Leon Vlieger, aka The Inquisitive Biologist, has posted a lovely review of The Genesis Quest. I hope he won't mind if I quote two passages that I particularly liked:
"Despite the serious intention, the book is very readable. He provides just the right amount of biographical information without losing focus on people's ideas. There is the occasional footnote with nerdy pop-culture references, which is amusing when used in moderation. And he can be refreshingly brusque and honest."
From now on, whenever someone accuses me of being blunt and rude, I'm going to tell them that I'm merely being refreshingly brusque and honest.
"Given that I have recently been reading a fair bit about astrobiology and the origin of life, this is the book I wish I had read first."
This quote made me very happy, because it hits on one of the reasons I wrote the book in the first place. Put simply, I wrote the book I wanted to read. After years of writing about the origin of life, I wanted an accessible guide to all the different ideas, one that would pit them against each other and critically assess them - as opposed to promoting one at the expense of the others, which is what a lot of journalism on the subject inevitably winds up doing due to space constraints. I wanted a one-stop shop, a book that would stand on its own as the only one you needed to read about how life began. I couldn't find one (though Adam Rutherford's Creation came close) - so I set out to write it, and here we are.
Read the full review on The Inquisitive Biologist.
I have two pieces of good news about my book The Genesis Quest.
We learned in late March that it has been longlisted for the 2021 Hughes Prize. This is a biennial award given by the British Society for the History of Science, for "the best book in the history of science (broadly construed) published in English which is accessible to a wide audience of non-specialists". Previous winners include Andrea Wulf's The Invention of Nature, one of my favourite books of the last decade, so even to be longlisted is wonderful news. The shortlist will be announced in June 2021.
We also learned that materials scientist and broadcaster Mark Miodownik loved the book, and he has kindly gone on record saying: "This is an incredibly absorbing and insightful book about the most important scientific question of our age." Mark is a terrific science communicator so his good opinion of the book means a lot to me.
This is all very encouraging, as we're gearing up for a paperback edition later this year!
I've written a lot of articles about the covid-19 pandemic, for a range of publications. To keep track of them all, I've started a long thread on Twitter.
Over the last few weeks I've released two new videos about the origin of life on Earth, as part of my ongoing virtual book tour to support The Genesis Quest.
If you'd like something short, I recorded a little YouTube video for my US publishers, the University of Chicago Press. It's part of their Author At Home series and you can watch it here, or embedded below. In it I explain what the book's about and what it says, and about how exploring the origin of life pushes at the boundaries of our knowledge.
Alternatively, if you'd like something a bit more in-depth, I gave an hour-long online talk to the Sidmouth Cafe Scientifique
To coincide with its US release, The Genesis Quest has been reviewed in The New York Review of Books. All I can say is wow: this is a seriously in-depth, engaged review that offers a really rich picture of the book.
It's written by Tim Flannery, an Australian biologist and environmentalist with a very wide-ranging set of interests. I'm really pleased he's found so much to engage with.
Here's a sample passage:
"Marshall’s book focuses on the chemical research—from the first speculative insights made by brilliant minds to the complex experiments that have increasingly dominated the field—into life’s origins. It’s a fascinating and challenging story, and leavened with mini-biographies, the best of which are based on his own interviews with his subjects."
Read the whole review here
I went on the Probably Science podcast to talk about The Genesis Quest, which is out in the US this week.
Probably Science is a light-hearted science podcast hosted by Matt Kirshen and Andy Wood, who are both professional comedians based in California. Full disclosure: Matt is an old friend from university.
We talked about how life might have begun, the scientists who have explored the question, the long-running controversies in the field, and whether there is life elsewhere in the universe and if so what it might be like.
There's a technical glitch partway through where Matt lost his connection to the rest of us, which evidently wasn't possible to edit out, so you get to hear our behind-the-scenes "how shall we fix this?" conversation. But we do then get back to the point!
You can listen to the episode on their website, and on all the usual podcast outlets like iTunes and Patreon.
I've made two videos to promote my book The Genesis Quest. Each gives a potted summary of one of the book's core ideas, so I thought I'd share them here.
The first video was made for the Global Science Show, a monthly event on Twitter in which dozens of people share videos explaining their favourite areas of science. Thanks to Sam Langford for inviting me to take part in the September event!
I made a video asking how life on Earth began, which summarises the core argument of the book. You can watch it on YouTube, or here:
The second video was made for MajorTim.space, which is a family-oriented site with a focus on space - inspired by British astronaut Tim Peake. I made a video asking when life on Earth began, which tries to convey just how huge a span of time 3.5 billion years really is. Thanks to Amelia Piper for inviting me to do this, and for editing the video! You can watch it on the MajorTim.space website, or it's embedded here:
My book The Genesis Quest has been favourably reviewed in The Biologist, the official magazine of the Royal Society of Biology. The review is by Professor Jim Lynch of the University of Surrey and it's very positive. Sample quotes:
"The book's distinctive style comes from well-researched analysis of the behaviour and lifestyles of the various scientists who have contributed to this fascinating and uniquely difficult question."
"This book is an extremely stimulating read and I recommend it most strongly to scientists and laymen alike."
Read the full review in The Biologist
About this blog
All opinions here are mine and may not reflect the views of my employers.