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The Family That Couldn't Sleep Audiobook

The Family That Couldn't Sleep: A Medical Mystery

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Publisher's Summary

For 200 years, a noble Venetian family has suffered from an inherited disease that strikes their members in middle age, stealing their sleep, eating holes in their brains, and ending their lives in a matter of months. In Papua New Guinea, a primitive tribe is nearly obliterated by a sickness whose chief symptom is uncontrollable laughter. Across Europe, millions of sheep rub their fleeces raw before collapsing. In England, cows attack their owners in the milking parlors, while in the American West, thousands of deer starve to death in fields full of grass.

What these strange conditions, including fatal familial insomnia, kuru, scrapie, and mad cow disease, share is their cause: prions. Prions are ordinary proteins that sometimes "go wrong", resulting in neurological illnesses that are always fatal. Even more mysterious and frightening, prions are almost impossible to destroy because they are not alive and have no DNA. And the diseases they bring are now spreading around the world.

In The Family That Couldn't Sleep, essayist and journalist D. T. Max tells the spellbinding story of the prion's hidden past and deadly future. Through exclusive interviews and original archival research, Max explains this story's connection to human greed and ambition, from the Prussian chemist Justus von Liebig, who made cattle meatier by feeding them the flesh of other cows, to New Guinean natives whose custom of eating the brains of the dead nearly wiped them out.

The biologists who have investigated these afflictions are just as extraordinary. They include Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, a self-described "pedagogic pedophiliac pediatrician" who cracked kuru and won the Nobel Prize, and another Nobel winner, Stanley Prusiner, a driven, feared self-promoter who identified the key protein that revolutionized prion study.

©2006 D.T. Max; (P)2006 Tantor Media, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Very timely and compellingly written." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (320 )
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4.2 (132 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Thomas NAPERVILLE, IL, United States 07-03-13
    Thomas NAPERVILLE, IL, United States 07-03-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great Book - Made Protein Chemistry Fascinating!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    If you have any interest in science please; please enjoy this book-


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The favorite is the saddest-


    What does Grover Gardner bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    The inflection in his voice was perfect for setting the tone and carrying it-


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    This book is interesting and a bit frightening with the history of animal to human disease transmission


    Any additional comments?

    I loved reading 'The Disappearing Spoon' and 'The Poisoner's Handbook' and this book feels a little bit like that-

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Teri United States 08-31-07
    Teri United States 08-31-07 Member Since 2016

    I'm an obsessive reader of science fiction, psychological thrillers, and anything that might distract me from the misery that is exercise.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A pleasure to hear"

    This book is a wonderful piece for people interested in the medical field. It offers a wonderfully accessible explanation of prion diseases combined with a human touch and a fabulous narrator voice. Highly recommended!

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tammy Portsmouth, RI, USA 03-02-07
    Tammy Portsmouth, RI, USA 03-02-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great book"

    Any one with a family member with a disability that is neurological in origin will appreciate this book. The author's final chapter says it all. Great narrator.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda B Northeast USA 05-15-09
    Linda B Northeast USA 05-15-09 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very well done!"

    The reader did an amazing job with this book! It almost felt like a novel a times, partly due to how well the reader did his job. The stories are incredibly compelling and the science is completely accessible and fully explained and very interesting. I cannot imagine a way to die that is more terrible than FFI - the prion related disease that robs victims of their ability to ever fall into sleep. And in the exposition of this disease and its history, is woven the development, history, and scientific exploration of all prion diseases. On top of that, there is a personal feel, as though you are reading the diary or memoir, since the author suffers his own afliction which, for the author, was the motivation for looking into these orphan diseases. If you are not into science/medical stories, this may not appeal... but if you have any interest, this is very, very well done.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matthew 10-20-15
    Matthew 10-20-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Yawn...!"

    I wouldn't say this was a terrible book. I would say it was a mediocre book. It was essentially a medical textbook and it read like one. I usually enjoy books about these subjects, but there was something about this book that I just can’t put my finger on that leaves me with this "it's just average" feeling. Yes, I did learn something, which I always enjoy, but you certainly need to pay attention to every single sentence in this book or you will be totally lost. It was very heavy on the science, but not so much that anyone with a decent public education couldn’t absorb. I usually find myself searching online while listening to books like this to learn even more about the subject, but this book just didn’t evoke that kind of interest for me.

    The only saving grace is the narration. I think that is the only thing that kept me from returning the book at the halfway point. Grover Gardner made it worth holding out to the end; he’s just that good! I'm debating if I'll listen to this book again to see if my opinion changes?

    Ironically, this book has discovered the cure for the Family That Couldn’t Sleep; they just need to listen to this book. Put me to sleep in about 10 minutes every night.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ANDRÉ ORLANDO, FL, United States 06-29-12
    ANDRÉ ORLANDO, FL, United States 06-29-12 Member Since 2011

    I love AUDIBLE! I never get mad at traffic jams and can listen to many different books, despite of my short time.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting, scary"

    I learned a lot of prion from this book. The story is good and the writer tries to entangle the other kinds of prion disease. It's not just about the family that couldn't sleep. I hope that there will be a cure for prions soon.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Betty A. Wright Sugar City, ID United States 04-26-12
    Betty A. Wright Sugar City, ID United States 04-26-12 Member Since 2008

    pony rider

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I lost sleep over this one!"

    Wow, I had no idea how much prions affected our world! From cannibals, to mad cows, to inherited conditions. Mad cow hit the head lines and we all learned some, but this book exposes and explains the stories behind the headlines, and why these diseases are so scary. Nothing graphic, good language, highly recommend this book to all interested in disease, science, and a good listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kimberly Tennessee, USA 10-11-10
    Kimberly Tennessee, USA 10-11-10 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fascinating, haunting and sometimes humorous"

    There is a family of disorders that eat away the brains of their victims, whether they are humans or livestock. I know, sounds depressing, but the search for the cause of these disorders is utterly fascinating. There are enough personal stories to make it feel a bit like a novel at times, but it is actually a true scientific detective story. There are brilliant and odd scientists, conflicted and disorganized governments, and some deeply sad and touching personal stories. There are also enough ironic and even humorous moments to keep things from ever feeling too heavy. I particularly liked hearing that a researcher had for years kept a flock of infected sheep on the roof of a London hospital. I've been passionate about reading up on these prion diseases for years, and I still found lots in this book that was new to me. I've shared this book with people who were unfamiliar with prions, and they have found it captivating and easy to understand.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    easy to follow along 05-18-10 Listener Since 2010
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    "Very good book"

    This was a great book. It had very good information and was well written. Fascinating biological information was expressed thoughtfully. I have a degree in biology and still felt that the information was in depth, but would be appropriate for any listener.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Caryl SPRING VALLEY, MN, United States 05-07-10
    Caryl SPRING VALLEY, MN, United States 05-07-10 Member Since 2012
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    "Wow a whole new issue to be aware of"

    Sneaky the way this author gets us into the world of virus disease, but persuasive.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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