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Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History's Most Iconic Extinct Creatures
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Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History's Most Iconic Extinct Creatures

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  2,233 ratings  ·  380 reviews
Ben Mezrich takes us on an exhilarating true adventure story from the icy terrain of Siberia to the cutting-edge genetic labs of Harvard University. A group of young scientists, under the guidance of Dr. George Church, the most brilliant geneticist of our time, works to make fantasy reality by sequencing the DNA of a frozen woolly mammoth harvested from above the Arctic ci ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published July 4th 2017 by Atria Books
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 ·  2,233 ratings  ·  380 reviews

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Start your review of Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History's Most Iconic Extinct Creatures
Mezrich picks interesting topics, I will concede that. Readers may already have heard some years ago that a Harvard lab was working on de-extinction of the Woolly Mammoth. Mezrich brings us up to date on this project; indeed, the first and last chapters in this “nonfiction” are set in the future.

If you are familiar with Mezrich’s writing, the author weights the concept narrative nonfiction heavily on the narrative and fiction sides, ostensibly to stoke momentum and get folks interested. The only
May 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley
The story told in this book was fascinating, but I found the creative nonfiction method employed in telling it waaaay too creative. I actually spent the first thirty pages or so trying to make sure the book was actually nonfiction at all. Some Googling proved that, yes, these people are real and are actually doing what the book purports- attempting to de-extinct the woolly mammoth through cutting edge genetic engineering. Fascinating. But the book seemed in such a rush to be fascinating and to s ...more
Mar 27, 2021 rated it liked it
. . . "it's only science fiction until we remove the fiction. Then it becomes real."

Mezrich's book offers an interesting look at one scientific team's efforts to bring back the Woolly Mammoth.

They weren't going to clone a Woolly Mammoth. They were going to make one. They weren't going to transfer genetic material from a frozen carcass, they were going to create the material in a dish and implant it within a living elephant cell.

The book reads like a novel, and definitely entertains, though the
Jason Koivu
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History's Most Iconic Extinct Creatures is mostly about the hows and whys, with a little bit about the shoulds?. It provides a good starting point for the layman who's interested in genetics. This could also work as the biography of geneticist George Church. ...more
Sarah B
Jun 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I found this nonfiction book about the science project to bring back the woolly mammoth amazing! We've all seen the famous Jurassic Park and how they created dinosaurs in the movie, but this book explains how scientists could do it for real - but it would be with mammoths instead of dinosaurs.

Now I like science and I think you should like science or at least be curious about it to read this book. There's a lot of science in here with lots of big words and talk about DNA and petri dishes. Luckily
A great overview of what's been happening in the mammoth restoration project. Is there a satisfying conclusion? Or course not, unless I missed that mammoth herd from the latest Discovery Channel documentary. This is a work in progress - a tediously complicated task of figuring out how to bring back an animal that's been extinct for thousands of years, and whose DNA is not readily available to the science to play with. This is not a cloning project per se, but a reconstruction effort - a reverse ...more
Aug 30, 2017 rated it did not like it
The topic of the book is an interesting story of science, and the central figure, George Church, truly is brilliant and awesome. I actually use some of the techniques mentioned in the book in my own work. However, the story is told in such an over-dramatic, hyperbolic style as to be nearly unreadable. Mezrich has really done his subject a disservice. It doesn't help that his depiction of science is of the same ilk as CSI. I'm sorry, but it's not as whiz bang as all that. All in all, a major miss ...more
Jul 04, 2017 marked it as to-read
Literally this was my fantasy while ignoring the teachers in AP bio. I have wanted a woolly mammoth since I was a little girl, and I am 100% on board for this.
Valerie Kyriosity
Loss of one star and a public flogging for the use of iconic in the subtitle.

Other than that, this was fun. There's no extinct species I'd rather see Jurassic-Parkified than the mammoth. The book was a bit too heavy on the creative nonfiction side of the scale, but there's such a sci-fi feel to the deextinction endeavor that it kinda works for a popular treatment of the subject. I believe that any kind of human or chimerical human cloning is morally off limits, but I think there's more room for
Erin Kelly
Jan 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was such an interesting book. The science is beyond my understanding, for the most part, but it was presented in an accessible way—enough that I was able to engage and understand the lab work.

This read much like a novel; its structure is unique and compelling and driven as much by character as the story itself.

Oct 03, 2017 added it
I don't think I'm going to keep reading this book, barely even nonfiction. I was very uncomfortable with the novelistic invented dialogue and scene setting, all of which is unnecessary if the source material is interesting. ...more
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio, overdrive
It's impossible to fight your way through the filler in this book in order to get to any science. This is not what I wanted. ...more
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
Creative nonfiction chronicling the work of geneticists on current research about the woolly mammoth. Unfortunately, the book is light on facts and only superficially addresses questions of ethics, funding, scientific philosophies, etc. Not awful, but not stimulating either.
Aug 21, 2017 rated it liked it
I was hoping for something different. perhaps that colored my opinion. not that good. as I said, hoped it would be different
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, borrowed
Fascinating look at the science of genetics and a project that may one day bring the Woolly Mammoth back to life.
Conor Ahern
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audiobook, sci-fi
This felt clumsily written and half-told. Only cool for random mammoth facts.

