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Mutants: On Genetic Variety and the Human…

Mutants: On Genetic Variety and the Human Body (edition 2005)

by Armand Marie Leroi

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7221413,019 (4.07)9
Title:Mutants: On Genetic Variety and the Human Body
Authors:Armand Marie Leroi
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (2005), Paperback, 448 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
Tags:lpl, to read

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Mutants: On Genetic Variety and the Human Body by Armand Marie Leroi



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The author combines folklore, history, and modern genetics into a fascinating narrative. It is amazing what just a few changes to our DNA can do to the human form. Though the science bogs down in a few places, it is for the most part an easy read. ( )
  bke | Mar 30, 2014 |
So I really liked this book, it's my first candidate for favorite book I read in 2013. Written extremely well, this COULD have been a sensationalist book, full of hermaphrodites, "wolf-boys," and (emphasis on the quotes) "freaks." It isn't, though, it's a serious discussion about why these things happen, with easy-to-understand explanations of the science behind it, and humanizing descriptions of how the people behind the "freak" labels live with their differences. Powerful, fascinating, riveting stuff. ( )
  waitingtoderail | May 2, 2013 |
This is not dry inaccessible scientific writing. This is a fascinating look at how genes express themselves and what mutations tell us about how our bodies work both normally and when they are affected by mutations.

I have a biochemistry background and this book did not talk down to me at all. It gave me enough detail to allow me to further my understanding of the concepts discussed. On the flip side, I don't believe that there is too much scientific detail for those without a science background. My other half also found it fascinating and he has a decidedly non-science background.

For me, this has been one of the stand-out popular science books that I have read - fascinating subject matter, well thought out structure to the book, and above all, well written. ( )
1 vote devilish2 | Dec 21, 2011 |
If you have hang-ups about the fact that you’re a little short, balding, got flabby arms, varicose veins or teeth like some ghost town saloon piano, you need this book. Boy, I’ll never complain about my body again. Never!

Leroi has done a great job of taking a very complex subject and making it understandable… well of making it easy enough to follow… for the general public. The premise is this: we are all fearfully and wonderfully made. It’s just that some of us are made in a way that induces a little more fear and wonder.

Starting with the formation of embryos (which really blows me away) and progressing through our anatomy until two final chapters dealing respectively with ageing and death, we are taken on a grand tour of the variety of our physiology. On the way, we are introduced to some truly amazing characters from the familiar James Merrick with his Proteus Syndrome to them less well-known but equally startling Maphoon with her Hypertrichosis Lanuginosa.

Hypertrichosis Lanuginosa, you say, what on earth’s that? Well, she was just covered in hair, just covered. And, yes, even the paperback edition I read has plenty of illustrations to satisfy your macabre curiosity.

Sure, some of the genetic analysis is a little beyond me. What am I saying, it’s waaaaay beyond me. But the way Leroi writes it doesn’t matter. You appreciate what he’s communicating, that you are in the presence of someone who knows exactly what he’s talking about and that if you just hang in there through the next bit of explanation of what proteins turn on what enzymes at what cell layers, there’ll be another fascinating morsel just beyond the next turn of the page.

One such morsel occurred on page 236 when it talked about the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Now I don’t know about you but I feel all tingly when someone in a book I’m reading mentions the very place I’m reading the book in. I LOVE it when this happens! And what, I eagerly wanted to know, was weird in PNG… well, weirder than some of the things I’ve already encountered which have blown my mind.

It turns out that down the bush track from me here are a group called the Sambia that have a high rate of hermaphrodites living among them: girls who become men. This is based on a 1991 paper by Imperato-McGinley et al. and what’s more, the Sambia have some of the most arduous male initiation rites I’ve ever read about (and I’ve read more than a few).

The chapter on death fascinated me. Why? Because I never realised until now that geneticists simply don’t have an explanation for it. How bizarre, I thought, that the only thing we can guarantee with any certainty after birth is a complete mystery to us still. Incredible!

This is a very readable and fascinating account of what can happen to a human body. It made me even more thankful for the healthy, fully-functioning one that I’ve been given, made me even more dependent on God’s mercy in light of the inevitable genetic mutations I must have inherited from my foreparents and gave me increased admiration and compassion for those who live fruitful lives despite inheriting a less than complete set of DNA. ( )
1 vote arukiyomi | Oct 16, 2011 |
I am decidedly a liberal arts kind of woman. I managed to cram enough science into my head to make it (barely) through college and then promptly forgot all of it. Much science seems like magic to me, a sentiment that makes me sound really dumb, but I’m okay with that (though I do need to mention that I understand how magnets work). So it was a little bit of a shock when I realized this was not a book about carny folk and old side-show acts that featured “freaks.” I was intimidated by the book and put off reading it.

When I finally picked this book up and gave it a try, it was a marvel at how accessible this book made biology and genetics to a non-science person like me. Moreover, it was an engrossing book, as well. Biology in the micro is a dramatic thing and as Leroi makes the science clear enough that even I can understand it, he shows the drama that takes place in our genetic code. I wish this book, clear and elegant, had been my college biology text. I sure would have enjoyed the class a lot more. Read my entire review here: http://ireadeverything.com/mutants-by-armand-marie-leroi/ ( )
2 vote oddbooks | Jan 14, 2011 |
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This book is about the making of the human body. (Prologue)
It was March 1512, and a Florentine apothecary named Lucca Landucci was writing up his diary.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142004820, Paperback)

Visit Armand Marie Leroi on the web: http://armandleroi.com/index.html

Stepping effortlessly from myth to cutting-edge science, Mutants gives a brilliant narrative account of our genetic code and the captivating people whose bodies have revealed it—a French convent girl who found herself changing sex at puberty; children who, echoing Homer’s Cyclops, are born with a single eye in the middle of their foreheads; a village of long-lived Croatian dwarves; one family, whose bodies were entirely covered with hair, was kept at the Burmese royal court for four generations and gave Darwin one of his keenest insights into heredity. This elegant, humane, and engaging book “captures what we know of the development of what makes us human” (Nature).

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:04 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

An investigation into human molecular biology and what happens when things go wrong. Stories include that of a French convent girl who found herself changing sex at puberty and of children, invariably stillborn, who have cyclopia (one eye located beneath their nasal cavity).… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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