Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance” as Want to Read:
The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance

4.15  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,783 Ratings  ·  485 Reviews
Now a New York Times Bestseller! With a new chapter added to the paperback.

In high school, I wondered whether the Jamaican Americans who made our track team so successful might carry some special speed gene from their tiny island. In college, I ran against Kenyans, and wondered whether endurance genes might have traveled with them from East Africa. At the same time, I bega
Hardcover, 338 pages
Published August 1st 2013 by Current
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Sports Gene, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Sports Gene

Moneyball by Michael LewisFriday Night Lights by H.G. BissingerSeabiscuit by Laura HillenbrandThe Blind Side by Michael LewisFever Pitch by Nick Hornby
Top reads for sports fans
75th out of 581 books — 587 voters
The Sports Gene by David   EpsteinCycle of Lies by Juliet Macur
Must Reads for Human Kinetics Majors
1st out of 2 books — 2 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jan 15, 2014 David rated it it was amazing
Recommended to David by: Donald Plugge
This book is an exploration of many of the factors that influence the performance of top-flight athletes. The book starts out with a fascinating, attention-getting description of a challenge softball game. A pro softball team challenges a pro baseball team to a softball game. The young woman softball pitcher approaches the pitcher's mound, and her entire team sits down on the field! They realize that there is no possibility for any of the baseball team to hit the ball! And they are absolutely ri ...more
Nicholas Sparks
Jan 12, 2016 Nicholas Sparks rated it it was amazing
As a former college athlete, I found this investigation into what makes great athletes absolutely fascinating. David Epstein shows that there’s a lot of complicated middle ground to explore when it comes to the question of nature versus nurture.
Delway Burton
Aug 11, 2013 Delway Burton rated it it was amazing
This is an important and brave book. Any discussion of human performance based on DNA is a big no-no. Its the scientific 900 pound gorilla. Politicians, celebrities, academicians, coaches, and CEO's have all fallen hard at the mere hint of it. The link of performance or worth based on our genes has a sad history stretching across the millennia as genocide and more recently eugenics. The all-wise media seems to ignore the fact that the very essence of life is our DNA and that to a great degree li ...more
Mar 31, 2014 Scot rated it it was amazing
Most thinking and observant people, based on accumulating evidence, have moved beyond the old “Nature v. Nurture” simplistic either/or dichotomy to try to better understand the complex ways these two categories interplay and interact, both over the course of any given individual’s life, and over broader ranges of time for larger groupings of related peoples, in creating just who we are and offering potential or setting limits for what we might become. David Epstein, a reporter for Sports Illustr ...more
Sep 03, 2013 Nicholas rated it it was amazing
I found Epstein's book to be a revelation. It contains a strongly reasoned argument about the impact of genetics on sport that does not pander to tired biases. Because there is a long history of horrid biases and some of humanities greatest crimes have been justified based on the alleged genetic superiority or inferiority of certain groups, many scientists have been justifiably leary of writing about the impact of genetics on athletic achievement.

Epstein does so very well. He write from data and
Nov 29, 2013 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating, though uneven, look at what we know about the nature versus nurture debate. The first half, as Kate pointed out, is really a refutation of Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. Epstein first cites the 10,000 hour rule that is accepted in pop science as the amount of time to become an expert to explain how professional baseball players are able to hit a pitch that the human eye is in fact incapable of tracking across the plate (long story short, they develop a database of where balls are li ...more
Jan 27, 2014 Shawn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, sports
Is elite athletic performance the result of nature (our genes) or nurture (environment and training)? Yes, according to David Epstein’s The Sports Gene. This engaging and illuminating work is a pleasure to read. The anecdotes are amazing and humanize the scientific questions and issues raised by the role of genes in sport. Epstein does a great job of reporting the science without getting too technical, but without dumbing it down or sensationalizing it. He clears away the misunderstandings and m ...more
Robert Meyro
Jan 12, 2015 Robert Meyro rated it really liked it
This book is a great introduction to how the nature side of the "nature vs. nurture" debate is finally taking shape (in sports).
While it has always been in the interest of athletes to take the credit for their achievements, genetic research is showing that some athletes have it much easier when it comes to performance in certain sports. This, for example, is rather unfortunate for people (view spoiler) who have always wanted to play in the NBA. With an arm-span
Sep 02, 2013 Mac rated it liked it
It's both nature and nurture, at least from David Epstein's point of view, and to be sure there are many other opinions expressed in this book.

Like a good writer, Epstein includes plenty of anecdotes, quotes, and stories that humanize the book and make it enjoyable to read. And he adds the occasional analogy to clarify the science ("it's both hardware and software.")

