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.
"Very timely and compellingly written." (Booklist)
If you have any interest in science please; please enjoy this book-
The favorite is the saddest-
The inflection in his voice was perfect for setting the tone and carrying it-
This book is interesting and a bit frightening with the history of animal to human disease transmission
I loved reading 'The Disappearing Spoon' and 'The Poisoner's Handbook' and this book feels a little bit like that-
I'm an obsessive reader of science fiction, psychological thrillers, and anything that might distract me from the misery that is exercise.
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!
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.
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.
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.
I love AUDIBLE! I never get mad at traffic jams and can listen to many different books, despite of my short time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sneaky the way this author gets us into the world of virus disease, but persuasive.
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