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DNA: The Secret of Life | [James Watson, Andrew Berry]

DNA: The Secret of Life

James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA structure, gives this authoritative yet personal account of the course of modern genetic research and the technological and ethical challenges unleashed by it.
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Publisher's Summary

In 1962, James Watson shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins for the discovery of the structure of DNA, the fundamental molecular building block of life, which explains how hereditary information is replicated. Now, this renowned scientist returns to give this authoritative yet personal account of the course of modern genetic research and the technological and ethical challenges unleashed by it. In a rich account that appeals to the general reader, Watson explains how cellular processes act in the drama of molecular biology and explores the genetic choices that we now face. What are genetically modified foods, and do they really pose a threat to consumers or the environment? What options are available to a woman planning to have a child?

© 2003 DNA Show LLC; (P) 2003 Books on Tape, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Reading Watson is a delight, an opportunity to breathe the rarefied air of his generation's greatest scientists." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Amazon Customer Arkansas 11-14-03
    Amazon Customer Arkansas 11-14-03 Member Since 2003
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    "A view from within."

    Highly recommend to a narrow audience. Those interested in the history of applied genetics. I found it fascinating. I do not think a background in genetics is required, but why would you listen to 17 hours of it otherwise?
    Nobel laureate James Watson applies his personal insight to the history of genetics and the impact on subjects as diverse as politics, agriculture, medicine, forensics, and religion. His opinions are offered liberally but even if you take issue they do not detract from the content.
    Narration by Cashman is conversational in tone which fits well with the writing.

    72 of 73 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JoAnn Marcon 12-29-03 Member Since 2001
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    "Many Interesting Topics Covered"

    Often, scientists tend to write books that discuss only their work. But this book discusses many topics in applied genetics in an interesting way. I found the chapters on eugenics, genetic engineered crops, and the use of DNA testing in crime scenes to be particularly interesting. He does have strong opinions on many topics and he is not hesitant in sharing them. However, I found the book to be consistently interesting although it dragged a bit in the middle.

    26 of 27 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Knoxville, TN, USA 03-24-04
    Robert Knoxville, TN, USA 03-24-04
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    "Enjoyed it so much I bought the book!"

    Jam packed full of mind blowing stuff! I enjoyed it so much that I went out to get the hard copy for review, and even bought one for my brother to read. He covers everything from bio-engineered crops, eugenics, forensics, how-it-does and why-it-does. Easy to follow, even if you are new to the subject. If you are the least bit interested in the subject, I would highly recomend it!

    22 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Allen Larchmont, NY, USA 10-20-05
    Allen Larchmont, NY, USA 10-20-05
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    "17 Hours & ALL RELEVANT."

    I would not have believed that there was 17 hours worth of relevant material in this topic but there is. Watson recounts the history of genetics from Mendel to gene splicing and gives you the insiders scoop. It is all fascinating.

    The narrator does an excellent job of keeping it fresh and intelligible on my Muvo in format 3. I really felt he was engaged in the subject matter.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S Houston, TX, USA 04-18-05
    S Houston, TX, USA 04-18-05
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    "Superb Topics Outweigh Lengthy Technical Diatribes"

    The abridged version likely leaves out the 2-3 hours of utterly confusing and extremely dull technical zanniness that the science boffins might go gaga for, but it also then surely misses hours of superb content. Where else can you find the likes of OJ Simpson's Trial, The Bubble Boy, GM Foods, Eugenics, Mad Cow and more all explained with deft precision and clarity? I highly encourage those who put the book down after the first few hours of technical disection to pick it up again- the second half was inundated with brain food of a different sort. (Note for those not so intersted in the techy stuff: First 1.5 hours great. Next 1.5 hours painful. Rest of first half fluctuates between slow and great).

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ed North Bergen, NJ, USA 05-29-04
    Ed North Bergen, NJ, USA 05-29-04
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    "Fantastic"

    A great lesson in DNA that should be heard to understand modern concepts without misconception. Well written and narrated

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim Fremont, NE, United States 11-20-04
    Tim Fremont, NE, United States 11-20-04 Member Since 2004

    Computer Programmer and Worship Leader. Have enjoyed reading since my mom got me hooked on Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie prior to my teen years. My brother got me hooked on audio books after I started having a longer commute to work. Love a variety of genres.

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    "Slow Beginning - Much better conclusion."

    This book has strengths and weaknesses, but is generally a good read. The beginning section about the history of genetics is generally pretty dull reading, and the explanations of the DNA replication are not, in my opinion, as well formulated for the average reader as they could have been. After reading Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything", I was amazed at how well Bryson used easy to comprehend examples to help understand difficult or abstract concepts. I felt that Watson was pretty weak at performing this same task. The mechanics of DNA were presented, but it seemed that he jumped to more complex subjects before really ensuring that his reader understood the foundational principles.

    The second part of the book, dealing with more of the "practical" implications of DNA research, was much more interesting. I would commend Watson on being very even-handed in dealing with touchy issues on this subject. There were times when he displayed more "liberal-minded" opinions, and other times when he represented a more "conservative" point of view. I also appreciated the balanced view on the "nature vs nurture" issue. Coming from someone who would probably be very biased in favor of nature, I felt he was very balanced in the effect both have on us.

    The only thing I didn't like consistently in the book was what I perceived to be an underlying bias against those who hold strong religious views. Those who believe that human beings are more than just an amazing combination of chemical substances will probably find themselves at odds with Watson throughout the book. I wouldn't say that Watson frequently berates those of religious persuasion in the book, but Watson constantly implies (directly and indirectly) that we are no more than the sum of our chemical parts.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
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    David Los Angeles, CA, USA 05-08-05
    David Los Angeles, CA, USA 05-08-05 Member Since 2005
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    "DNA: The Secret of Life"

    Watson, along with Berry, have produced a significant and fascinating history of genetic science in a very clear and sufficiently non-technical. The book surprised and enlightened me. Of particular interest is how science has been used throughout recent social history and how political agendas and economic greed can adversely effect the development of good science. I recommend it to anyone who has a curiosity about life and the fundamentals upon which it is built as well as those who value history and wish to learn from it.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Keanu WestHaven, CT, United States 02-22-13
    Keanu WestHaven, CT, United States 02-22-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Fabulous novel for science enthusiasts"
    Where does DNA rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I knew this book would be a great read from the get go but trust me when I say that it gave a vivid descriptions of fundamental facts of DNA and DNA technology. James Watson's novel furthered my understanding on transcription and translation when tackling these subjects for the first time in my biology class. It even shocked my teacher when he received my lab report at the end of the week because he couldn't believe the work I was able to perform. The author also included, thankfully, a summary of the harsh and mind blowing trials involved with dedicating your life to science and further more changing the world. I would definitely give this book three thumbs up if i had that many


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Catherine Chester, NJ, USA 08-18-06
    Catherine Chester, NJ, USA 08-18-06 Member Since 2006
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    "Great Overview"

    For the general interest listener, this book surveys DNA and its resulting technologies and applications. It provides historical context and a better feel for emerging biotechnology applications. There are a section or two where the justification for support of the science appears a bit "preachy", however this is easy to overlook in the broad sweep of topics treated fairly SNP's and all.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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