Book Review: Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation by Michael Keller

Review by Sid Perkins


The first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species laid out the case for evolution by natural selection with nearly 500 pages of dense prose and a single diagram. Now, writer Michael Keller and illustrator Nicolle Rager Fuller have artfully transformed this important book into a highly readable and copiously illustrated page-turner, available in hardcover and paperback.

Each of the chapters in this graphic adaptation presents a condensed version of a theme from the original book, explaining basic principles of evolution such as how variations among a creature’s offspring provide the raw material upon which natural selection operates.

Also included is an introductory chapter detailing the research and ruminations that led Darwin to conceive his theory. The book is further strengthened by an afterword that describes the public’s response to the book’s initial publication in 1859 and a timeline that shows post-Darwin breakthroughs in evolution-related topics such as genetics, population biology and paleontology.

The text accompanying this book’s marvelous, full-color illustrations draws directly from Darwin’s own words, including letters he exchanged with friends and scientists about the details and the implications of his nascent theory. The result is a powerful adaptation that offers a new generation of readers — and, indeed, readers of all ages — an engaging introduction to one of the most important books ever written.

Rodale Books, 2009, 192 p., $19.99.

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