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She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  4,580 ratings  ·  702 reviews
Carl Zimmer presents a history of our understanding of heredity in this sweeping, resonating overview of a force that shaped human society--a force set to shape our future even more radically.

She Has Her Mother's Laugh presents a profoundly original perspective on what we pass along from generation to generation. Charles Darwin played a crucial part in turning heredity int
Hardcover, 657 pages
Published May 29th 2018 by Dutton
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Rich Sobel Anyone who can read a newspaper article can read this book. Carl Zimmer is one of the New York Times top science writers and has mastered the art of m…moreAnyone who can read a newspaper article can read this book. Carl Zimmer is one of the New York Times top science writers and has mastered the art of making complex scientific topics both accessible and interesting, dare I say fascinating, to the general public.

The only caveat is that it is not a short book that you can read in a couple of sittings. It does require a commitment but it is more than worth it. It is filled with wonderful stories about the people responsible for how we have viewed heredity throughout history which helps us to understand it even better.

So yes, anyone with a 6-7th grade reading level, who is interested in the topic can read, understand and enjoy this book.(less)

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Mario the lone bookwolf
Jun 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 0-biology
The whole concept of heredity and race itself is a constructed, strange, and dangerous thing in the humanities, but the biological part of it is as fascinating as barely understood.

That´s a difficult and very detailed one, but it´s worth each gram of brain sweat, because it not only describes many topics around heredity, genes, epigenetic, and the fascinating development of those fields, but it also gives interesting implications for the future and under those some pretty realistic scenarios.

Petra X is enjoying a road trip across the NE USA
I learned a lot about the history of genetics, starting from single-celled creatures emerging from the primordial ooze, through the entire science of it beyond present day knowledge, into a conjectured future.

Together with genetics the author writes about cultural heredity without which we all be reinventing the wheel, just as certain apes have to learn in every generation how to use a stone to crack a nut and never develop further.

Zimmer also discusses race, which is a social construct he say
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, science
Yes, it's long – about 540 or so actual pages of text, followed by a glossary, bibliography and endnotes – but She Has Her Mother's Laugh does not waste a single page. Carl Zimmer has produced a masterpiece of science writing, distilling incredibly complex concepts into understandable and relatable language by using narrative journalism and personal anecdotes to perfect effect. Any questions you've had about DNA, genes, inheritance, and the moral and ethical questions surrounding them will be an ...more
Diane S ☔
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 5000-2019, lor-2019
As I was reading this I couldn't help but wish that science books would have been as interesting as this one, back in my school days. Or maybe I've gotten smarter? Either way this is a very good and thorough look at what makes us who we are. An exploration of genetics from Burbank who was famous for his gardens, and crossmatched his veggies. His potatoes, are the only potatoes McDonalds will use their french fries, to now. Mendels peas, and the horrifying use of eugenics.

We have come a long way
Jun 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: evolution, science
I started this with a healthy dose of trepidation. I said to someone the other day that I didn’t really believe in genes and I think she did one of those double-takes – you know, oh no, he’s one of ‘those’ men, one who decides not to believe in something everyone otherwise knows is true, like climate change or vaccines or irony, and has some mind-numbing boring reason why what obviously does exist, doesn’t. But really my problem with genes goes back to my reading Not In Our Genes years ago – and ...more
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Zimmer provides an accessible compilation of the history and current scientific research regarding heredity. Fortunately, he uses individual examples to help illustrate and explain the basic theories. Yea! There are a lot of fascinating facts to absorb!

First of all, paleogenetics has used the DNA extracted from ancient skeletons to reveal that we are all ‘mutts’, and that racial purity is a myth. Further, our genome is comprised of DNA in our chromosomes, PLUS the genes in our cells’ mitochondri
I see this book, She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity by Carl Zimmer, as a continuation of Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Gene: An Intimate History. I wrote in my review of Mukherjee’s book:

"My ability to follow the book, 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."

The very same is true of Zimmer’s book! I highly recommend it. I think everyone attempting to kee
Mar 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biology
Zimmer gives us an accessible and engaging presentation on genetics and heredity with the implications for health, intelligence, personality and our future. He explores the science around DNA, RNA, and the epigenome. The discussions are substantive, but not dense. For those with limited exposure to the material, this is an excellent introduction. For those who are well read in these topics, there may be little new, except perhaps from some of the many side stories that are interspersed with the ...more
Sep 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
"Heredity is not a cosmic imperative but a process that emerges from biological ingredients and is modified into new forms."

