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Planet Earth

Evolution Reviews The Tangled Bank: "Radical"

The LoomBy Carl ZimmerJune 18, 2010 7:56 PM

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The Tangled Bank gets a three-page review in the latest issue of Evolution, the world's leading journal on evolutionary biology. The reviewers, Judith Bronstein and Peter Reinthal of the University of Arizona, have very kind things to say. Here are a few of the passages that made me smile: Each chapter reads more like a compelling narrative or a first-rate newspaper article than as a (classically, rather dry) textbook. Zimmer is a skilled essayist; he manages to be engaging without being pedantic or condescending...Zimmer’s appealing and provocative writing style should be extremely successful at introducing evolutionary thinking into the nonmajors student population that often avoids sciences in general, and evolutionary biology in particular....Even casual readers will immediately appreciate the eye-catching presentation of The Tangled Bank. Drawings are large, full-color, simple, and well-labeled, and so informative that they have helped keep the verbiage to a minimum. They will be integral to students’ comprehension of the material. Photographs are more sparsely used, but the exceptionally high-quality and informative drawings did not make us miss them. We consider the graphics to be a major selling point of this text....The book does an excellent job of synthesizing and summarizing complex innovations. Zimmer is unusually successful at helping to untangle the complex story of evolution of life on earth by blending paleontology, comparative anatomy, phylogenetics, molecular genetics, and many other disciplines, in a manner that is both entertaining and accessible....The back cover of The Tangled Bank is plastered with enthusiastic encomiums by several dominant figures in evolutionary biology and science education today. Among other features, they point out the quality and compelling nature of its writing and illustrations, and its ability to capture the ferment of this rapidly moving scientific field for a nonmajors audience. As instructors with many years of experience teaching evolution topics to undergraduates, we agree. Carl Zimmer’s approach is a rather radical departure from most textbooks. But we fully expect it to rivet reluctant students’ attention, and that is exciting indeed.

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