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A Brief Histøry of Everyone Who Ever Lived (2016)

by Adam Rutherford

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DNA has been much in the new in the last couple of decades – questions about eg. the future of redheads or the existence of a ‘warrior’ gene and its recent use in court cases. Geneticist Adam Rutherford looks at these and many more issues in his fascinating and highly readable book A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived. He talks about the Human Genome Project and its importance to science as well as the rise of genetic testing companies like 23 and Me (he had himself tested with mostly unsurprising results). He also writes about race which doesn’t exist and racism which does and how so many white supremacists are having their DNA tested to often disappointing (for them) results.

As is pointed out in the cover blurb to this book, the history of our species from its beginning to the present is written in our genes – an ‘epic poem in our cells’ – and Rutherford tells it very well, making it not only interesting but accessible to even those like me without a scientific background but with a curiousity to know more about who we are, where we came from, and where we are likely heading. As he shows, we have adapted genetically in wonderful ways that are ‘fit for purpose’ – anyone who may be hoping that we will eventually sprout wings so that we can fly without airline tickets are probably going to be disappointed. Most of all, he shows that our genes prove that we humans are unique and special just like all other species.

Thanks to Netgalley and The Experiment for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review ( )
  lostinalibrary | Sep 5, 2017 |
Witty, engrossing. Rutherford could have overwhelmed the reader with his erudition, but he's woven a story accessible to everyone. ( )
  Faradaydon | Mar 9, 2017 |
This should have been a good book, but is spoiled by sloppy writing and the lack of an editor.
The author seems to know his stuff, and he has interesting things to stay, but he doesn't say them particularly well. Two things particularly irritated me - wandering sentences where the subject and object and meaning get hopelessly separated; and wandering digressions that drift from the intent of the book (it even seemed that some of the content had been dictated, possible after dinner). In addition, the reader gets the sense that some of the content was written for other purposes, and the chapters/sections have been cobbled into use in this volume.
All of these problems in the writing could have been cured by an editor. The sentence construction could have been tightened, simplified and ambiguities removed. Similarly, the digressions could have been pruned. And the overlap and repetition of the disparate sections could have tidied up. Easily. Then the book would have been more fun to read.
There would still be some difficulties. A core of the book is the statistical analysis of genetic information. Sadly, statistic is clearly not the forte of Rutherford. He presents the findings of others, but is unable to make the numbers sing, or to find the example or metaphor that would make the analysis light up for a lay reader.
But, I'm glad I read the book, and I look forward to future books by Rutherford - as long as the publisher invests in an editor. ( )
  mbmackay | Mar 9, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rutherford, Adamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Garceau, PeteCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mukherjee, SiddharthaForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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