In a particularly timely recognition of the importance of foundational texts, two publishers are offering very similar collections of Charles Darwin's most influential books in a single, massive volume, From So Simple a Beginning: The Four Great Books of Charles Darwin (Norton, $39.95) and Darwin: The Indelible Stamp (Running, $29.95). Originally published between 1845 and 1872, the four books include grand adventures (The Voyage of the Beagle), grand intellectual triumphs (The Descent of Man) and a risky application of evolutionary theory to behavior (The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals). And almost uniquely in the scientific literature, On the Origin of Species still repays careful reading by modern biologists nearly 150 years after it was published in 1859. Unlike most of the authors in The Discoveries (see main review), Darwin was a skilled and dedicated writer as well as a brilliant scientist. But neither James D. Watson, the Nobel laureate and genetics pioneer who edited the Running Press version, nor especially Edward O. Wilson, the Harvard biologist who edited the Norton edition, is any slouch in that regard either, and the reader is left wishing that their introductory essays were longer and more in-depth.

-- Thomas Hayden