.

  7. July 26, 2012 at 09:58

    i have read one of RD’s books God delusion.I must say that i find the book a very very inspirational and clear

  8. July 26, 2012 at 10:01

    will love to meet him in person.plz contact me by post on p.o.box 35327 hibberdene kzn 4220 south africa or+ 27783163496

  9. victda said,

    August 26, 2013 at 17:24

    If you believe in what Dawkins is saying, you will help him. Help RD spread the word of humanity and progress. Start with your family and friends. Spread the facts of life on earth – the only life there is that we can hope to experience, treasure and understand. I believe in RD. I am spreading his words ever since.

  10. Anonymous said,

    December 28, 2014 at 07:33

    His intellect is formidable


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