Monday, January 14, 2013

The Violinist's Thumb

by Sam Kean
New York : Little, Brown and Co., 2012.

Sam Kean, the author of The Disappearing Spoon, a book about the periodic table of elements, now turns his attention to genetics and evolution. In The Violinist's Thumb, he takes a non-technical approach to recounting the history of genetic inquiry and the various information we can learn about ourselves through our DNA. Covering Mendel to Watson, viruses to hominids, and throwing in many a funny story to boot, Kean writes an entertaining look at many aspects of genetics.

Though at times I found his approach a little too basic and I wished greatly for footnotes. At times, Kean seemed to gloss over potentially complicated discussions, making me wonder if he was oversimplifying here and there in the interest of narrative clarity. More than once, he stepped on my religious toes whilst trying to be funny. But for the most part, this is an engaging account about a fascinating subject. Kean does a good job of taking what could potentially be a very difficult, dry, or technical topic and making it accessible. His real-life historical examples of crazy experiments or historic people with genetic disorders add vivacity and relevance to the various topics he covers.

Oh and by the way, there's an Easter egg in the text that I had incredible fun trying to figure out. Good luck!

No comments: