Synopses & Reviews
From New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean comes more incredible stories of science, history, language, and music, as told by our own DNA.
In The Disappearing Spoon, bestselling author Sam Kean unlocked the mysteries of the periodic table. In THE VIOLINIST'S THUMB, he explores the wonders of the magical building block of life: DNA.
There are genes to explain crazy cat ladies, why other people have no fingerprints, and why some people survive nuclear bombs. Genes illuminate everything from JFK's bronze skin (it wasn't a tan) to Einstein's genius. They prove that Neanderthals and humans bred thousands of years more recently than any of us would feel comfortable thinking. They can even allow some people, because of the exceptional flexibility of their thumbs and fingers, to become truly singular violinists.
Kean's vibrant storytelling once again makes science entertaining, explaining human history and whimsy while showing how DNA will influence our species' future.
"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 Niccola 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)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Named one of Entertainment Weekly's Best Books of 2012
"The DNA molecule, Kean asserts, is the 'grand narrative of human existence'-and he boldly sets out to tell the tale, not only explaining genetics and its scientific history but linking Mendel's pea shoots to the evolution of early humans....He's crafted a lively read packed with unforgettable details." -- Sarah Zhang, Discover
"Kean turns his clever eye and engaging prose to unveiling the secrets of our DNA." -- Denver Post
"Kean's accessible genetic overview, written for the layman, is often as simple and elegant as a double helix." -- Keith Staskiewicz, Entertainment Weekly
"The wonderful thing about Kean...is his ability to focus on a spiraling narrative while he climbs up the double-helix ladder in this history of genetics, remaining more of less at the center of the rungs while he goes from the struggles of Mendel and Miescher to the Human Genome Project....It is a handsome story." -- Jimmy So, Daily Beast
"Kean offers up strange stories of how our genes help and hinder us." -- Newsweek, "Brainy Beach Reads"
"Science is made fun whenever best-selling author Kean...is narrating." -- Susannah Cahalan, New York Post
"Kean's real knack is for digging up strange details most textbooks leave out....More than an assortment of trivia, the book is an engaging history." -- Allison Bohac, Science News
From New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean comes more incredible stories of science, history, language, and music, as told by our own DNA. In The Disappearing Spoon, bestselling author Sam Kean unlocked the mysteries of the periodic table. In The Violinist's Thumb, he explores the wonders of the magical building block of life: DNA.
About the Author
Sam Kean is a writer in Washington, D.C. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Disappearing Spoon and his work has appeared in the New York Times magazine, Mental Floss, Slate, the New York Post, and New Scientist. In 2009 he was a runner-up for the National Association of Science Writers' Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award for best science writer under the age of thirty, and he was a Middlebury Environmental Journalism fellow.