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Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  1,859 ratings  ·  214 reviews
What can we learn from the genomes of our closest evolutionary relatives?

Neanderthal Man tells the story of geneticist Svante Pääbo’s mission to answer this question, and recounts his ultimately successful efforts to genetically define what makes us different from our Neanderthal cousins. Beginning with the study of DNA in Egyptian mummies in the early 1980s and culminatin
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Hardcover, 288 pages
Published February 11th 2014 by Basic Books (first published February 2014)
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4.04  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,859 ratings  ·  214 reviews


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Lois Bujold
May 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Science fans. Also, all voters, because we need more science literacy.

Good science writing by the actual scientist, always a plus. Part autobiography, part earnest attempts to guide the reader accurately through all the complex steps by which such genetic work is actually done. (And also to show the equally complex social networks through which science is done.)

I had enjoyed hitting up 23andme last year for its estimate of my own personal percentage of "Neanderthal genome". (I was very close to the European average, unsurprisingly.) It was fascinating to see where
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HBalikov
I have a friend who is a science professor and we attend a book group together. A few years back he suggested the book Spillover by David Quammen and I found that its impact on me was tremendous. I appreciate those who are battling the next series of pandemics we will face (some a lot worse than the current influenza season). [my review can be found here https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ]

I had the same anticipation when he recommended this book by Svanto Paabo. My GR friend Jean describe
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Jean
Apr 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
I found this most interesting and fun book to read. It is written in the first person just as if Svanto Paabo was sitting beside the reader telling the story of how he mapped the genome. Some technical information is provided and explained but mostly he tells about himself and his colleagues and their work. The way the book is written keeps the reader engaged and enthralled with the story. The book reads like a memoir rather than a scientific book.

The story starts in 1981, when Paabo, a Swedish
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Elizabeth Theiss
Feb 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Svante Paabo, perhaps the most eminent paleo-geneticist in the world, has written a science blockbuster recounting the trail of his sequencing of the Neanderthal and Denisovans genomes. Not only has he given us an exciting story of discovery, competition, camaraderie and the world of science, but he has written it in language that the informed layperson can grasp.

Sequencing ancient DNA required a series of technological breakthroughs, each of which began as a mystery and ended with an innovation
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Steve
Aug 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
Overall, this book did not completely live up to my expectations. While it was a fairly interesting premise, the author veered off track too often for me.

Author's Premise: Are we related to Neanderthal Man? If so, how?

Book's Structure: First 3rd is autobiographical. Second 3rd is heavily technical discussion of mitochondrial & ribosomal DNA- its extraction, viability and study. Final 3rd: interesting discussion of how we share certain genes with Neanderthals and how this possibly could have
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Mary Mimouna
A hard-to-put-down true-life science detective story about decoding the Neanderthal genome. Later chapters include Denisovans. Book ends in updated Postscript telling of the latest research on the FoxP2 language gene, and what happens to nice when they have the human version inserted into their genome.
Elyse
Ever since I had my DNA analyzed by 23andMe and they told me I am 2.6 percent Neanderthal I've wondered how that is possible. This book explains the complexities. It is written by the leader of the project who first sequenced Neanderthal DNA. This is a very recent occurrence and happened after modern homo sapien DNA was sequenced in 2003. Turns out the Neanderthal project team was as surprised as me that most humans contain DNA from an extinct creature. They weren't predicting this result. This ...more
Alison
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This will be one of my top reads of 2014. This disarmingly frank tale of Paabo's thirty years at the cutting edge of historic DNA sequencing work as a tale of scientific pioneering, giving rare insight into the politics, money, rivalry, passion and innovation of modern science.
Paabo's frank, almost naive, tone can be cringeworthy at times - especially discussing his affair with a colleague, and you have to wonder how some of his colleagues feel about his well-meaning descriptions of them - but i
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Nikki
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is less about Neanderthals themselves and more about the biological and technical details of extracting their long-extinct genomes from the preserved bones we’ve found, and also about Svante Pääbo himself — it touches on his bisexuality, his moves between institutions, even his affair with a colleague’s wife. I could’ve done without the personal info; it often felt like it was completely incidental to the extraction and sequencing going on in his teams. There were some interesting bits ...more
Mag
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
What a fascinating ride! From working on the genome itself, through the way research institutions work to the personality of Paabo himself.
The book is written very much in the same convention as The Genome War: How Craig Venter Tried to Capture the Code of Life and Save the World, which is about the competition between Venter and Collins to sequence the genome. Paabo's book has the same unabashed honesty about rivalry in the science world, but here it's not written by journalist about the scien
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Tanja Berg
Left at 40%. This is the type of book I would like for me to enjoy. I've always thought of myself as someone interested in science. I have also learned valuable details of how quickly DNA disintegrates and how difficult it is to extract ancient DNA without contaminating it. That's what most of the book that I've read was about. That and a few details of the author's life.

This is not a bad book. It just isn't what I need right now. I want some mind-numbing blood splatter to cool of my frazzled n
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Andy
Jul 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this because it's by a scientist, but I can't honestly say this is a great read. The science is solid but there apparently isn't enough interesting to say about Neanderthal Man to carry a book. So the rest is filler about the author and the office politics of science and the names of the people who found the caves that the bones were in that he analyzed in his lab, etc., etc.
Clay
Dec 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Tremendous! Paabo does a great job at outlining the tedium and excitement of science. He happens to have made discoveries with his science that few other people can even dream of. A great read for those interested in genetics, human history, and knowing just how much Neanderthal/Human gene mixing occured.
Sara
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
A few years ago, my partner and I went to a conference in Northern Japan where we had the luck to have dinner with a paleontologist. Excited, I asked her about the Neanderthals and she gave a quick, paranoid sweep of the dining hall before leaning in and whispering, "They're an ancestor."
"As in...direct?"
She nodded, before proceeding to unfurl a sorry, nefarious tale about "those people" at the Max Planck Institute who have a monopoly on the narrative and that's why we're not hearing the real s
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Nancy
Oct 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
I was disappointed in this book. I learned very little about our present knowledge of Neanderthals, and a lot more than I wanted to about the author's personal life. He presented excruciating detail on the long process of getting support, funding, and various methods of extracting DNA. I also learned about his relationships, professional and private. Looking back at the title: Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes, I guess I should have figured it out. Apparently "Neanderthal Man" referred ...more
Sarah
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
The content relating to genetics and biology was very interesting. The sometimes jarringly out-of-place commentary about the author's personal life was less so. As an example, was a summary of each item eaten at a specific dinner really necessary? These random insertions intruded on the main points being made; in the end I finished this book for the sole purpose of having an extra title to add to my reading challenge goal
Charlene
Jun 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book provided a lot of technical detail about mtDNA, which was very enjoyable and educational. I am more familiar with nuclear DNA and was happy to gain a more in depth understanding of mtDNA while enjoying a great story. More surprising though was the amount of personal detail shared by the author. I loved his candid and matter-of-fact way of writing about his personal relationships and his interpretation of the politics that accompany academic competition. Great read.
Laura
Aug 12, 2017 rated it did not like it
The science is too dry. His sex life is too spicy.
Not what I signed on for.
I'm bailing at 42% done.
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
An incredibly fascinating look at the role that genetics is now playing is sorting out our human origins. While this particular book is not all that well written, I have to acknowledge that Svante Paabo is clearly at the cutting edge of the science in better understanding the evolution and relationships between Homo sapiens, Homo neanderthalensis, and other potential hominin species that have occupied the Earth. With Paabo, and other geneticists like him, I think we will be learning more and mor ...more
Velia Penza
Sep 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
I thought Svante Paabo was just a regular guy with a brilliant mind, but he is actually a bisexual swedish super soldier/scientist with a flexible moral about seducing married women.

I enjoyed this book SO MUCH is not even funny, but I don't know if it would equally exciting for someone who is not in the field or not very VERY interested in how to extract ancient DNA from bones, genome biology and how the progress in sequencing techniques saved us all.

