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The Gene: An Intimate History

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  23,151 ratings  ·  2,620 reviews
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling author of The Emperor of All Maladies—a magnificent history of the gene and a response to the defining question of the future: What becomes of being human when we learn to “read” and “write” our own genetic information?

Siddhartha Mukherjee has a written a biography of the gene as deft, brilliant, and illuminating as his extraord
Hardcover, 592 pages
Published May 17th 2016 by Scribner
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Aashinator I know that there is a big oncology conference in Chicago that he lectured at one or two years ago.

I would just keep checking twitter or the…more
I know that there is a big oncology conference in Chicago that he lectured at one or two years ago.

I would just keep checking twitter or the publisher's website.

Doesn't look like he does much on Facebook.(less)
Aashinator Some of these people may be "early readers" that get copies of the book to give feedback to the author and editor before it is published.

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4.37  · 
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 ·  23,151 ratings  ·  2,620 reviews

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Oct 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I have this tendency, when I read a book as brilliantly informing as this one, to wipe the froth from my mouth, shuffle the pages of notes I've written contemporaneous to the reading, and plunge into the cocktail party which is this forum, grabbing each of you by the virtual lapels, and launching into a lecture about one of the hundreds of things I learned in the process. As if, you know, I missed some of the froth.

So, imagine me back from some journey, casting pleasantries aside, and launching
Jul 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Hello bookish peeps,
Another one of my review has been posted on our country's largest daily newspaper's website, The Times of India.

"This book is the story of the birth, growth, and future of one of the most powerful and dangerous ideas in the history of science: the "gene," the fundamental unit of heredity, and the basic unit of all biological information. I"
~Siddhartha Mukherjee
The 2011 Pulitzer Prize winner, Siddhartha Mukherjee, is back with another incredibly well-written book, The Gene: A
Better Eggs
I listened to the BBC abridged audio book as I often do before ordering it. I like hardbacks so I try and be sure first I want to read it. I didn't like it enough. I loved The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer but couldn't feel that deep interest with this one.

Now it could be that the book is fantastic and it had a lousy editor at the BBC. Oliver Sacks autobiography, On the Move: A Life is a 10 star book, but the abridged BBC one is terrible, mostly the wrong episodes chosen. But st
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviews
In this beautifully written, vivid history of genetics; Mukherjee takes us by the hand and walks us through the hall of fame of all the people who are the reason for modern biology as we study it today. His picturesque descriptions make the book a joy to read.

Starting with Mendel and ending with embryonic stem cell research and beyond; the fascinating story of genetic research is given in the book. There are life stories of many exceptional scientists. Unfortunately many examples of bad science
Oct 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cannot begin to tell you what I learned from this fascinating study of The Gene but I gained great insight from the thorough research of Siddhartha Mukherjee. I am destined for a second read/listen. The audio narration by Dennis Boutsikaris made this compelling, very well paced with a distinct and pleasant tonal quality. Highly recommended.
Riku Sayuj
Jun 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Riku by: Rohini
Not half as good a narrative as The Emperor of All Maladies, but still a good account of the Gene's journey and where it is going. It will hold your attention even if you have read multiple accounts of the progress of Genetics such as Watson's, because most histories of the Gene focus on the Genome project or on the early phase of discovery of genetics, Mukherjee instead focuses on the applications that are currently ongoing and how those fields have developed.

My only complaint: the focus of th
Mar 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Thanks goes to Netgalley and a wonderful author for a wonderfully told series of stories within the world of genetics.

I was worried, briefly, by the insistence of bringing Aristotle's take on the genome, or the recapitulation of many of the grandfathers of the science, such as Mendel and Darwin, but the way that these otherwise well-known personages were brought alive to the page was more of a story than a dry recounting. Even so, I wasn't prepared for what was soon to come.

I became engrossed in
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
I'm not going to lie, there were some pages of this book where all my mind saw was 'science science science science' etc etc over and over again instead of the actual words which apparently make sense to people cleverer than me.

Happily though, the vast majority of the book is written in a more engaging and approachable fashion. Nevertheless, it clearly represents a vast amount of research, spanning the field from Aristotle to the present day. It plots the path of ever increasing knowledge and m
Clif Hostetler
May 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
This book is a skillfully crafted combination of science history, character sketches, and personal encounters by the author's extended family with a history of mental illness. The end result maintains the interest of the reader in a subject that could have been a lot less interesting in the hands on another writer.

Most of the book is an account of the history of human advances in the understanding of how heritable characteristics are passed through multiple biological generations. Toward the end
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"We seek constancy in heredity--and find its opposite: variation. Mutants are necessary to maintain the essence of our selves."
- Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Gene


I've owned Mukherjee's other book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, for years and have consistently found rational reasons to not read it. So, I'm not sure what made me pick up this book first. Perhaps, it was a friend who prompted me. Perhaps, too, was my tendency to come late to authors and read them backwards (rNA?).
Elyse Walters
Apr 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer's Prize winning book, "The Emperor of All Maladies"
scared the hell out of me right from the 'get go'....when I read that "1 in 4 people will get cancer in your lifetime".

Mukherjee dives right in again, ( wasting no time), in "The Gene".

We first learn that mental illness has been in Mukherjee's family for at least two generations. He shares personally with us about 4 different relatives: 2 cousins and two uncles -- ( from his father's side), whose minds were crumb
Emer (A Little Haze)
'The Gene: an intimate history' is a most readable story about what it means to be human. It is a book that attempts to shine a light on the complex and often fraught history of understanding heredity. The book is laid out in a relatively easy to follow format with a writing style suited to those without a scientific background but with a keen interest in science.

What makes this very readable for the non-scientist is how the author relates the history of the gene, determining the human genome a
I began this book knowing practically nothing about genes and chromosomes. My ability to follow it from start to finish without any serious problems is amazing! The author is clear, and he captivates a reader’s interest all the way through.

Mukherjee, a cancer physician and researcher, begins with the history of genetics, moves forward to our capabilities today and what lies ahead in the future. He makes the science relevant to modern-day readers. He relates how genetics has impacted on his own
May 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, 2016, biology
The dude who wrote Emperor of all Maladies is back with a prequel and it's good!

It starts with some history - a little Darwin and a lot of Mendel, the monk who spent his whole life geeking out over pea plants, and who I remember as being the most boring part of a very boring 9th grade biology class. (Why is high school so awful at making science interesting? It's so interesting!) And some other, lesser-known characters. This is what Mukherjee did in Emperor of Maladies, too: the history of resea
4.5/5 But what is ”natural”? I wonder. On one hand: variation, mutation, change, inconstancy, divisibility, flux. And on the other, constancy, permanence, indivisibility, fidelity. Bhed. Abhed. It should hardly surprise us that DNA, the molecule of contradictions, encodes an organism of contradictions. . . . Our genome has negotiated a fragile balance between counterpoised forces, pairing strand with opposing strand, mixing past and future, pitting memory against desire. It is the most human of ...more
Jan 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sorry, people. I couldn't finish this book. Billed as a prequel to the brilliant Emperor of Maladies, this was just too confusing and frustrating a book for me. My major difficulty with Mukherjee's approach is that the book is a history of genetics which never properly explains what a gene is. So the reader follows the scientists down blind alleys and back out again while getting dizzy from the increasingly long list of names and biological terms. I ended up trying to sketch out a diagram of how ...more
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biology
Mukherjee makes science history interesting, accessible and relevant. We learn about genetics and how a steady stream of brilliant and driven scientists uncovered the code that defines us all. Recent discoveries have given us the ability to change that code. Mukherjee presents the moral conundrums implicit in our new knowledge. The moral dilemma has a history too that is as important as that of the discoveries.

Mukherjee begins with Darwin and Mendel. Mendel’s 1856-63 studies of heritable traits
Britta Böhler
Jun 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
What a fantastic read!
Alice Lippart
Very interesting and educational, but a bit of an effort to get through.
Siddhartha Mukherjee's 2010 The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer is amongst my top nonfiction books of all time.

When he released THE GENE: An Intimate History in 2016, I had plans to get to it, but the 500+ pages on genetics and molecular biology was (just) a little daunting. I mean, I love biology, but I was imagining heredity charts of peas... of course, I just needed to remind myself how fantastic Mukherjee's writing is and trust in that fact.

I chose to listen to the audiobook o
I loved Siddhartha Mukherjee’s previous book, The Emperor of All Maladies. Well, maybe “love” is not the correct word, since I found it profoundly unsettling and a little nervewracking (especially having a mother who died of cancer). But it was compulsively page turning and fascinating.