Carl Zimmer, an award-winning New York Times columnist and science writer, follows the study of heredity from the ancient Greeks to Darwin, Mendel, Burbank and including today's current understandings and still unknown mysteries. Who are our ancestors? What diseases may we be unknowingly passing on? What is our true ethnicity? Should culture and environment be considered in
Jul 18, 2018 rated it liked it
A truly mammoth book that should have been edited down to a few hundred pages. The interesting tidbits and stories were immersed in unnecessary prose and benign chapters that served no purpose except to increase the word count. Some stories SHINED and AMAZED (especially the chapter on Chimera, which was utterly fascinating), but it’s a shame the reader has to wade through all of the weeds to discover the gems.
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biology, evolution
This is a wonderful book about heredity. It is such a comprehensive treatment of the subject. The hardcover version of the book is 672 pages long, about 575 pages of text followed by references and an index. So, this is not a book to be read in a couple of days. But don't let the length keep you from reading the book. It is terrific--filled with stories and anecdotes that are all quite engaging. This is a very engaging book!

It wasn't until the last couple of hundred years that it was generally u
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Do you wish to learn about the particulars of genetics? (I think Mendel would grin like a possum at this phrasing.) Then destroy anyone who would stand in the way of you obtaining this marvelous book! Have you ever, while in a mad rush to procure a book recommended to you by an unhinged country bumpkin, kicked a man so violently in the bollox that he saw, in a magnificent flash of pyrotechnic pain, life in all its ribald generative glory, and gurgled out what follows?

“Young lady, you and I, and
Olive Fellows (abookolive)
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Check out my review on Booktube! ...more
Jun 06, 2018 rated it liked it
If you haven't been following or reading any news on genetics research, then this is an excellent primer, but if you do follow the science pages, there isn't much that is new in here. It's all interesting, but it's written by a reporter on science so none of it is firsthand research and the book isn't coherent enough to be memorable ...more
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
Heredity is the sum of all the previous environments and the current environment we were thrown into. Who we are as a species and as individuals is far more complicated than just our genes. Mendel’s law is a suggestion more than a law. This book lays the ground work for each of those assertions and steps the listener through some of the history of our understanding of the subject and reviews some of the current new research that has been transpiring over the last five years or so.

Humans are spe
Catherine Davison
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This science writing pulls the reader deeper and deeper into the amazing world we live in, it never gets dull or dry even when describing meiosis. Zimmer weaves historical and contemporary scientific research to create a work which you want to engage with. Who’d have thought that Mendel’s messing around with peas would lead eventually to the horrors of Hitler’s eugenics programs? Who knew that the sloppy research which lead to the published book about the so-called Kallikak family could have suc ...more
Pam Mooney
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An amazing and well researched book. Takes us through the history and research of heredity from
first works to today. It was so interesting to know where we started and how little we knew about heredity not that long ago. Some scientific researchers got it right and others drew wrong conclusions which may be forgivable for the time period but caused so much harm. There were certainly many ethical dilemmas that came in strong. Although it includes studies and scientific outcomes it is easy to rea
Carly Friedman
5 stars for the interesting content but 3 for the writing.

This was an interesting book, full of information from the very early research on heredity (Mendel as such) to the very current research using CRISPR. He discussed the ethical issues involved, including eugenics, the treatment of people with genetic disorders, and the implications of genetic research. I also appreciated the discussion of cultural heredity. I feel like I learned a great deal of information!

However, the writing was overly d
An absolutely fascinating read about heredity! It is jam packed with information about the history of genetics and modern scientific advances in the field. The writing style is magnetic and accessible!

I listened to this on audio as it was available on Scribd. I cannot wait to buy the ebook to re-visit the text and make notes. Highly recommend to anyone interested in narrative science writing!
Morgan Blackledge
Aug 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Stupendous immersive journalism on the part of author Carl Zimmer. Great historical storytelling. Great science writing. Engaging and highly educational.

It’s time for all of us to get up to speed on heredity, bioethics and the gene editing revolution or risk waking up in a near future that is much stranger than science fiction.

The last 20 years have been a golden era in neuroscience. We are light years ahead of ware we were in 2000 in terms of what we now understand about the brain.