Also this guy is way too high on Harvard's supply. Get over it!
Robert Cox
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
The juice wasn’t worth the squeeze on this one.... not his best topic. Highlight was learning a little more about the cloning vs DNA alteration options when it comes to bringing back the extinct.

Dec 17, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
Super weird style mixing fact with fiction, just too many liberties taken with this. Made it 80 pages before moving on to something else.
Edward Fenner
Jul 27, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
This is creative non-fiction, not straight-up non-fiction. I knew that going in but this book goes way beyond the boundaries of CNF and is mostly entirely a fictional novel based on real info. More like speculative fiction. I couldn't get past the first 50 pages. I skimmed around further ahead and wasn't seeing much different so I bailed - and I rarely bail on a book.

May 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Neat science story about the process (and rationale) of reviving the mammoth and other extinct species, and the characters involved in recent attempts. I hope to see a mammoth in my lifetime, and of course I am one of those annoying persons discussed in the book who'd appreciate a miniature version to keep as pets, as well! ...more
Melissa Embry
As a fan of all things Pleistocene, Ben Mezrich’s book jumped out at me from a display table at Dallas’ newest independent bookstore, Interabang Books. How could I resist a title like Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History’s Most Iconic Extinct Creatures? True, even fans of woolly mammoths (you didn’t think the book was about sheep, did you?) know only too well that the great Ice Age beasts no longer walk the earth. But until – if – living mammoths can be cloned or otherwis ...more
I was tempted to shelve this under fiction, for the way M. writes, with dates, flash backs, flash forwards, reconstructed thoughts and conversations, resembles one style of science fiction writing. However, the events and scientific experiments and results are true. And given that just recently artificial wombs for lamb fetus have been made successfully, the implantation of an Asian elephant fertilized egg, with some reconstituted (or inserted) mammoth DNA, into such a womb has become closer to ...more
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
I'm a little conflicted about how to rate this book. The science was something I truly found fascinating and was what I ended up enjoying the most. I agree with other reviewers that the Narrative Non-Fiction aspect was a big miss for me. I don't like that I'm unsure of which elements of the story are fully untrue, partially true but embellished or completely factual. Given that the book is based on a research project which is still currently ongoing it feels like there shouldn't be any embellish ...more
Aug 22, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars really. This is a tough one to review. It was utterly engaging HOWEVER, as other folks have mentioned, the creative nonfiction took a few too many liberties for my liking--including two chapters that take place three to four years in the future. I would have preferred endnotes and more sourcing, and I caught a few errors that may have been typos but ended up being factually incorrect. For example, Bill Gates is married to Melinda Gates, not Melissa. This lack of attention to detail bug ...more
Aug 15, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
I have to say that I enjoyed this book. It is a kind of fictionalized non-fiction that I don't like in concept but it worked. It was short and easy to read. The science was light but informative - enough to make you both excited about the potential of genetic manipulation and afraid of the potential for abuse. Maybe it was because I had just finished reading All Our Wrong Todays, but I couldn't help thinking of the concept from that book, that when you invent a new technology, you also
Debbie Jacob
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow! I don't know whether to be fascinated or frightened by the genetic engineering possibilities that are out there. Equally interesting is the story of each and every person featured in the book. They give a better understanding of why scientists are so fascinated by bioengineering. There are both ethical and environmental issues to ponder. Scientists seem to feel that re-introducing the woolly mammoth could prevent further destruction of permafrost and thus prevent the emission of greenhouse ...more
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow. What a great book! I learned so much and supremely enjoying the story telling. This is the first book by Ben Mezrich that I read but it won't be the last.

The topic of course is of great interest to me. Science, genetics and conservation combined with stories about a vast assortment of actors at play in these areas. The connection of how the resurrection of the woolly mammoth "will help to defuse the ticking time bomb hidden in the frozen north" is fascinating to me.

The tremendous respect t
Eliot Peper
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Woolly tells the incredible true story of the race currently underway among leading scientists around the world to revive the woolly mammoth. To track this de-extinction movement, Mezrich takes us on a fast-paced, highly readable tour through South Korean cloning facilities, bustling Harvard genetics labs, and desolate Siberian tundra. Mezrich's distinctive style of narrative nonfiction brings the characters to life, from legendary biologist George Church to iconoclastic thinker Stewart Brand. I ...more
D.R. Oestreicher
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reading and writing. The three-billion-dollar Human Genome Project established the technology to read DNA. While the first human gene sequence cost the aforementioned $3,000,000,000 in 2003, the same feat can now be completed for under $1,000. Woolly by Ben Mezrich explores the possibilities for writing DNA, also known as synthetic biology.

If you were fascinated by Jurassic Park, you'll love this book which hypothesizes ways to return extinct animals without the terror of Michael Crichton's imag
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the best book I've read in a while. It deals with the work Sergey and Nikita Zimov are doing to convert the arctic back to pasture land as it was in the Pleistocene and avert the global methane disaster from the melting of the permafrost. Their work dovetails with the work done by Allan Savory and echos the Permaculture Movement. It is controversial because it reverses the conceived cause and effect of climate change and desertification. Perhaps land use is the cause of desertification. ...more
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