"In high school, I wondered whether the Jamaican Americans who made our track team so successful might carry some special speed gene from their tiny island. In college, I ran against Kenyans, and wondered whether endurance genes might have traveled with them from East Africa. At the same time, I began to notice that a training group on my team could consist of five men who run next to one another, stride for stride, day after day, and nonetheless turn out five entirely different runners. How could this be?"
We all knew a star athlete in high school. The one who made it look so easy. He was the starting quarterback and shortstop; she was the all-state point guard and high-jumper. Naturals. Or were they? The debate is as old as physical competition. Are stars like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Serena Williams genetic freaks put on Earth to dominate their respective sports? Or are they simply normal people who overcame their biological limits through sheer force of will and obsessive training?
The truth is far messier than a simple dichotomy between nature and nurture. In the decade since the sequencing of the human genome, researchers have slowly begun to uncover how the relationship between biological endowments and a competitor’s training environment affects athleticism. Sports scientists have gradually entered the era of modern genetic research. In this controversial and engaging exploration of athletic success, Sports Illustrated senior writer David Epstein tackles the great nature vs. nurture debate and traces how far science has come in solving this great riddle.
©2013 David Epstein (P)2013 Gildan Media LLC
"Step by surprising step, David Epstein takes our hand, grips our mind, and leads us deeper and deeper into the fascinating jungle of sports and genetics... until we finally begin to see the miracle we've been watching in our stadiums and on our TV screens all our lives.” (Gary Smith, Sports Illustrated writer and four-time National Magazine Award winner)
Epstein brings a nuanced and fact-based approach to a subject that in other hands is too often marred by bias. Yet the book is well-written and engaging, with lots of human stories to give life to the science.
Epstein is clearly personally very interested in the content and that comes across in his narration, even though it's not as technically polished as professional narration. I can't help but become as fascinated as he is.
One chapter discusses the role of genetically-influenced motivation on athletic performance. This "nature via nurture" concept, once understood, changed how I think about the role of human genetics, not just in athletics, but in all aspects of the human experience.
This is the best popular genetics audiobook I've listened to (alongside The Selfish Gene), and if you have any interest in genetics, you will enjoy it even if you don't care about sports. Genetics may well be the defining field of the next half-century, as computing has been for the previous half-century, and The Sports Gene is an enjoyable way to get more familiar with it.
This might be a good book but I will never know: I had to stop a few hours in. The narrator - the author himself - was incredibly annoying. It's all good until he starts quoting other people and is trying to imitate their accents. Even if the person he is imitating has the accent in real life, one will never know if they are not celebrities. Without that background it just sounds like he is mocking the people. And he is not good at all at imitating accents: Having the same nationality and first language as one of the people he quotes and knowing countless people here in the US that have the same background, some with almost no accent, some with very strong accents, I have never heard anybody from there speak with the accent he tries to imitate. It is very distracting and sounds like he is making fun of the people he quotes. Not funny and not cool.
If he is not narrating it, sure.
Anybody who is not trying to imitate accents poorly.
I was hesitant to get this book, as there is so much I uncertainty in the field but also so much speculation. I'm glad I did get it! The topic is fascinating, and David Epstein clearly did an incredible amount of work to build the background on the topic. He presents tons of evidence in an even-handed manner, keeping the subject grounded in research and still very interesting.
His narration is great - sometimes a rarity among authors who narrate their own works. I highly recommend!
I loved listening to this break-down of athletes and their performances and what might be the reason they are so good. Is it personal drive, determination and work ethic or were they just born with ability. Actually the answer is yes...
I didn't get exactly what I was expecting from a research point of view, but this was very interesting to listen too. It helps with understanding the differences of various groups of people and how they adapt and enhance their athletic performance.
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