"In high school, I wondered whether the Jamaican Americans who made our track team so successful might carry some special speed gene from their tiny island. In college, I ran against Kenyans, and wondered whether endurance genes might have traveled with them from East Africa. At the same time, I began to notice that a training group on my team could consist of five men who run next to one another, stride for stride, day after day, and nonetheless turn out five entirely different runners. How could this be?"
We all knew a star athlete in high school. The one who made it look so easy. He was the starting quarterback and shortstop; she was the all-state point guard and high-jumper. Naturals. Or were they? The debate is as old as physical competition. Are stars like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Serena Williams genetic freaks put on Earth to dominate their respective sports? Or are they simply normal people who overcame their biological limits through sheer force of will and obsessive training?
The truth is far messier than a simple dichotomy between nature and nurture. In the decade since the sequencing of the human genome, researchers have slowly begun to uncover how the relationship between biological endowments and a competitor’s training environment affects athleticism. Sports scientists have gradually entered the era of modern genetic research. In this controversial and engaging exploration of athletic success, Sports Illustrated senior writer David Epstein tackles the great nature vs. nurture debate and traces how far science has come in solving this great riddle.
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Interesting, fun, and important read.
What an interesting, fun, and important read! This book will change the way I watch athletic events and helped me understand my own abilities better. Epstein explains the science behind athletic performance, and then makes it stick by providing fascinating examples that make the concepts more accessible to the layperson. He also provides references for those that want to dig deeper. It's obvious that the book is well researched. He delves into some touchy subjects about gender and race and handles them respectfully and in a way that will hopefully promote some much needed dialogue. Be sure to read the footnotes. There are lots of interesting facts that you won't want to miss there.
I gave the audiobook to a friend who is a team physician for a Division I school. Despite having a background in athletic medicine and involvement in kinesiology research, his reaction was an excited, "I'm hanging on every word." Many of the stories illustrating the concepts were new to him, and he appreciated that Epstein interviewed many of the most respected researchers in sports medicine. While he had run across some bits of the research and ideas before, he had never seen it pulled together in such a comprehensive or practical way. He said that reading this book would change the way he looked at his own workouts and even his own patients and added that he had sent a copy to friends who are new parents because, "Anyone who has kids should read this."
Read it, don't listen to it
This book is interesting, well researched, and well organized. I would recommend anyone interested in sports performance to read it. Why did I give it two stars, then? Because someone made the mistake of letting the author read it for the audiobook version.
David Epstein is a competent, I would even say talented journalist and nonfiction researcher. But he is no actor. Yet for some reason, he attempts to do the accents of the people he quotes. If he quotes a Scandinavian researcher or athlete, he tries to do a sort of Swedish chef accent. He does ridiculous impressions of British women, and don't even get me started on his Jamaican accent. Much of this results in inadvertent hilarity, but sometimes I felt deeply embarrassed for him.
Another problem with the audiobook is that Epstein does not look up how to pronounce learned words that he has only seen written. He mispronounces "anthropometry" and words derived from it every time. He mispronounces foreign place names. Any actor worth his salt would look these things up, since he wouldn't assume that he knows how to say things he hasn't heard spoken. But not Epstein.
So yeah, by all means get this book and read it--but do not get the audio version. It's the worst audiobook I have ever listened to.
Fantastic for athletes, sports fans and any casual observer!
David Epstein's book will have you completely wrapped up from the very beginning, laughing, nodding and learning. His style of writing and storytelling makes the complex science of sports and physiology very accessible, through the really interesting threads woven together.
Very highly revommended!!!