The bottom line: A book that is “magical” when it sticks to objective science and quite ordinary when it dives into subjective opinion.
At its core, The Magic of Reality successfully accomplishes what it sets out to do: take a broad approach to clearly explain natural phenomenon and clarify what makes the world work the way that it does. Yet ironically, the book’s purity becomes tainted when it acts quite unlike a scientist and delves into the realm of subjective speculation to answer questions where the scientific evidence isn’t as compelling.
The Magic of Reality begins with a chapter titled, “What is Reality? What is Magic?” which sets the rules for how we ought to determine what is true. This is based on our senses, evidence, and scientific models that both make reality-predictions and are dynamic in order to accommodate new information. Resultantly, the author affirms that “how we know what’s really true” is based on a system that is neither infallible nor does it offer exact explanations for everything that can be observed.
The book then proceeds to answer several pressing questions. Chapters such as “What are Things Made of?”, “What is a Rainbow?” and “What is the Sun?” offer illuminating and simple explanations to explain everyday observations. Dawkins excels at using practical language and illustrating concrete examples. Other chapters such as “Why do Bad Things Happen?” provide answers, but those answers ends up being wholly unsatisfying.
Apart from the frequent unwelcome detours, I think anyone who is genuinely curious and wants an easy-to-read elucidation of the wonders of science will find much value in this book. And, even though The Magic of Reality clocks in at just over 250 pages, it is an extraordinarily quick read that will not in any way slow you down with overly technical jargon or complicated vernacular.