From New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean comes incredible stories of science, history, language, and music, as told by our own DNA.
In The Disappearing Spoon, bestselling 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.
As he did in his debut bestseller, The Disappearing Spoon, Kean educates readers about a facet of science, in this case, genetics, with wonderfully witty prose and enthralling anecdotes. The book's title, for instance, refers to the genetic disorder that afflicted and aided virtuoso violinist Niccol Paganini, giving him "freakishly flexible fingers" and enabled him to play in ways most others could not. (It also caused him joint pain, poor vision, and other problems). Kean explains how scientists use DNA to better understand evolutionary relationships across the animal kingdom, to examine Homo sapiens's relationship (both genetic and sexual) with Neanderthals. When Kean discusses the work of pioneers like Darwin, Mendel, Watson, Venter, and McClintock, he illuminates both the science and the politics of science. But he also reminds us to be wary of attributing too much to our genes. "We tend to treat DNA as a secular soul, our chemical essence. But even a full rendering of someone's DNA reveals only so much." Kean's thoughtful, humorous book is a joy to read.