Apparently they found the jawbone of a man
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Othón León
Nov 22, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: science
Can I NOT like this book? Actually, I just returned it... This happens rarely because I try to carefully choose my readings, but this time, I failed. Right from the start, I noticed the rhythm of the author was not good for me (too slow)... When I finished chapter #1, I said to myself I was gonna make the effort and that maybe during chapter 2 things would change. Not so. I made it to chapter 5, but then I could not continue. The moment the author started (chapter #3 I believe...) to speak about ...more
Schmidleysscribblins.wordpress.com
Very uneven book. Sometimes engaging, sometimes baffling. Sometimes too much self exposure. I really don't need to know who he slept with, or how he stole his lab partner's wife. Best part for me as a retired researcher was how the research process including paper publishing works. Major shortcoming...his criticism of paleontologists and lack of sensitivity to the ethics of genetic research and possible negative outcomes regarding genetically modified organisms. He is the scientist depicted in G ...more
Elly (Schrody)
This aren't the droids you're looking for.

Half biographic, half scientific, I was slightly disappointed at first.

But, I decided to give it a chance, because it was interesting, and I haven't regretted it. I learned a lot about lab procedures, and DNA extracting, and how, sometimes, it might take you years to fulfill your wishes, passions. Author is a great scientist, and I promise his life isn't boring either.

If you want more "purebred" book about Neanderthals - look further, but if you like t
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Rita Berk
May 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: audible
Paabo describes the long, difficult, ultimately successful process of discovering Neanderthal genomes. Difficulties include contamination by bacteria or modern human genomes, technical issues in the lab, finding Neanderthal bones which are often carefully guarded by the university or museum owning them, and competition from other scientists. Interesting book, not too difficult for a lay reader.
Ewa Bartnik
Jan 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
A very interesting book but the 3 stars are mainly because of the scientific explanations which are not simple enough for non-scientists, but on the other hand it shows how one man can change a whole area of scence - the author has made it possible to analyze old DNA samples, has analyzed theDNA of the Neanderthal man and has changed the way we see human evolution
Dariusz
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, nauka
Świetnie napisana, sporo wiedzy podanej w przystępny sposób. Dawno nie czytałem książki która by mi sprawiała tyle frajdy co ta.
Scott
Jul 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
More about modern scientist than it is neanderthal man.
Ilya
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Отличная книга от Сванте Пэабо — человека, сумевшего прочитать геном древних разновидностей людей — неандертальца и денисовца.
Автор совершил революцию в изучении биологии давно умерших организмов и дал начало новому направлению науки — палеогеномике. Благодаря его работе теперь можно читать геномы животных и других организмов возрастом до нескольких сотен тысяч лет. Это фантастическое достижение, которое позволяет изучить и даже восстановить вымершие популяции, а также понять эволюцию и взаимосв
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Nasrin
Sep 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Of course I liked the way author went to details in each and every topic. The drama of competition in researches field along with the frustrations of satisfying a reviewer, a lot to learn. However, at some points it felt he was providing too much importance in people's name. It take me while to understand his motif and this is actually beautiful to see the way he respects every single person involved with his research project, no matter how small their contribution is.
Adam
Sep 23, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history
Neanderthal Man: In Search of A Lost Book. The guy spends most of the time talking about his career and personal life rather than keeping to the topic. Obviously this is fine here and there when you're trying to go through how you went from discovery to discovery or when you're trying to understand the scientist's way of thinking, but this reads more like a crap memoir about a guy you don't care about.
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Svante Pääbo is a Swedish biologist specializing in evolutionary genetics. One of the founders of paleogenetics, he has worked extensively on the Neanderthal genome. Since 1997, he has been director of the Department of Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
“The dirty little secret of genomics is that we still know next to nothing about how a genome translates into the particularities of a living and breathing individual. If” 3 likes
“Science is far from the objective and impartial search for incontrovertible truths that nonscientists might imagine. It is, in fact, a social endeavor where dominating personalities and disciples of often defunct yet influential scholars determine what is “common knowledge.” 1 likes
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