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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 Ratings

Overall

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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Story

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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

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.

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  • Andy
  • Westport, CT, United States
  • 08-05-12

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

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  • Performance
  • Story

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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  • Story
  • Mark
  • Lakewood, CO, United States
  • 07-21-14

What a disappointment

After listening to a couple of episodes of Radio Lab with Sam Kean that featured stories from this book, I had to read it. I wish I had just stuck with the stories I'd heard on Radio Lab and saved myself the credit. While I love learning about the latest developments in the field genetics as we reveal more from the Human Genome Project, this book has two interesting chapters and the rest is historical background told in a manner that puts you to sleep. I expected to be drawn in and instead the stories seemed drawn out, trying to give too many meaningless details and not bringing in enough interesting new developments and discoveries. Surely, with all the research Kean did to write this book he ran across more interesting stuff than this... or perhaps not. In any case, I can't in good conscience recommend this book to a friend who values their reading/listening time.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
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Interesting information but annoying writing style

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

First let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Keens first book, The Disappearing Spoon. It was a joy to listen to and I have played it three times.

But in this book his writing style has progressed from quirky and interesting to outright annoying. As much as I enjoyed the content I don't think I will be able to sit though it again. For me, Mr Keen has become too taken with his own wit and has elevated (or lowered) himself to “too cleaver by half” status.

Would you ever listen to anything by Sam Kean again?

Probably not.

What character would you cut from The Violinist's Thumb?

Mr Keen.

Any additional comments?

I can't recommend the The Disappearing Spoon enough.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful