Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Compatibility Gene” as Want to Read:
The Compatibility Gene
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Compatibility Gene

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  305 ratings  ·  31 reviews
A tiny cluster of our genes holds the key to how we combat disease, how our brains are wired, how attractive we are, even how likely we are to reproduce. In The Compatibility Gene, one of our foremost immunologists tells the remarkable history of these genes' discovery and the unlocking of their secrets. Davis shows how the compatibility gene is radically transforming our ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published August 28th 2014 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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 Compatibility Gene, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Compatibility Gene

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.05  · 
Rating details
 ·  305 ratings  ·  31 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Compatibility Gene
Jul 01, 2015 rated it liked it
I read this in a bit of a piecemeal fashion, due to holidays, so my impressions of it are probably a little more scattered than usual. It’s basically a book which combines immunology and genetics, and even some neurology, to discuss the way certain genes work in humans. Since that’s right up my street, I found this fascinating, although I found some chapters really slow going.

One thing I’m not 100% a fan of is the personal details about some of the scientists, because it’s not really relevant. W
Jan 29, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
A short, compelling look at the immune system's major histocompatibility complex. Davis effectively explains how the immune system recognises 'self' and 'non-self,' and thus effectively identifies disease within the body (or, on occasion, fails to). He also looks at the other ways that the 'compatibility genes' affect our body; for instance, there is an interesting section on the impact of the immune system on pregnancy. He also details the major scientific achievements that led to these discove ...more
Cassandra Kay Silva
Dec 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Part two entitled "The Frontier of Compatibility Gene Research" saved this book for me. Part one and part three were terrible. Part one comprised a lot of back story on the who's who of this particular gene research. I couldn't care less who did it or how they got there. Tell me what the research results were and how it impacts society. Part three was equally frustrating as it was supposed to be the popular science connection to our world and how this impact things we might be interested in such ...more
Brian Clegg
Jun 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some of the best popular science books tell us as much about the people as the science, and that is the approach taken by Daniel Davis. In exploring the ‘compatibility gene’ (or more accurately, the ‘compatibility genes’ – I don’t know why it’s singular in the title). He takes us on a voyage of discovery through the key steps to identifying the small group of genes that seem to contribute to making that individual more or less compatible with other people, whether on the level of transplants or ...more
Mary Kaener
Jul 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
A little cheesy and dramatic but really interesting!
Sep 26, 2019 rated it liked it
This book by immunologist Daniel Davis concerns the Major Histocompatibility Complex genes (MHC; also known by the synonym HLA in humans). This is what Davis means by his phrase “compatibility genes”. These genes code for cell surface proteins that are key to how the adaptive immune system distinguishes between self and non-self. What’s more, because of an extremely high degree of variability (ie, polymorphism) in these genes across populations, they also determine the success of organ transplan ...more
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book that finds the sweet spot between pop science and academic. It can be a valuable supplement, if not essential, to an immunology course, because at does a great job describing the history of the field, and all the trials and tribulations it took to get to some of the fundamental concepts that we take for granted. An added benefit is that it's a great introduction to experimental design as well; it goes through a lot of experiments and explains how some could provide only ambiguous answ ...more
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
I'm going to preface this by saying I read this a few years ago, and some of the details may be hazy.

Overall, I thought Davis did a great job of introducing a complex scientific topic in a way which makes it accessible to people without a scientific background, and overall this was an interesting read, if a bit dry.

However, more than while reading any other non-fiction science book I've read, reading The Compatibility Gene made me painfully aware of the bias that women in science have historica
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
What I found really fascinating in this book, are the stories of scientists who made all these discoveries and pushed the field of immunology further. I've learned some things about the immune system too, of course, although it really helps to already know the basic textbook stuff (not a book for complete noobs, definitely not). But it's the social and personal context that really make it an interesting story - even for a science student, it is all too easy to forget that all the gazillions of p ...more
Sep 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book describes the history of immunology, focusing on the genes that help our bodies to discriminate self from non-self, the major histocompatibility genes. The author does a great job explaining a very complex system, that to this day, we do not completely understand. In addition to the history and the basic science, the author also spends a section of the book on some of the more unique characteristics of this gene, including its potential function in the brain and in body odors and attra ...more
Amy Smith
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book at a science festival a few years ago and finally got round to reading it. It was refreshing to read a popular science book that presented questions and ideas that are not yet fully understood or even conflicting. As an A-Level Biology teacher I have to present most of the syllabus as fact and there is little time for discussion about how our understanding is constantly changing and evolving, and how discoveries are made in the laboratory. Many of my students grumble about how ...more
Sian Bradshaw
Jan 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
An enjoyable book but heavy on the science. The T-shirt sniffing experiment was interesting but when you learn the details, not that key and not what I'd consider 'proper science'. The section on pregnancy was pretty good. It has an interesting combination of science and the lives of scientists which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. ...more
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great book on a subject that affects us all in ways I'd not have guessed. The author reveals a dry wit that gives an enjoyable air to an interesting subject. ...more
Oct 06, 2014 rated it liked it
The author opens the book by stating "essentially, this is the story of a few human genes and how we discovered what these genes do" and he closes his book in the final chapter by saying "the fact that we differ is what's important; the way our species has evolved to survive disease requires us to be different". In between, his story delves into a set of fascinating genes that we all have but nevertheless have in different forms. These genes, called HLA genes in humans, are responsible for helpi ...more
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, science
I found this at Steph's while house-sitting and read it. (Ironically, my ex-husband had bought it for her; I didn't know that, not that it would have mattered.)