So I was very excited to get a copy of The Gene.

The Gene felt to me like a very readable textbook of genetics from the Greeks to (of course) Mendel to the present, with a look at the future. It is surprisingly int
Liza Fireman
Nov 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is a combination of science, history, and stories. It is so well written and very engaging, but it does includes many details (and reads like a textbook for some of the time). I am not writing this to discourage anyone from reading this, just to set the expectations if you decide to approach this book. Since I studied some extended biology in the past it was easy for me to dive into the RNA and the amino acid described at length, so just FYI. The author did an amazing job spicing up th ...more
Andrej Karpathy
Oct 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book offers a comprehensive and engaging overview of genetics. It includes the history of the field, anecdotes of its development, a well-paced technical explanation of the high level aspects, and quite a lot of discussion on the associated moral dilemmas that we are faced with as we understand how we can use this technology to change our own species.

Unfortunately, the book does not delve into some of the aspects of modern genetics that I find most interesting, such as gene drive. These are
The Emperor of All Maladies, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2011, is among my most memorable reads of the past decade. So it was a disappointment to find that I could never really engage with Mukherjee’s second full-length work. There’s no denying this book’s impressive scope: it’s a comprehensive survey of the past 150 years of genetics research, but it also stretches back to antiquity to see the different ways people have imagined that heredity works. It’s a no-holds-barred science and social h ...more
Jun 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners

Description: In 1859 Darwin published his famous book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. During the years before and after its publication, Gregor Mendel, a young Silesian monk, had been busy breeding peas and carefully logging his results. He was on the way towards a theory of heredity - to identifying the existence of genes.

Siddhartha Mukherjee is a cancer physician and researcher, a stem cell biologist and cancer geneticist. He
May 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Siddhartha Mukherjee dove deep into the history of the gene and provided and extremely thorough account of the various associated discovery that have occurred since Darwin's day. This book is heavy on the history, and semi light on the science. Each discovery is detailed, but the science involved is related in a manner that is accessible to the nonscientists.

One thing I found curious was his discussion of Lamarck. Recently I finished reading Survival of the Sickest, but Sharon Moalem, in which
Joshua Rigsby
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I will readily admit that a lot of this went over my head.

It was interesting to see the history of genetics laid out chronologically. The back-biting and competitive nature of scientific research comes to the fore in striking clarity. The random luck and dogged trial and error that often propels new understandings in research is fascinating.

I enjoyed learning about the experiments that gave rise to current genetic theories. Especially because so much has happened in the field since I was in sc
Greg Brozeit
May 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
At the same time I reached the midway point of Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Gene: An Intimate History, the satellite Juno entered the atmosphere of Jupiter. But that feat pales, in my view, to the story about genetic journeys that are taking place within our individual, biological selves, especially since “genes provide the context to understand development and fate” of every human life. As I finished the book today, the New York Times reported that a clinical trial using a promising type of genet ...more
Brian Clegg
Jun 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When this title arrived, before I opened the pack I thought there were two books inside, and my stomach sank a bit at the thought of ploughing through a 600 page wrist-buster. Apart from anything else, very long popular science books are often loaded with affectation, and this impression was not helped by the toe-curling praise of a previous title ('The notion of "popular science" doesn't come close to describing this achievement. It is literature.' Ick.) Not to mention the tedious, very persona ...more
Nov 09, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unfortunately, this book is for much of its length more or less a textbook on the history of genetics. A nicely written one, with "characters" (e.g., Mendel, Darwin, less-well known names) and their stories woven in--though personally I didn't care about details like the grub at the restaurant in Hawaii where several researchers dined while birthing a breakthrough, or the neon signs along the strip; maybe Mukherjee should dip his oar into fiction or creative nonfiction. The development of his pe ...more
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Siddhartha Mukherjee is a cancer physician and researcher. He is an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University and a staff cancer physician at Columbia University Medical Center. A Rhodes scholar, he graduated from Stanford University, University of Oxford, Harvard Medical School. He has published articles in Nature, The New England Journal of Medicine, The New York Times, and The New ...more
“Freaks become norms, and norms become extinct. Monster by monster, evolution advanced” 36 likes
“Normalcy is the antithesis of evolution.” 33 likes
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