She Has Her Mother's Laugh She Has Her Mother's Laugh

She Has Her Mother's Laugh

The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity

    • 4.3 • 35 Ratings
    • $13.99
    • $13.99

Publisher Description

2019 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award Finalist

"Science book of the year"The Guardian

One of New York Times 100 Notable Books for 2018
One of Publishers Weekly's Top Ten Books of 2018
One of Kirkus's Best Books of 2018 
One of Mental Floss's Best Books of 2018
One of Science Friday's Best Science Books of 2018

“Extraordinary”—New York Times Book Review   
"Magisterial"—The Atlantic

"Leading contender as the most outstanding nonfiction work of the year"—Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Celebrated New York Times columnist and science writer Carl Zimmer presents a profoundly original perspective on what we pass along from generation to generation. Charles Darwin played a crucial part in turning heredity into a scientific question, and yet he failed spectacularly to answer it. The birth of genetics in the early 1900s seemed to do precisely that. Gradually, people translated their old notions about heredity into a language of genes. As the technology for studying genes became cheaper, millions of people ordered genetic tests to link themselves to missing parents, to distant ancestors, to ethnic identities...

But, Zimmer writes, “Each of us carries an amalgam of fragments of DNA, stitched together from some of our many ancestors. Each piece has its own ancestry, traveling a different path back through human history. A particular fragment may sometimes be cause for worry, but most of our DNA influences who we are—our appearance, our height, our penchants—in inconceivably subtle ways.” Heredity isn’t just about genes that pass from parent to child. Heredity continues within our own bodies, as a single cell gives rise to trillions of cells that make up our bodies. We say we inherit genes from our ancestors—using a word that once referred to kingdoms and estates—but we inherit other things that matter as much or more to our lives, from microbes to technologies we use to make life more comfortable. We need a new definition of what heredity is and, through Carl Zimmer’s lucid exposition and storytelling, this resounding tour de force delivers it. 

Weaving historical and current scientific research, his own experience with his two daughters, and the kind of original reporting expected of one of the world’s best science journalists, Zimmer ultimately unpacks urgent bioethical quandaries arising from new biomedical technologies, but also long-standing presumptions about who we really are and what we can pass on to future generations.

Science & Nature
May 29
Penguin Publishing Group

Customer Reviews

Richard Bakare ,

Genetic Roulette

If the minute details of you Biology and Chemistry courses have escaped your memory, you are in luck. Carl Zimmer’s scientific tome on Heredity reads like a full undergraduate course load. Despite the heady topic, Zimmer’s narrative style and use of intriguing historic allegories makes the book accessible for the layman and PhD alike. This book is a compelling look at the long and meandering thread that ties our earliest biological forms to the super human prospects of what we could look like tomorrow. For that reason you will want to sit with it and digest it slowly as I did for over a month.

Zimmer painstakingly takes us through the the earliest stumbling blocks of research on heredity up through the cutting edge science of gene editing. Over the course of that journey some strong themes emerge. The perversion of Eugenics fueled by systemic and extreme racism. The potentials of genetic engineering for disease control and species protection along with restoration. The ethical quagmire that scientists work in while trying to push the envelope of knowledge and application. Each of these threads are presented in a way that reminds just how powerful the scientific process is but how flawed the discoveries become in human hands.

That dilemma is what makes this book a must read. It is a stingy alarm bell and science fair in one. Teaching us to appreciate what we can learn through inquiry, define through testing, and create through experimentation. It also reminds us how dangerous it is to seek perfection and miss the obvious truth that genetic diversity and natural variants are what lead to evolutionary breakthroughs as well as safeguards from the stagnation of genetic homogeny. It pairs nicely with a viewing of Jurassic Park or Gattaca. Two great examples of the science discussed in this book creatively represented in action.

TayMG28 ,

DNF at 50%

I didn’t like this book.

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