It is not about what you would think from the title. It is very detailed, biology of molecules in our immune system, mostly. I don't recommend it, unless you're into that sort of thing.

Only one part talks about a study done at a college where females were asked to sniff T-shirts formerly worn by males. Seems not much came of that study.
The British author brings the perspective of a practising immunological scientist to humanity's ongoing struggles to identify and understand the mechanisms of the human immune system, from Medawar, the field's conceptual founder six decades ago, to those of present day scientists.

Learn why the T-cells of an organ recipient will not recognize and attack as "non-self" a new organ if the donor has the same human leukocyte antigen (HLA) proteins as his own (the meaning of "compatible" donor). Disco
Sep 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an easy to understand and interesting look at the history of the study of compatibility genes. While Davis occasionally spends a little too much time talking about the personalities and personal lives of some of the scientists who made the major discoveries, he does a good job of explaining what compatibility genes are and the many different functions that they have in our bodies in terms that are easy to understand without being condescending. Of course the most interesting studies on c ...more
Three stars might be a little harsh, but it was only because I was hoping this book would delve further into how we fight disease and autoimmune disorders. Davis is a good writer, and the insight into how scientific research is done and the roles that the ego and personality of the scientists play is interesting, but I felt that it just skims the surface. In short, DO read this book. It'll wet your appetite for more. ...more
Lauren Little
Dec 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A good book on the importance of HLA molecules and the overall importance of that part of the immune system that is meant for a general audience. I really liked his writing style, and I learned a lot about a subject area I haven't directly studied before. I really liked his note to scientists, and the last section was also very funny. ...more
Written in simple English with good examples to explain concepts even to people who do not have a background in Genetics or other branches of Biology. Explains what makes each individual unique, in terms of how the immune system recognises a particular cell as part of self or a foreign body and all its implications on human life beyond fighting infections.
Oct 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great read for those who want to know how your body fights disease and some of the history of how we know what we know about it.

Dan has provided a well written and easy to understand book for the lay public.
Jan 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Concise, interesting, with complex concepts simplified enough for a non-science major to appreciate. I really liked learning about the personal lives and quirks of some of the top modern day scientists, as well as their journeys that lead to their major accomplishments.
Kathy Gardner
Jun 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-tech
Excellent reading for even a non-scientific reader like me. It was understandable, engaging and interesting.
Lukas Vermeer
Apr 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Succinct and compelling. Part interesting science, part great storytelling. Pop-science at its best.
Oct 05, 2015 rated it liked it
Interesting exploration of applied genetics in immune systems, reproduction, pregnancy and more. Not as engaging as I'd hoped, but most of it's easy to read. ...more
Mo Li
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Clear writing, very good summary of what compatibility gene research has revealed so far.
Oct 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016, non-fiction
A nice historical summary of the pathway to our current understanding of the MHC genes and their role in various aspects of human biology. Fairly easy to read,
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great overview of the history of immunology with many nice little anecdotes about the major players
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science
This book is very hard slogging for anyone without a science or biology degree.
« previous 1 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Can I please link to new book 1 2 Aug 15, 2017 03:33AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Help with my book 15 145 Sep 10, 2014 01:13AM  
Help with my book 1 1 Apr 27, 2014 07:25AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • What Is Life?: Five Great Ideas in Biology
  • Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea and Human Life
  • What Is Life?: How Chemistry Becomes Biology
  • The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness
  • God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
  • The Unconsoled
  • The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York
  • I Will Never See the World Again
  • Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire
  • The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule
  • Letters to a Young Contrarian
  • The Medium is the Massage
  • Can't Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation
  • 26.2 Miles to Happiness: A Comedian’s Tale of Running, Red Wine and Redemption
  • What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America
  • The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race
See similar books…
See top shelves…
There is more than one author with this name in the Goodreads database.

Daniel M. Davis is Professor of Immunology at the University of Manchester. His research, using super-resolution microscopy to study immune cell biology, was listed in Discover magazine as one of the top 100 breakthroughs of the year. His first book, The Compatibility Gene, was longlisted for the 2014 Royal Society Winton Scie

Related Articles

Nature, in Her infinite awesomeness, can provide solace even when you’re stuck in the house. As a matter of fact, the numbers suggest that...
121 likes · 19 comments