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Generosity: An Enhancement
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Generosity: An Enhancement

3.51  ·  Rating Details ·  1,463 Ratings  ·  291 Reviews

The National Book Award-winning author of The Echo Maker proves yet again that "no writer of our time dreams on a grander scale or more knowingly captures the zeitgeist." (The Dallas Morning News).

What will happen to life when science identifies the genetic basis of happiness? Who will own the patent? Do we dare revise o
Paperback, 336 pages
Published August 3rd 2010 by Picador (first published 2009)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,954)
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Sep 11, 2010 Jessica rated it liked it
Recommends it for: mad scientists; depressives; genetic predisposers
Picked this up in the airport bookstore, and on the plane recalled that I DO like reading! So yeah, Pregnant Widow? Gate at the Stairs? That newish McEwan? I was beginning to think it was me, but it's not. It's just them, actually. I can still enjoy books. (Whew.)

It would be unconscionably perverse for me to waste any further limited precious moments of my too-short life on Solar, when I could be reading this awesome book instead. Sense of duty to finish, you are neatly dispatched! Thanks, Mr. P
Krok Zero
Dec 13, 2009 Krok Zero rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: winter-09-to-10
So, this is pretty fuggin' fantastic. My first Powers--I've always resisted, thinking of him as literature's Bill Nye the Science Guy or something. And maybe he is. And maybe that's not such a bad thing.

Some might complain that there's too much stuff packed into this novel's relatively slim, 295-page frame. We've got five (or six) major characters. There's Russell, the depressive writer/editor/teacher; Candace, the therapist and Russell's love interest; Thassa, the young Algerian woman in Russel
K.D. Absolutely
May 27, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
This book could have been a big hit for me if I had not first read Eric Weiner's 2008 book, The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World. That and this book both floated the idea that there is the so-called "happiness gene" in our DNA make up in the same fashion that there said to be a homosexual gene, a cancer gene and other anomalies that found to have been probably caused by gene abnormalities.

It tells the story of a young Algerian woman Thassadit "Thassa" A
Aug 15, 2009 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is probably the most accessible of his books that I've read, not overly technical but certainly not patronizing. But for those who appreciate Powers' tendency towards erudite digressions on any imaginable high-brow subject, you may feel that this book is somewhat lacking in that department; it even reads at times like he is making a deliberate effort to rein himself in and to focus on the momentum of the plot. This is interesting because one strand of the plot is a sort of meta-narrative on ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Jan 04, 2012 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I need to put some serious thought into this review - there's about 100 strands of plot, character and theme that I'd like to touch on. But right now, I can't do that - so suffice it to say, this book is fabulous. Don't be scared of it - even though it takes on some pretty weighty issues - freewill v. biological determinism; positive psychology and social cognition biases; and the absolutely fascinating, speculative fictional premise of what and how people would respond to a person who was genet ...more
Aug 18, 2015 Nicole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think I enjoyed this one more than the two other Powers novels I've read, though I can't say if that's because it's a better book or because I've adapted to him as a reader. In the past I think I've found his novels sort of puzzling: the world and the nexus of problems that he brings up is in some ways too complete in and of itself somehow? This seems a strange thing to say, especially since I think it was a failure of me as a reader: I was expecting a novel that seemed more conventional, and ...more
Clif Hostetler
Mar 06, 2012 Clif Hostetler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
The secret of happiness is to be born happy (i.e. right genes). With genetic engineering this can be made to order. This gives a new dimension to our God given right of the "pursuit of happiness." This novel is structured to examine this prospective future from multiple perspectives.

This novel explores what and how people would respond to a person who was genetically predisposed to having an off-the-charts level of extreme well-being. The book examines the pursuit of happiness using genetic engi
David Hebblethwaite
Russell Stone is a washed-up writer making ends meet by teaching a ‘Journal and Journey’ class to a group of art students at a Chicago college. One member of that group stands out because of her remarkable personality: Thassadit Amzwar is a young woman from Algeria who is apparently happy all the time; nothing seems to bother her, and people are naturally attracted to her sunny disposition. Even after everything she has experienced in her life, Thassa remains in perpetual good humour; Russell sp ...more
Oct 03, 2010 Jen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Richard Powers is one of my favorite writers. Generosity is not my favorite of his books, but I almost feel like I will have to reread it again in a few months in order to review it appropriately.

