Sunday, September 20, 2015

Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation

Nominated for two 2010 Eisner Awards (for Best Painter and also Best Adaptation of Another Work), Charles Darwin's On The Origin of Species offers readers insights into one of the most influential and contentious books in human history. What I think is most admirable here, apart from the gorgeously detailed artwork, is how much of the original text is excerpted throughout this book. I won't say that it was an easy read, because it is still plenty dense with academic language and thought, but the pictures go a long way in providing more context for understanding the complex theories within. Although it is not a leisurely read, this book is beautifully rendered and informative.
Following the adaptation of the text is an afterward, where Darwin gets to comment on scientific discoveries in the fields of geology, biology, archaeology, paleontology, and genetics that add finer points to his theories of natural selection and evolution. There may be some who have reservations about putting words into Darwin's mouth, but I think it provides a fine synthesis to the ideas presented here while also showing how they are being applied in scientific inquiry over time.

This book is the collaboration between writer Michael Keller and illustrator Nicolle Rager Fuller. Keller is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and writer who writes primarily about ecological and environmental concerns and has published in a great number of popular periodicals. Fuller is an accomplished science and technology artist whose work has appeared in many academic and professional venues.

All of the reviews I have read about this book have been full of praise. John Hogan wrote that it "will be helpful in schools and libraries, where it will undoubtedly help science classes get the lessons of evolution across to students, but it also is useful to readers looking to finally understand what all the fuss was about." Writing in the School Library Journal, Ragan O'Malley concluded that "one could not ask for a finer contribution to the realm of scientific writing." The Gutter Geek column at The Comics Journal summed up that "it does provide a beautiful and engaged foray into this cornerstone text of evolution." Bill Boerman-Cornell wrote that he wished he knew more clearly when the words were Darwin's or the adapter's, but he still found the book informative and helpful.

Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species was published by Rodale Books.

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