I know that
Jul 05, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a popular survey of the field of heredity, from genes to memes, from ancient folklore to the future potential and pitfalls of CRISPR.
Aaron Arnold
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2019, science
The most important decision you can make in your life is who to have children with. This is understood more or less unconsciously by practically everyone, but the true nature of heredity - precisely what traits we inherit from our parents, and how we bequeath them in turn to our own children - is far more complex and subtle than we give it credit for. Zimmer traces our conception of heredity from one kind of ignorance to another, from our historical innocence of its genetic basis to our current ...more
Camelia Rose
She has Her Mother's Laugh is the second book on similar topics I've read recently. The other book is The Gene: An Intimate History. There is some overlap, such as history of genetics from Aristotle to Darwin, Lamarck and Mendel, and Eugenics movement that had lead to The Holocaust, but enough difference makes it worth to read both books. I hope I have learned a lot about the history, single-gene diseases (Huntington's disease, PKU), the concept of race in genetic sense, polygenic disease (schiz ...more
Isil Arican
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One the best book I read this year, and definitely one of the best science books I read, ever.

Carl Zimmer is an amazing science writer. Besides having a very fluid and engaging narrative style, he is also a great researcher and is able to simplify concepts without diluting them and present to the reader in a comprehensive, engaging way.

The book tells many stories over the last two century about genetics: how various prominent historical science figure's work impacted the field of genetics and so
When people meet my children I often hear comments along the lines of; he is just like you, your daughter reminds me so much of your wife and similar comments. And it is true, their genetic inheritance comes directly from me and my wife and the blend of our genes has made three very different and unique children. What gets passed on and how is the subject of this weighty tome.

In this very researched book, Zimmer takes us back through our genetic history to show how these fragments make up our ve
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fascinating science book with enough personal histories to keep it all interesting, although I admit those last few chapters on gene splicing & CRISPR got beyond me. I learned a lot . . . didn't realize that hereditary was so variable (we don't get exactly 50% of our genes from each parent, within a few generations we may no longer carry DNA from a particular ancestor, inheritance is a matter of luck . . .). I also had never heard of "mosaics" and "chimeras". Author is a science journalist so ha ...more
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book badly needed more editing. There's interesting stuff here, but it's lost amidst Zimmer's long, rambling detours into far less interesting subjects. Even when he's talking about interesting stuff, his writing is very wordy. I had to keep fighting the instinct to grab a pen and cross out words, because there are so many in here that are unnecessary. ...more
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating series of essays/recounts about our genetic understanding and the history of this research. It does appear to be a situation where the more we learn the more we realise we don’t understand.

I definitely found some of the ‘stories’ more engaging than others and you do need to be interested in this sort of research to persevere through this large text. Even if you only read some of it you will learn something about this incredible topic and how the living world around us conti
Carl Zimmer had his DNA analyzed. Not by using a kit like many of us do. He got personalized service from genealogists and other scientists who helped Zimmer to learn both about his and all of humanity's genetic/hereditary information.

The information is important and enlighting. The reading is tedious.
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
5+ stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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Goodreads Choice ...: She Has Her Mother's Laugh - Sept 19 3 51 Sep 01, 2019 08:28AM  
Non Fiction Book ...: she has her mother's laugh 14 11 May 07, 2019 11:18AM  
Science Book Club: She Has Her Mother's Laugh 1 13 May 04, 2019 11:38AM  
Science and Inquiry: April 2019 - She Has Her Mother's Laugh 18 76 May 03, 2019 06:21PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please correct number of pages 1 10 Apr 04, 2019 12:55PM  

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Carl Zimmer is a columnist for the New York Times and the author of 13 books about science. His latest book, She Has Her Mother's Laugh, will be published in May 2018. Zimmer is a frequent guest on Radiolab and has written hundreds of articles for magazines such as National Geographic, The Atlantic, and Wired. He is, to his knowledge, the only writer after whom a species of tapeworm has been named ...more

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“Intelligence is far from blood types. While test scores are unquestionably heritable, their heritability is not 100 percent. It sits instead somewhere near the middle of the range of possibilities. While identical twins often end up with similar test scores, sometimes they don’t. If you get average scores on intelligence tests, it’s entirely possible your children may turn out to be geniuses. And if you’re a genius, you should be smart enough to recognize your children may not follow suit. Intelligence is not a thing to will to your descendants like a crown.” 3 likes
“The stubborn inequalities in the Unites States are not the result of some people living in a physical environment. Their environment is built by social forces, and those forces last for centuries because they are regenerated across the generations.” 3 likes
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