I read quite a number of biology books and am often put off by the old gene jocks who focus on DNA, to the exclusion of epigenetic and other environmental factors that challenge the old and tired narrative of the gene centered theory of evolution. When I saw the title of this book, I felt pretty sure I wasn't going to like it, but many of my friends gave it high ratings. So, I thought I would give it a shot. Loved it!
Just as he did with Disappearing Spoon, Kean brought a fresh perspective to an ordinary subject. Among my favorite aspects of this book were:
- The names fruit fly scientists gave various genes, on example being the Cleopatra gene that, when mutated, kills other flies when it interacts with a gene named Asp.
- Machiavellian microbes that turn humans into cat hoarders and ants into big berry-like creatures birds want to eat, all so microbes can make it into the guts of animals and mate.
- Wonderful history of Barbara McClintock
- How the human placenta came to be, how fetuses are really parasites, and how viruses are brilliant.
- Painting chimps
- Women who lust after rock (or violin) stars
- And how genes proved and disproved myths of days gone by
Genetics had a profound mystery: why the difference in DNA sequences is minimal between species. The author explains the reason clearly in plain English. I really enjoyed it.
I don't think I have ever read a book twice, and I certainly have not listened to a book twice, but in this case I will make an exception. "The Disappearing Spoon" was a delightful compendium of intriguing scientific anecdotes, but "The Violinist's Thumb" is so rich with truly remarkable information, that I have to listen again.
Kean's description of the research into our DNA as it relates to our fellow primates is probably the most fascinating part of the book, particularly as the news continues to contain new discoveries on the human family tree.
Interesting detailed scientific
Yes. I enjoyed his book about the periodic table more, but The Violinist's Thumb was worth a listen.
No. It's very episodic. Great for short car rides.
High energy narration, and a lot of time spent on exactly how the humane genome works.....but I just couldn't follow it. The good news, is that sprinkled through the book are a few interesting stories about people and places, ranging from Paganini to Japan, just after the nuclear strikes in Hiroshima and Nagasaki
How do you make the history of the men who studied genes and chromosomes interesting? At least, how do you make it interesting to those who don't care? Besides a few historical tidbits about people I never heard of, this book isn't.