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The story of The Selfish Gene

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The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, published in 1976, famously became a bestseller and is still selling more than 40 years later. This behind-the-scenes account of its publication recounts the story as seen through the eyes of the book’s commissioning editor, from the initial experience of reading early draft chapters to publication eight months later. Elements of the story include the different views and lively debates on the right title for the book; choosing the Desmond Morris painting for the jacket; deciding whether or not to include illustrations; and the role television played when the book was launched. An American dimension places the book in the context of the fiercely fought sociobiology controversy at that time. The characteristics of the best popular science writing and publishing are discussed. Finally, The Selfish Gene is seen in relation to the books Dawkins went on to publish over the following 30 years.

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