The Violinist’s Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code

Sam Kean. Little, Brown, $25.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-316-18231-7
As he did in his debut bestseller, The Disappearing Spoon, Kean educates readers about a facet of science, in this case, genetics, with wonderfully witty prose and enthralling anecdotes. The book’s title, for instance, refers to the genetic disorder that afflicted—and aided—virtuoso violinist Niccolò Paganini, giving him “freakishly flexible fingers” and enabled him to play in ways most others could not. (It also caused him joint pain, poor vision, and other problems). Kean explains how scientists use DNA to better understand evolutionary relationships across the animal kingdom, to examine Homo sapiens’s relationship (both genetic and sexual) with Neanderthals. When Kean discusses the work of pioneers like Darwin, Mendel, Watson, Venter, and McClintock, he illuminates both the science and the politics of science. But he also reminds us to be wary of attributing too much to our genes. “We tend to treat DNA as a secular soul, our chemical essence. But even a full rendering of someone’s DNA reveals only so much.” Kean’s thoughtful, humorous book is a joy to read. Agent: Rick Broadhead, Rick Broadhead & Associates. (July)
Reviewed on: 02/13/2012
Release date: 07/01/2012
Show other formats
Paperback - 401 pages - 978-0-316-18233-1
Open Ebook - 978-0-316-20297-8
Hardcover - 243 pages - 978-0-316-20298-5
Open Ebook - 496 pages - 978-1-4481-2750-4
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-61969-479-8
Paperback - 495 pages - 978-0-552-77751-3
Hardcover - 623 pages - 978-1-4104-5068-5
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-0-85752-029-6
Hardcover - 480 pages - 978-1-4712-3238-1
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Email Address


Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.