Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History makes a compelling case for contingency as a major factor in the history of evolution. It does this through the story of Cambrian animals from the Burgess Shale. This book made learning about the Burgess Shale and all its quirky creatures fun for a while. It also motivated (shamed) me into spending a little time considering the geologic time scaled, although it didn't quite get me to memorize it. I found the first part of the book, while Stephen Jay Gould promised the wonderful things to come in later parts of the book, pretty exciting. The second part, while he discussed the discovery of life forms different than any that have come since, and the excitement of deciphering them from the fossils, was pretty interesting,too. Just past midway through the book, the term "beating a dead horse" began to occur to me. This is both because Stephen Jay Gould is a parenthetical writes and also because he says the same thing more than once. I am not a writer myself, but I do think this book could have been written more succinctly. This is not to say this is not a good book, and that the author doesn't convey an important point.