PanThe Times (UK)It’s a short book presented in bite-size chapters: I suppose the idea is accessibility. But it’s hard to see who this book is for. Most readers of pop science books will be familiar with much of the content ... And for people who haven’t read those books, I have a feeling it won’t make much sense ... Tantalising ideas are left unexplored. He dashes off the theory of the universe coming from nothing in a single chapter, as he does the idea of a multiverse. There are many books dedicated entirely to those topics. This one feels like a series of book pitches stuck together. The book does have some interesting titbits ... at no point did I feel I was being initiated into the mysteries of the universe, just given reheated versions of things I’d read before, or teased with glimpses of more interesting stuff just out of view.
PositiveThe Times (UK)... it is hard to imagine a more timely publication. And it is a useful, eye-opening read on that front, although it was written before the coronavirus was heard of ... It will also help you to understand the idea of “super-spreaders” and their role in keeping even quite low-R infections moving ... Even had it not been so “lucky” with its timing, it would be a worthwhile book; much of the modern world will make more sense having read it.
RaveThe Times (UK)Every page brings forth the elegiac tone of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work. Ostensibly it’s about the landscapes that inspired Middle-Earth; but it’s also, unavoidably, a history of the man and his ideas ... I think a large part of why I loved The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien was because it was making a personal mythology for me, as though it was going to the places I walked as a child...and imbuing them with deep magic, with legends. Perhaps if you don’t have the same connection with the places that I did, it will not resonate quite so strongly. But for me this book was irresistible ... Garth shows how Tolkien took pieces of myth from everywhere ... It is a beautiful book, physically speaking—bound in rich textured hardback and filled with beautiful illustrations, including many wonderful pictures by Tolkien himself; it looks and reads like a coffee-table book, intended for dipping into rather than reading. A lot of it is surely speculative. I don’t have much confidence in Garth’s ability to read Tolkien’s mind at this distance ... Garth’s book made me realise the impact that Tolkien has had on my life.
Frans de Waal
MixedThe Sunday TimesIt is, in general, a convincing book, and De Waal — who has spent a long career working with chimpanzees — is no doubt an excellent observer of primate behaviour. Yet it’s hard to know how many of his anecdotes really say what he claims they say. Does an ape called Borie really frown disapprovingly when De Waal sprays an infant chimp with water? Did a troop’s alpha females really intervene to stop Jimoh beating a love rival? Or has De Waal just interpreted it that way? ... Another weakness is that, although De Waal is obviously immensely knowledgeable about chimpanzees, there are a few moments when he strays into science that are a little less convincing ... These are relatively minor foibles, though. Looking at our closest relatives through the eyes of the zoologist is a revealing exercise; it reminds us just how much of an animal we are, despite our pretensions to being more. De Waal’s book is a window into chimps’ lives, and a looking-glass for our own.