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The Magic Of Reality: Book review

By's Chris Hooper

Published: 9:54AM Wednesday January 04, 2012

The subtitle for this book is How We Know What's Really True, but it could easily have been Why Your Childhood Is A Lie, or Destroying Disney Films & Everything You've Ever Dreamed.

That's unfair. Let me backtrack - Richard Dawkins has written another book aimed at dispelling the myth of religion (as he sees it); but this is the first one aimed for parents and children as bedtime reading.

Each chapter subject poses a tantalising question like "What is magic?" or "Who was the first person?" which he attempts to answer using science - and it's a fascinating journey. Especially for adults like me who are supposed to know all this stuff, but for whatever reason were more interested in made up stories than boring old truth at school. 

But child readers be warned: prepare to have your favourite stories picked apart and trampled on as Richard goes to great lengths to point out what is and isn't possible in the realm of reality, taking a chainsaw to the world of fairytales and religion. There's one chapter that goes to great pains to explain why a fairy godmother could never turn a pumpkin into a coach. Ever. Thanks Dawkins.

I found it hard to imagine a modern child who wouldn't think his tone was a little old-fashioned; it comes over a bit "jolly hockey sticks and lashings of ginger beer". As he tries to simplify his language, it feels awkward; it's like a clever, posh uncle who's been left alone to entertain a blinking 12-year-old boy who really just wants to run around and smash stuff up.

But there's a really pure-hearted aim underlying the book: giving the natural world some kudos for being beautiful and perplexing, miraculous and awesome (in the true sense of the word) in and of itself.

And ultimately, it sends the brain racing in other directions as you try to imagine the very, very big and the impossibly tiny - things that are all around us and no less magnificent than what we've imagined in the last millennium's back catalogue of myths.


The Magic Of Reality by Richard Dawkins
Available: Now
Publisher: Random House