From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling author of The Emperor of All Maladies, a magnificent history of the gene and a response to the defining question of the future: What becomes of being human when we learn to "read" and "write" our own genetic information?
The extraordinary Siddhartha Mukherjee has written a biography of the gene as deft, brilliant, and illuminating as his extraordinarily successful biography of cancer. Weaving science, social history, and personal narrative to tell us the story of one of the most important conceptual breakthroughs of modern times, Mukherjee animates the quest to understand human heredity and its surprising influence on our lives, personalities, identities, fates, and choices.
Throughout the narrative, the story of Mukherjee's own family - with its tragic and bewildering history of mental illness - cuts like a bright red line, reminding us of the many questions that hang over our ability to translate the science of genetics from the laboratory to the real world. In superb prose and with an instinct for the dramatic scene, he describes the centuries of research and experimentation - from Aristotle and Pythagoras to Mendel and Darwin, from Boveri and Thomas Morgan to Crick, Watson, and Rosa Franklin, all the way through the revolutionary 21st-century innovators who mapped the human genome.
As The New Yorker said of The Emperor of All Maladies, "It's hard to think of many books for a general audience that have rendered any area of modern science and technology with such intelligence, accessibility, and compassion.... An extraordinary achievement."
A riveting, revelatory, and magisterial history of a scientific idea coming to life and an essential preparation for the moral complexity introduced by our ability to create or "write" the human genome, The Gene is a must-listen for everyone concerned about the definition and future of humanity. This is the most crucial science of our time, intimately explained by a master.
"Narrator Dennis Boutsikaris captures the passion that fueled the extensive research involved and makes Mukherjee's sharing of his family's medical history more personable and important. With a reflective tone that is never pretentious or dull, a thorough profile of the gene is formally presented." (AudioFile)
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It's a Wonderful Book
Scientific history blended with humanity
Mukherjee is a masterful educator and story-teller. He does the yeoman's work of taking complex scientific topics and explaining them so that almost any reader can understand (or at least take the first step of understanding).
I liked that he always interspersed the science with humanity - he discussed the impact on people of various discoveries and their power to both help and harm people.
Mukherjee does it again, taking a complex and nuanced scientific history, meticulously explaining it as simply as possible (but no simpler), and infusing it with human stories and reactions and impacts. He distills the incredible story of genetics -- its discovery, our efforts to understand it, the way it has been used and misused, and what it might mean for our human or transhuman future -- into a thoroughly engaging book that bring you up to speed on the state of genetics and what they may mean for humanity's future. Mukherjee, though, goes one step further in making the book even more personal - he discusses at length mental health issues in his paternal family and what might be lurking in his own genome, his own thoughts about whether he would want to be tested for such genes (if/when mental health genes are identified), and whether such identification would lead to more empathy or new forms of discrimination. In the end, Mukherjee does what he did in Emperor of all Maladies in discussing cancer, he takes a broad and complex issue that touches every human and reveals it in language and nuance, leaving the reader both educated and emotionally altered.
- S. Yates