Sunday, October 07, 2007

Genome - Matt Ridley

Rating : 4.0/5
Reason for Reading : Something About Me Challenge, TBR Challenge

A popular science book subtitled "The autobiography of a species in 23 chapters". It goes through the 23 pairs of chromosomes of the human body (including the sex chromosomes X and Y) and discusses one or two of the genes found on each. Topics covered include Life (where human DNA came from and its discovery by Watson and Crick), Intelligence, Disease (although he frequently reminds us that genes do not cause disease), Stress, Memory and Death (programmed cell death called "apoptosis" and it's relation to cancer).

The chapter on Eugenics was perhaps my favourite talking about chromosome 21 and Down symdrome (found when a person has 3 copies of the chromosome compared to the usual 2). It also discussed the idea of sterilising mentally retarded people and criminals which went on in America and Germany, but interestingly not the UK although Winton Churchill was a big fan. Interestingly the chromosomes on the front cover are a photograph of the authors which I didn't realise until I read the note after finishing the book.

You definately need a basic understanding of genetics to appreciate this book. The author does try to explain things without too much terminology, but it's pretty impossible in some places. I really enjoyed it and was surprised to find it is the first science book I have read voluntarily since graduating in 2004. It was a lot to take in and I will definately be reading it again in the future. I am really pleased I finally got around to reading it and although some of it is already out of date (it was published in 2000 and genetics has made so many advances in the last few years) I definately recommend it.


Nymeth said...

I find books like that so interesting. Being an humanities student, I was never really taught much science, so most of what I know about it is from reading on my own. I do try to educate myself in this area, but like you said I find that most books are difficult to really follow without some basic knowledge.