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The Violinist's Thumb Audiobook

The Violinist's Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code

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Publisher's Summary

From New York Times best-selling author Sam Kean come more incredible stories of science, history, language, and music, as told by our own DNA.

In The Disappearing Spoon, best-selling author Sam Kean unlocked the mysteries of the periodic table. In The Violinist's Thumb, he explores the wonders of the magical building block of life: DNA.

There are genes to explain crazy cat ladies, why other people have no fingerprints, and why some people survive nuclear bombs. Genes illuminate everything from JFK's bronze skin (it wasn't a tan) to Einstein's genius. They prove that Neanderthals and humans bred thousands of years more recently than any of us would feel comfortable thinking. They can even allow some people, because of the exceptional flexibility of their thumbs and fingers, to become truly singular violinists.

Kean's vibrant storytelling once again makes science entertaining, explaining human history and whimsy while showing how DNA will influence our species' future.

©2012 Sam Kean; 2012 Hachette Audio

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    serine 01-23-16
    serine 01-23-16 Member Since 2011
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    "Fresh perspective"

    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.
    -Einstein's brain
    - Painting chimps
    - Women who lust after rock (or violin) stars
    - And how genes proved and disproved myths of days gone by

    Great read!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daniel Burgon Kansas City 07-06-15
    Daniel Burgon Kansas City 07-06-15 Member Since 2014

    DannyBoi01

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    "Entertaining science"

    I am a huge fan of Sam Kean and enjoy his first book and this one immensely!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amanda Doane-Johnson 06-10-15 Member Since 2016
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    "amazing!"

    captivating! I couldn't put it down .... the information was both interesting and clear to understand.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert 04-29-15
    Robert 04-29-15
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    "Not worth my time"

    I'm sure that this book would appeal to people who are interested in a book with an entire chapter filled with the history and excruciating details about DNA, but it's simply not for me.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sung 03-22-15
    Sung 03-22-15

    Guitar Player

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    "Great introduction to genomics and evolution"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    nancyshrode 08-27-12
    nancyshrode 08-27-12
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    "sort of like reading text book"

    Although there are some interesting facts, this is about as interesting as reading a text book

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Mountain West 08-15-12
    Amazon Customer Mountain West 08-15-12 Member Since 2014

    Audiobook enthusiast

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    "Worth two listens"
    Would you listen to The Violinist's Thumb again? Why?

    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.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Violinist's Thumb?

    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.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Phil 08-15-12
    Phil 08-15-12 Member Since 2009
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    "Interesting, but not as quirky as you might like"
    If you could sum up The Violinist's Thumb in three words, what would they be?

    Interesting detailed scientific


    Would you be willing to try another book from Sam Kean? Why or why not?

    Yes. I enjoyed his book about the periodic table more, but The Violinist's Thumb was worth a listen.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No. It's very episodic. Great for short car rides.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 08-05-12
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 08-05-12 Member Since 2010
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    "well written, but not quite understandable"

    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

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Athens, AL, USA 09-03-12
    Michael Athens, AL, USA 09-03-12 Member Since 2012
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    "If your into the history of Chromosomes - Great"
    Would you try another book from Sam Kean and/or Henry Leyva?

    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.


    1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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