Review of The Gene / An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee

On the Goodreads scale of 1 to 5, where 5 is as great as it can get, I give The Gene an 8.

It’s not merely that Mukherjee makes an incredibly complex subject simple enough that even I can understand what he’s saying; it’s that he does it in so many interesting ways. He tells compelling narrative stories about situations that lead to advances in the understanding of what genes are and how they work. He lays the groundwork for understanding the context of the roles genes play in human advancement and the evolution of life with an insightful look how the theories of Plato and Aristotle shaped the environment of thought into which actual science started dripping inconvenient facts – and he delicately, deftly and clearly traces that dripping into the torrent of new understandings that occur in the modern world. And within all this, he also plainly, insightfully and objectively portrays the ethical quagmires and quandaries that have emerged with advances in fields of medicine, psychiatry and human development as we’ve learned how to manipulate genes.  Finally, he also clearly demonstrates how much more remains to be learned, and he ignites your imagination with the astounding array of possibilities – inspiring as well as frightening – that lie ahead. The book is a masterful success on every one of the many levels of literary, historical, scientific and philosophical thought it engages, and it blends them all so masterfully, you never can be quite sure which dimension you’re in.  You just know it is both deeply pleasurable and powerfully educational..

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