Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Violinist's Thumb by Sam Kean

Genes. DNA. Heredity. These are all things that people hear about, but how many of us really understand them? How do genes work, and what's their relationship to DNA? How was everything discovered, and who was it discovered by? Names like Mendel and Darwin, Watson and Crick are familiar, but who were the other people who played a role in the discovery of DNA? How did genes play a role in creating a brilliantly flexible violinist and a bronze-hued president? From the first tentative steps toward exploring the human body to the mapping of the human genome, The Violinist's Thumb takes you on an incredible journey of scientific discovery.

I was so excited to read this book. I had intended to read Sam Kean's first book, The Disappearing Spoon, but I still haven't picked it up. I wanted to read this one before anything else got in the way. I really liked the way the book was written. It's not always an easy read, but it's an enjoyable read. Some of the science can be quite dense, but I think that's to be expected. I wouldn't say that after reading this book I have a complete understanding of genes and DNA; saying that would be a disservice to the scientists who spend their entire careers learning about genes. I do, though, have a big more of an understanding about the questions that surround this branch of science. My favourite chapter was the one that discussed the impulse to retroactively diagnose famous people like John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, and Charles Darwin with diseases and genetic disorders; of course, having said that that one was my favourite, I have to now think about what that means about me and my enjoyment of a celebrity-obsessed culture. If you're looking for a satisfying non-fiction read that will provide you with both information and a dry, sometimes pun-based sense of humour, definitely check out this book.

I received a review copy from NetGalley courtesy of Little, Brown and Company.

Check out Sam Kean's website.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox

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