The book jacket says this book is about the search for a gene that determines happiness and a woman who is the happiest person in the world. And, yes, that's the plot, more or less. I would say the book is about how we live now, about how we measure our purpose and existence. If you're interested in th
Sep 30, 2009 Oriana marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
from the book review: The story postulates the existence of a "happiness gene" that would enhance the whole species. Thassa Amzwar, improbably happy despite her suffering, might be the donor who will usher in the "age of molecular control." Yet the novel's affect, first to last, isn't admonitory so much as amazed, a word half-buried in Amzwar's name. Generosity may be jam-packed, but it's genius: It soars, it boggles.
Anita Pais
Sep 25, 2015 Anita Pais rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-my-shelf
Em "Generosidade" ficamos a conhecer Russel Stone, autor frustrado de não ficção que conhece Thassadit Amzwar, aluna da sua cadeira de Escrita Criativa que irradia felicidade. Esta inabalável e constante felicidade de Tassa, apesar de todas as atrocidades da sua vida intrigam Russel e levam-no a questionar-se sobre o como e o porquê dessa tal alegria e como a poderá proteger do mundo. Essas questões levam-no a Candace Weld, psicóloga, que o faz lembrar uma antiga paixão não confessada, e que se ...more
Dec 05, 2010 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Total brain food about creation, whether it be scientific or artistic. Intelligent writing, captivating, worth reading at least a couple more times. The book is a beautifully composed snapshot of today's culture and the fascination and controversy over the use of genetic discoveries. (A high school knowledge of biology is helpful but not required.) As much about the creation of art as it is about human manipulation of creation, the structure alone is worth the read, especially for a would-be aut ...more
Richard Block
Sep 14, 2014 Richard Block rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Human Nature

Many reviewers are taken with the topicality of Power's books - his interest in science and music, his command of detail, his obvious research and intellect, his clever writing. My belief is that Powers is a master of trying to unravel human nature and that his novels are his canvas for this.

The story of Generosity is this - a nerdy writer takes a college class in creative non-fiction and meets two unusual women. His student, an Algerian refugee seems afflicted by permanent happines
Dec 23, 2015 Daryl rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really want to like Powers, but just about every book winds up falling flat for me. As far as I recall, The Time of our Singing is the only one (of the half dozen or so that I've read) that really knocked my socks off, and the rest have been sort of a bad mashup of mediocre genre fiction and attempted (failed) literary fiction -- and have disappointed at both ends.

Generosity read to me like something written by an alien who had access to Earth's culture, science, technology, and social intera
Jordan Magnuson
This is the third book I've read by Richard Powers, and it's hard for me to know exactly what I think of his work. His characters and world often seem a bit distant, as if we're watching them move around in some other world, far removed from ours. Partly to blame for this is Powers' habit of referencing everything under the sun in a way that is often interesting but also threatens to distract the reader, and sometimes hovers on egotism run amok: one feels that Powers' characters are in constant ...more
Jul 24, 2013 Philippe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, scifi
A young girl strikes a big American city like a meteorite. She fled a civil war and, via Paris and Montreal, disembarks in the metropolis. Her radiance and appetite for life transfixes those who have the privilege of orbiting around her.

The circumstances remind us of the real-world work of epidemiologist Aaron Antonovsky who, in the 1960s and 70s was struck in his research by how certain women who had survived the Holocaust were able to sustain a rich and positive outlook on life. Antonovsky re
Apr 26, 2011 Kyle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is easily a thousand things I could say about Generosity. Powers is a brilliant writer and thinker.

Here's the bigger picture:

In Generosity, I like what it says about the function and "fate" of the novel in a scientific world that is always pursuing progress in the fields related to bio-genetics. This novel is interested in what happens when medical science discovers the gene for happiness. Traditionally, people in the humanities have always been critical of the determinism found in the sc
Greg Zimmerman
Actually, Generosity: An Enhancement could probably be more accurately classified as "fiction about science...and fiction." That's Richard Powers' shtick: He has a unique gift for giving readers multiple entry points to his novels; fusing real science with literary themes into tightly constructed novels of ideas.

And Generosity: An Enhancement illustrates that gift nicely. If you're interested in genetics (or genometics, as it's now more accurately called, apparently), then this novel is right in
I wanted to adore this book so desperately that I read a few sections more than once, waiting for the themes (positive psychology; the human genome a la Craig Venter; an Algerian war refugee: so alluring on their own!) to solidify into one self-reinforcing text. Instead, I found myself increasingly cynical about the existential narrator and plot that solves its own problems. Powers sets up the nature vs. nurture debate only to walk you through the monologue of objections you may have experienced ...more
Feb 24, 2010 Chuck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Imagine that a rare individual suddenly appears on the scene -- a person who, despite having experienced horrific events while growing up in war-torn Algeria, nevertheless projects a constant and contagious glow that seems utterly unshakable by anything that the world currently has on offer. What could be the source of her remarkable buoyancy? Might she be harboring some kind of "happiness gene"? And if a genomic research company were to pin it down, would the company then own the rights to her ...more
Jun 21, 2010 Aaron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Please don't let the fact that this book took me a while to finish as a reflection of how good it is. I am certain that if I didn't have work to do, a show to rehearse for, and video games to distract me that I could have cranked through this novel in one day. It goes that quickly. It is, in fact, possibly the most accessible of Powers' novels. One can almost imagine him having a conversation with his publishers in which they remind him that he just won a National Book Award: "Better tone it dow ...more
Nov 25, 2010 Ann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-it, 2010
Generosity: for a book with such a title there is awful little joy. Even the person with the extraordinary genes isn't in my opinion a really happy person. But maybe that's just the point Powers wants te make: that the existence of happiness genes is a non issue.