Like a good reporter, Epstein has evaluated numerous research studies to accompany his stories and support his point of view. How
Aug 12, 2013 Kelly rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: sports fans, science fans, Malcolm Gladwell fans, Jonah Lehrer fans
Highly engaging look at how nature and nurture contribute to talent and performance in sports. Although the general thesis - "It's both - and in complicated and unexpected ways!" - isn't exactly groundbreaking, Epstein explores how this operates in a range of different sports, from sprinting to long distance running to high jumping to skeleton to basketball. Some fascinating factoids - for example, those famous short NBA players? They have SUPER long arms. I quibble with the level of certainty i ...more
Mar 14, 2014 Wendy rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating book, irrespective of your interest in sports. The content - nature vs. nurture in the realm of extraordinary athletic performance - is super interesting, and the execution is admirable. Epstein is a great writer, and specifically handles issues like race with complete sangfroid so as to diffuse any potential minefields entirely without losing the ability to discuss the topic. In another writer's hands, this could have been a disaster. Super compelling. Tip of the hat to Ra ...more
Jul 19, 2015 Kerry rated it really liked it
Few people know that I am an absolute sports nut. I can watch almost any sport that I can understand and have watched some I have no understanding of--cricket, lacrosse,wrestling to name a few. What I have come to understand about my fascination is it has mostly to do with the simple wonder of the human body to do incredible things, some with training and some by accident. I've seen this in my chosen profession as well (medicine) but in sports it has more to do with planned rather than unexpecte ...more
Danni Green
Jul 08, 2014 Danni Green rated it really liked it
Since I generally have absolutely no interest in sports, I would not ordinarily have chosen to read this book. But I made some ignorant comments about the subject matter when a friend was discussing the book a few months ago, and since I am allergic to being the kind of person who makes ignorant comments about a book I haven't even read, I had to go out and find the book so that I could actually know what I was talking about. It was clear that this topic was important to my friend, and I wanted ...more
Aug 05, 2013 Book rated it it was amazing
The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein

"The Sports Gene" is an enjoyable book that shares the latest of modern genetic research as it relates to elite athleticism. In the never-ending quest to settle the debate of nature versus nature, David Epstein takes the readers on a journey into sports and tries to answer how much does each contribute. This fascinating 352-page book includes the following sixteen chapters: 1. Beat by an Underhand Girl: Th
Alan Kaplan
Nov 14, 2013 Alan Kaplan rated it really liked it
Many people are familiar with Malcolm Gladwell and his books. In one of his books, he states that it takes 10,000 hours to master a subject. The Beatles played in Hamburg for years before they hit it big. Bill Gates used a university computer in the middle of the night. The 10,000 hours is only part of the story. You can practice hitting a curve ball for years and never master the skill. This is where our genes enter the picture. In order to be a major league hitter, you must have perfect vision ...more
Allen Adams
Oct 29, 2015 Allen Adams rated it it was amazing

For as long as competitive athletics have existed, we have sought understanding of what allows a good athlete to become great or a great athlete to become truly elite. Is greatness destined, present since birth on a genetic level? Or is it possible for an athlete to become great through hard work and a beneficial environment? The argument has gone on for years, with plenty of good reasons to come down on either side.

So – nature or nurture? Which is it?

Katie/Doing Dewey
Aug 29, 2013 Katie/Doing Dewey rated it it was amazing
Pop culture has long used the phrase “nature vs nurture” to ask whether genetic or environmental factors are more important. As science has discovered, the truth is far more nuanced. David Epstein explores this fascinating topic in the context of extreme athletic performance. The question he addresses include whether there are people who are just naturals and whether or not everyone could be equally good at sports with the same amount of practice. He also addresses more sensitive topics, such as ...more
Sep 15, 2013 Tom rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, sports
This book was an interesting look at the science behind various aspects of sports. Some of this material was familiar from Sports Illustrated articles, not surprising, since the author writes for the magazine. It delves into the research in skill acquisition as well as some of the genetic research behind strength, endurance, and explosive speed. It does a good job of addressing the topic and delving into the potentially thorny issues of race, ethnicity, and athletic ability in a delicate manner. ...more
Dec 05, 2015 Jodi rated it really liked it
I didn't need this book to tell me that I am missing this gene. However, I was surprised to learn that if you map my genome, I am definitely sure I have that couch potato gene. This is a real thing. I'm sure I have it. Do not judge.

This is a fascinating read, delving into science and its inextricable link to practice and performance. I respect the fearlessness Epstein demonstrates as he explores genetics, its link to geography, and its connection to elite athleticism.
Jan 03, 2014 Adrian added it
Sports Illustrated writer Epstein surveys the world of sport to answer the question: is athletic brilliance more nature or nurture? There are lots of intriguing facts and studies revealed here. West Africans have fast twitch muscle as an adaptation for fighting malaria which incidentally make them great sprinters, East Africans on the other hand are culturally adapted to distance running events by running miles to school as kids. Mind you they also have perfect legs and bodies for these events. ...more
Jan 04, 2014 June rated it liked it
I read this about 3/4 of the way, and found both the research and the specific case studies very interesting. However, I noticed a particular trend in the specific case studies that Epstein chose: they were either in sports or in specific roles in sports for which success (either short term or long term) relies on a singular skill. After some very limited, discrete case studies of the youth soccer academy in Europe, it doesn't look like there were any case studies of soccer, lacrosse, or other s ...more
Oct 02, 2015 Jill rated it really liked it
Shelves: health
I was surprised at how well I liked this book. I liked the author's conversational tone, the vast array of genetic information that wasn't too complicated for a science idiot like me, and getting to meet different world-class athletes. I learned a lot and enjoyed it all! A quote I especially liked was this one:

(Some genes, like the one for the degenerative brain disease, Huntington's, are rather deterministic. If you have the genetic defect for Huntington's, you WILL get the disease.) Many other
Juris Grišins
Jan 06, 2015 Juris Grišins rated it it was amazing
Mind opener on the nature and evolution of competitive sports, as well as development of a body. A wonderful read and plenty of interesting facts for showing off at a cocktail party.
Feb 11, 2014 Sara rated it really liked it
There were rather more names, dates, facts, and figures in here than I am generally disposed to as I find those types of things difficult to track, especially when there are new ones every chapter, but this book was still a fascinating read. The book explores the overlap between genetics and sport and how there is still so much to learn since the field of genetics is still new and is very, very complex.

There were so many fascinating anecdotes in here that if you like sports or science (or not) I
Baylor Cook
Nov 29, 2015 Baylor Cook rated it it was amazing
If you are a curious about how people are able to do impossible things in sports, or you are wanting to improve your game in any sport related activity I highly suggest this book for you. After reading The Sports Gene I have realized there are so many ways I can improve my sports game. The Sports Gene is a book just filled with years of research and examples of thousands of athletes and their genetics. All pertaining to the question of nature or nurture? Trying to figure out how an athlete becom ...more
Uwe Hook
Aug 14, 2015 Uwe Hook rated it it was amazing
The Sports Gene is a fascinating look at the hidden side of greatness. It is easy to see how effort and athleticism make professional athletes into stars, but David Epstein examines the genetic advantages certain athletes have that allow them to become such stars. Epstein essentially takes all the studies conducted over the last century involving physical development as it relates to genetics and rolls them into an explanation of why certain athletes are so much better than everybody else. The a ...more
Jul 24, 2015 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Fascinating reading for anyone interested in sports, genetics, biology, psychology and high performance.
Jul 06, 2015 Ryan rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating page-turner about the role of genetic traits and training in sports. It attempts the difficult task of untangling the two using cutting-edge research. The book looks at how professional sports has caused intense specialization and selection of body types. The desirable traits for each sport--like being tall will always help in the NBA, having more blood, slow-twitch muscle, or hemoglobin will help with endurance, having a long torso and shorter legs with longer arms will h ...more
Dec 31, 2014 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This book is partially a reaction to Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers with its famous rule that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is a necessary and sufficient condition for mastery, and it fits into the larger literature on the influences of nature and nurture on human performance. But I'm going to take a more personal approach to this review.

My sport of choice is Crossfit, a blend of gymnastics, weightlifting, and running. I was in an Internet Argument with a fellow Crossfitter, and to make a rhe

Nazrul Buang
Nov 02, 2014 Nazrul Buang rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finished reading "The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance / What Makes the Perfect Athlete" (2013) by David Epstein. As one who is perhaps biased towards sociologists/psychologists/scientists and against journalists, I wasn't sure whether to expect anything good from this book, of which I first thought would be all about glorified stories of extraordinary athletes and their Spartan training. Pleasantly, I was completely wrong.

When it comes to sports science, esp
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Creation: How Science Is Reinventing Life Itself
  • League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth
  • Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance
  • Bowerman and the Men of Oregon: The Story of Oregon's Legendary Coach and Nike's Co-founder
  • Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won
  • The Science of Running: How to find your limit and train to maximize your performance
  • The Epigenetics Revolution
  • 14 Minutes: A Running Legend's Life and Death and Life
  • Daniels' Running Formula
  • Running with the Buffaloes: A Season Inside with Mark Wetmore, Adam Goucher, and the University of Colorado Men's Cross-Country Team
  • Elite Minds: Creating the Competitive Advantage
  • Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins
  • What Is Life?: How Chemistry Becomes Biology
  • The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex, and the Science of Attraction
  • The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease
  • Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life In the Minor Leagues of Baseball
  • What Makes Olga Run?: The Mystery of the Ninety-Something Track Star Who Is Smashing Records and Outpacing Time, and What She Can Teach Us About How to Live
  • Faster, Higher, Stronger: How Sports Science Is Creating a New Generation of Superathletes—and What We Can Learn from Them
David Epstein is an award-winning senior writer for Sports Illustrated, where he covers sports science, medicine, and Olympic sports. His investigative pieces are among the magazine's most high-profile stories. An avid runner, he earned All-East honors on Columbia University's varsity track squad, and has a master's degree in environmental science. He lives in Brooklyn.
More about David Epstein...

Share This Book

“Without both genes and environments, there are no outcomes.” 0 likes
“The same medicine should not be prescribed for every athlete. For some, less training is the right medicine.” 0 likes
More quotes…