The Magic of Reality

The Magic of Reality

How We Know What's Really True

By Richard Dawkins; Dave McKean (Illustrator)

Free Press, Paperback, 9781451690217, 271pp.

Publication Date: September 11, 2012


Magic takes many forms. Supernatural magic is what our ancestors invoked in order to explain the world before they developed the scientific method. The ancient Egyptians explained the night by suggesting that a goddess swallowed the sun. The Vikings believed a rainbow was the gods’ bridge to earth. Aside from these extraordinary tales, there is another kind of magic that lies in the exhilaration of discovering the real answers to these questions. It is the magic of reality—science.

Packed with dazzling illustrations and jaw-dropping facts, The Magic of Reality explains a wide range of natural phenomena. Having spent his career elucidating the wonders of science for adult readers, Richard Dawkins has now teamed up with acclaimed artist Dave McKean to share the magic of science with readers of all ages: What is stuff made of? How old is the universe? Why are there so many kinds of plants and animals? Who was the first man, or woman? This is a stunning, illustrated guide to the secrets of our world—and the universe beyond.

About the Author
Richard Dawkins was first catapulted to fame with his iconic work The Selfish Gene, which he followed with a string of bestselling books. Part one of his autobiography, An Appetite for Wonder, was published in 2013.

Dawkins is a Fellow of both the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Literature. He is the recipient of numerous honours and awards, including the Royal Society of Literature Award (1987), the Michael Faraday Award of the Royal Society (1990), the International Cosmos Prize for Achievement in Human Science (1997), the Kistler Prize (2001), the Shakespeare Prize (2005), the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science (2006), the Galaxy British Book Awards Author of the Year Award (2007), the Deschner Prize (2007) and the Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest (2009). He retired from his position as Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University in 2008 and remains a Fellow of New College.

In 2012, scientists studying fish in Sri Lanka created Dawkinsia as a new genus name, in recognition of his contribution to the public understanding of evolutionary science. In the same year, Richard Dawkins appeared in the BBC Four television series Beautiful Minds, revealing how he came to write The Selfish Gene and speaking about some of the events covered in this autobiography.

In 2013, Dawkins was voted the world's top thinker in Prospect magazine's poll of over 10,000 readers from over 100 countries.

Dave McKean is best known for his work on Neil Gaiman's Sandman series of graphic novels and for his CD covers for musicians from Tori Amos to Alice Cooper. He also illustrated Neil Gaiman's picture books The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, The Wolves in the Walls, and Crazy Hair. He is a cult figure in the comic book world, and is also a photographer.

Praise For The Magic of Reality

"I wanted to write this book but I wasn't clever enough. Now I've read it, I am"

—Ricky Gervais

“Exhilarating. The clearest and most beautifully written introduction to science I've ever read. Again and again I found myself saying "Oh! So that's how genes work!" (or stars, or tectonic plates, or all the other things he explains). Explanations I thought I knew were clarified; things I never understood were made clear for the first time. My favourite adjective of praise has always been "clear", and this book has clarity all the way through.”

—Philip Pullman, author of The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ and the His Dark Materials trilogy

“I am often asked to recommend good books on science for young people. From now on, I will not have to hesitate. The Magic of Reality provides a beautiful, accessible and wide ranging volume that addresses the questions that all of us have about the universe, separating often too-little known facts from too-frequently believed fictions. For this reason it should be a powerful resource for people of all ages, written with the masterful and eloquently literate style of perhaps the best popular expositor of science, Richard Dawkins, and delightfully illustrated by Dave McKean. What more could anyone ask for?”

—Lawrence Krauss is Foundation Professor and Director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University and the author most recently of Quantum Man, and A Universe from Nothing