The structure of the book, takes some accustoming to but once your used to it, it's quite readable.
I hated the narrator though: I don't especially like the writer of a book to be so present in the story.
The end is abrupt and unsatisfying
Dec 04, 2009 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Is happiness an act of will, learned behavior from your upbringing, or is happiness in your genetic make-up? Thassadit Amzwar, nicknamed Miss Generosity by Russell Stone's Creative Non Fiction night class is seemingly always happy and positive. When Stone find out from her essays about her horrific experiences in strife torn Algeria, he wonders if her happiness is a sign of something wrong with her and asks for advice from a counselor colleague.

A geneticist, meanwhile can foresee a future where
Leroy Seat
Jan 03, 2012 Leroy Seat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-fiction
At the beginning I was really impressed by this book--mainly by the author's style, but also by the story and the main issue that he took up, genetic engineering. But for whatever reason, I did not enjoy the last half of the book nearly as much as the first half.

Although there were many interesting statements made throughout the book, the only one I will cite here is this one: “Joy does little to increase one’s judgment. Happiness is not the condition you want to be in when you need to be at you
Oct 18, 2016 Patti rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Generosity” is the nickname that her fellow students give to Thassadit Amzwar. Thassa possesses a contagious exuberance that is at odds with the tragedies she has experienced as a refugee from civil war in Algeria. Russell Stone is the hapless adjunct professor conducting the nonfiction creative writing class in which Thassa is a force of jubilation that cannot be denied. When a genetic enhancement scientist gets wind of the fact that Thassa may have a genetic predisposition toward happiness, a ...more
Bob Schueler
Sep 06, 2016 Bob Schueler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is beautifully written, but aggravating at times. The first page does a good job of establishing the contract with the reader, including the feature of an intrusive narrator who periodically reminds the reader that he is reading a story about characters, not a book about people. I found this sometimes interesting--as a writer myself, I found Powers' observations about fiction, its creation and consumption, interesting, when I could understand him. But, especially late in the book, when ...more
Dec 13, 2014 Suhrob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really, really like Powers. This is a very accessible book compared to his other work. As usual, it is excellently written, the science (this time genetics of psychological traits) is firmly grasped, yet he rarely (thank god) actually explains much of it. Also as usually he can't help himself to write himself into the prose, brake bit the 4th wall. As usual this was again totally unecessary.

On a personal note, I think he is an excellent example of the hedgehog dilemma. He deeply feels for huma
Jul 03, 2014 Tommy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It took me three attempts to finish this book, and in the end it felt like a colossal waste of time. This book was recommended to me by one of my professors who was teaching it in his post-modern lit class. I can see the reasons he was interested in it, but none of them really made up for the poor storytelling. There were some really interesting ideas: what is "truth"—-blurring the distinction between fiction and non-fiction, science and art. The meaning of/search for happiness.

However, the way
Aug 03, 2016 Robin marked it as not-going-to-finish  ·  review of another edition
So, I am reading this and thought it was going to be science fiction, about genetic research and happiness, and possibly about ethics and who owns the results when you are the test subject. Apparently, it's about a creative writing course and a formerly snarky essayist who no longer can write because his pieces have hurt people. I'm confused but it's not bad.

What's cool about this is that it is several years old and completely spot on about 'creative non-fiction,' personal essays, and the idea o
Graham Crawford
This book is packed with very well reasoned ideas and thoughtful characters. There are a number of quotable quotes. Powers is an uncompromising author. He doesn't shirk from using technical scientific and mathematical jargon without explanation. Some sentences won't make any sense, no mater how many times you re-read them, unless you click over to Wikipedia. I wish 'Singularity' writers like Charles Stross (with his dreadful Accelerando), & Ray Kurzweil (whose ideas and diet are deliciously ...more
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Richard Powers is the author of eleven novels. He has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, the Lannan Literary Award, two Pushcart Prizes, and the National Book Award.

Librarian note: There is more than one author with this name in the Goodreads database.
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“Time passes, as the novelist says. The single most useful trick of fiction for our repair and refreshment: the defeat of time. A century of family saga and a ride up an escalator can take the same number of pages. Fiction sets any conversion rate, then changes it in a syllable. The narrator’s mother carries her child up the stairs and the reader follows, for days. But World War I passes in a paragraph. I needed 125 pages to get from Labor Day to Christmas vacation. In six more words, here’s spring.” 13 likes
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