She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity

Carl Zimmer. Dutton, $30 (672p) ISBN 978-1-101-98459-8
In a magnificent work exploring virtually all aspects of heredity, journalist Zimmer (Parasite Rex), masterfully blends exciting storytelling with first-rate science reporting. Although he lucidly explains the basics of Mendelian genetics—which address inheritance and biological diversity—he goes far beyond that topic to explore the complexities of genetic inheritance. For example he notes that there are at least 800 genes influencing height in humans, but collectively they explain only about one-quarter of the heritability of that trait. Zimmer is not shy about taking on controversial topics like the genetics of race, arguing that there aren’t genetic fingerprints for race (“Ancient DNA doesn’t simply debunk the notion of white purity. It debunks the very name white”), and making the case that it is currently all but impossible to draw significant conclusions about the roles genes play in overall intelligence. He also probes developing field of epigenetics (changes in gene expression rather than alteration of genetic code) as well as the role of genetics in developmental and cancer biologies. Zimmer’s writing is rich, whether he’s describing the history of the field or examining the latest research and ethical issues certain to arise. His book is as engrossing as it is enlightening. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME. (June)
Reviewed on: 02/19/2018
Release date: 05/29/2018
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