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Editorial Reviews

Learn how wearing sun block could raise your cholesterol and diabetes could protect you from extreme cold. Mutation, genetic transmission, and survival of the fittest form the foundation of evolutionary law, and Sharon Moalem explains how certain genetic disease states might promote continued existence. Narrator Eric Conger's brisk pace keeps the facts coming and the interest level high, but he never sounds hurried or mumbles a word. He doesn't break his rhythm with annoying pauses for quoted material or struggle with the plethora of scientific terms. The combination of an excellent narrator and well-informed writers provides information that brings the inquisitive mind up to date on genetics that apply to our everyday lives.

Publisher's Summary

How did a deadly genetic disease help our ancestors survive the bubonic plagues of Europe? Was diabetes evolution's response to the last Ice Age? Will a visit to the tanning salon help bring down your cholesterol? Why do we age? Why are some people immune to HIV? Can your genes be turned on or off?

Survival of the Sickest reveals the answers to these and many other questions as it unravels the amazing connections between evolution, disease, and human health today.

Joining the ranks of modern myth busters, Dr. Sharon Moalem turns our current understanding of illness on its head and challenges us to fundamentally change the way we think about our bodies, our health, and our relationship to just about every other living thing on earth, from plants and animals to insects and bacteria.

Survival of the Sickest is filled with fascinating insights and cutting-edge research, presented in a way that is both accessible and utterly absorbing. This is a book about the interconnectedness of all life on earth and, especially, what that means for us. Listen to it. You're already living it.

©2007 Sharon Moalem (P)2007 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic Reviews

"A lively and enthusiastic treatise." (Kirkus Reviews)

What members say

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  • Overall

An Eye Opener

Ah, evolution at its finest. If you don't like the theory of evolution, this book isn't for you. The author goes out on a limb on most of his theories, but then again, he isn't writing a scientific paper. He finds interesting connections that make the reader consider exactly what it means to be a human being. Eight percent of our genetic code comes from viruses, we all have epigenes that are influenced by our environment, did the 14th century plague affect our genetic heritage, what is the relationship between diabetes and climate change--these are only a few of the interesting things you will find in this book. This is such a good listen, and has so many interesting concepts, I think I will have to buy a hard copy of the book.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Kenneth
  • Gulfport, FL, USA
  • 03-25-08


This book is not a rehashing of stale info. It takes an amazingly incitful view of some fundamental issues. The narration is great and the presentation is understandable even to laymen. I highly recommend it.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Human evolution

I’m an undergraduate biophysics student, so I already have a wide base of information about genetics. And I still found this book enjoyable. It did two things for me:
1) It helped define what is meant by “fittest” in evolution. Corner a geneticist and ask him to define fittest and you’ll get a lot of hand ringing and not much else. Here are some really good examples of what survives and why.
2) Gives clear evidence of human evolution. Talking about human evolution really brings it all home. Understand the pressures that changed different human populations in a really fascinating part of our history.
All of this is done in a way that is entertaining and personal.

17 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Roy
  • Beaumont, TX, United States
  • 12-14-09

Very Informative

Sharon Moalem has done each reader a great service with the book Survival of the Sickest. Each chapter is a self-contained discussion of an aspect of human health and vulnerability. Of particular interest to me were the discussion of how prenatal diet effects the unborn; males and females and how DNA from viruses comingle with out own. This is a wonderful book written to for a general audience. It is well writtten, well read, and well worth the listener's time.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • colleen
  • ANCHORAGE, AK, United States
  • 05-27-12

5 stars

This book kept me interested from the first to the last. I'm in the medical field so it is where my interest lies but I think anyone would enjoy this one.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Very interesting and enlightening

Definitely worth reading, although there was one part where he got long-winded. However, it explained (potentially) several things about human evolution and how those things were impacting us today, that were very interesting and enlightening.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Quite interesting

Having little previous exposure to genetics, I found this book to be a fascinating overview of many of the latest breakthroughs in the field. Many of his theories were also quite thought-provoking. I have recommended it to several people.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • M3
  • Monterey, CA
  • 09-19-12

Outstanding, with Many "Oh REALLY?" Moments

For starters, "Sharon" is a he, not a she. And Sharon presents a well researched, logically laid out argument for how evolution sometimes bites us in the butt. In a nutshell, the same genetic characteristics that allowed your forefathers to survive the plague of the dark ages are likely the root cause of some present-day genetic affliction (in this instance, hemochromotisis). It appears that sometimes nature may trade the ability to survive in the short term for the ability to survive in the long term. Moalem points out multiple examples of how genetic evolution can have second and third order effects...and they are not always for the better.

This is a quick listen that doesn't bore. If I had one complaint, it would be the heavy-handed preaching about evolutionary theory at the beginning of the book, which will undoubtedly grate on the ears of creationists and make them refuse to listen to the REST of the book...which is phenomenal.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Fascinating and worth the listen.

Every month I try to listen to one fiction and one non-fiction book, from which I can learn something new. This book was fascinating and I found myself backing up to re-listen to a few parts, just to make sure I got it. Is it a long listen? Sure, a few points are repeated. But, overall the concepts and theories are very interesting and fresh (at least to me). My only complaint is the odd and unexpected pieces of music that are played during seemingly random times throughout the reading - the first time it happened, I thought a phone was ringing. I recommend this book, if you have a curiosity about science and are open to novel ideas.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Exciting and entertaining to the finish

Relevant and complex medical content presented in a very interesting manner to a novice reader with a nicely present conclusion. Gripping to the end like a mystery fiction.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful