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Genome: the Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters
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Genome: the Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  23,367 ratings  ·  972 reviews
Paperback, 344 pages
Published May 30th 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published May 30th 1999)
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Jasna There's no chromosome 23. 22 + X/Y = 23. There are chapters numbered 1-22 and chapter "X and Y" between chapters 7 and 8.

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Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: real-life
I wish I could give this book 6 stars! It's really fantastic, and I want to recommend it to EVERYONE, but in my heart I know the tone would bore some of my friends... I suggest thinking of the author/narrator as a cool guy you'd be friends with telling you all this information, instead of a nerdy/haughty *scientist* ...He's not a scientist, he's a writer & former editor, & this isn't a textbook, but it could be--he's done his research & includes all his references. Just slightly out-of-date (pub ...more
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I wish I had read this book 19 years ago, when it was first published. Now, it is out of date. In fact, the Bibliography and Notes section mentions that the book was already out of date, as new knowledge is growing at a very fast rate. Nevertheless, the book is fascinating, even if modern genetic technologies are not even mentioned--as they were not yet invented at the time of publication!

We often read that 98% of our genetic letters are in common with chimpanzees, and 97% with gorillas. But, I
Feb 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biology
Ridley takes on a number of controversial topics. These include the genome’s influence on intelligence, sexual orientation, personality and free will; genetically modified foods, eugenics and testing for incurable diseases. He explains how genes function, their structure, and how they shape our bodies and minds. The book was written in 1999 so some of it may be dated. Below are my notes.

Genes are turned on and off throughout our life often dependent on environmental factors. Some genes code for
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in genetics, intellectually curious people
A really great introduction to genetics. One of my friends, who studied chemistry in college, recommended the book to me. The book is divided into 23 chapters, representing the 23 different sets of chromosomes in the human body. The concept fascinated me, and I thought that if the author had enough of a sense of humor to write a book this way, why not give it a try?

I'm not going to pretend that I understood 100% of the book, but the parts I did understand, I appreciated. While the writer does pr
Koen Crolla
Feb 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biology
I gave Ridley's The Red Queen five stars when I read it half a decade ago, and The Rational Optimist one (and a longish review) when I read it in 2011. Genome, his most famous book, isn't quite as awful as the latter, but Ridley's godawful politics shine through often enough to irritate.

His insistence on lauding free entreprise (even where it only exists in his imagination) and condescendingly cautioning against ``big government'' at every turn isn't even the most obnoxious part this time; if an
Nov 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Even though this was written and published over 15 years ago, I found it relevant and revealing. Ridley is one of the better science writers, and this is assuredly his master work. Each chapter highlights a specific gene found on each of the 23 pairs of chromosomes. He repeatedly states that the book is not about disease, but it ultimately becomes a major theme and topic. The final chapters that discuss genetic determinism, eugenics, and nature vs nurture are treated with upmost care, empathy, a ...more
Roy Lotz
Jul 15, 2013 rated it liked it
It is interesting to me how, despite our best efforts, our preconceptions can totally shape our experiences. I was impressed when two biology majors in my school independently recommended this to book to me. Must be good, I thought. So, in the interest of honesty, I must disclose that my inflated expectations were probably the biggest contributor to my lackluster reaction. I had high hopes, and Ridley only partially delivered.

In popular science, an easy way to divide books is by the occupation
Nov 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I recently read two other books on the human genome: Siddhartha Mukherjee's The Gene: An Intimate History and Sam Kean's The Violinist's Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code.

I expected there to be a bit of overlap between them, but I actually found them each to be very different. Mukherjee and Kean focus a lot on the history, while Ridley stays more on the science and less about the history. Kean is a great storyteller, while Mukherjee tries hard
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ridley tells a little about each gene in order & focuses on one specific part of each to discuss their workings & significance. He doesn't limit himself to our physical make up, but discusses the historical, sociological, & political. It's a fascinating tour & he leaves as many questions as he answers.

Huntington's Disease is well known & mapped. Most of us have less than 36 repeated glutamines in a specific spot on chromosome 4. If you have more, you're more likely to get it & they can even pin
Ade Bailey
Jan 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology, science
Sometimes I have to stop after even a paragraph. It's a strong feeling of becoming enraptured by the information, connections and insights afforded by this extremely lucid and stimulating layperson's introduction to the human genome. An extremely compressed three page preface provides a glossary and explanation of key terms, and can be returned to as needed. Each chapter then takes one chromosome and selects from each a particular gene to describe with a much broader emphasis upon what this actu ...more
Oct 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science, nonfiction
An interesting idea for a popular book about genetics - 23 chapters, one for each pair of chromosomes - that is realized into a not particularly good book. I appreciate that it's trying to be generalist, but it's generalist to the point of failing to convey ideas. Ridley moves from topic to topic like a student who has been told that he must include a long list of them in his paper. And I'm afraid the writing is just not good enough for any of the briefly discussed ideas to stick in your brain, ...more
James Hartley
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a really great book - my only qualm is that it might be outdated now, as gene technology and science is moving so quickly forwards. Basically, if you want to know why you are here, what you are and what you´re made of, this book has some pretty convincing answers. Fate, destiny, love, life, death, character, intelligence and illness are all covered and it´s worth pressing on through the quite tough prose to get a better, illuminating, scary but finally comforting picture of the vehicle y ...more
Sep 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
I really enjoyed this book. I would say it is so far the best book I have read this year and a great introduction to genetics. Quite a lot of the stuff in this book has been covered in other books I have read, most notably by Richard Dawkins, however the writing was fresh and I learned a hell of a lot of stuff throughout this book. For example, did you know that the placenta is actually a parasite, the result of male antagonistic genes battling the female's X chromosomes by redirecting more reso ...more
Dec 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Genome is somewhat out of date by now, published back in 1999. Bearing that in mind, it was a pretty good read; sometimes, the themes Ridley chose for a particular chapter weren’t all that closely tied to the chromosome he chose, and issues like that, but that’s the problem with our chromosomes. The information isn’t distributed neatly across our chromosomes: in fact, those of us with a Y chromosome have one that does almost nothing overall, despite the fact that it affects carriers’ phenotypes ...more
Apr 20, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting and understandable survey of human genetic heritage. There were a few boring pieces that recounted things I'd been taught repeatedly in biology classes - I can see the utility of this as not all readers would have taken those classes, I just didn't enjoy reading about those things again as much as I enjoyed the more specific examples. The last few chapters contained some biased language (calling people who tore up GM crops "eco-terrorists" rather than simply "vandals," fo ...more
prag ♻
Jun 30, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, science, dnf
It's scary that this book rife with transphobia and misogyny disguised as "real science" is so critically acclaimed.
Keeping in mind that this book was written 20 years ago -which of course if a short life-span for literature, but a very long one for science - this is very well written, ingeniously presented and fun to engage with. I would definitely still recommend it, even if some of the scientific discussions inside are a little bit dated, because it offers a sound review of how we came to know what we do about genes and what exactly they are.
[30 September 2019]
I really enjoyed this book, and appreciated it, because it explained basic genetics better than anything else I've ever read. Of course I haven't read Siddhartha Mukherjee's book, but I still suspect this book is better for the genetic novice. Of course, it's 20 years old, but most of what it covers is probably still true.

Some readers might object to how much he injects his personal opinions into the text, but I liked it. And I felt it was usually clear that it was his person
Olive Fellows (abookolive)
Review is on my booktube channel: ...more
I should be more willing to just quit reading a book. This one for sure> I found this book just plain tedious, which makes me worry that this is an author trait. Also this book is out of date and or wrong on bunches of issues. As well as including unnecessary side points which I was constantly looking up in order to validate them. It's not that there were no good elements of this book. It's they were outweighed by irritating elements. And then the last chapter should be deleted. Not recommended. ...more
Oct 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Genome is yet another non-fiction science book that I have read with the utmost fascination. Not that there are that many in the list, but this is a genre that I am absolutely delighting in. It would have been great to have this enthusiasm to know, in school perhaps, when I was rote-learning about DNA and had no idea what the implications of genes were. This book ought to have livened things up in my mind.

The best thing about the book is the lucid structure. It is brilliantly organised, to
David Crow
May 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Matt Ridley is able to break down extremely difficult concepts into terms the average reader can understand. This book was fascinating as it took every human genome and added real life in clear, lucid examples. This is a remarkable work and it will make anyone who reads it smarter, and it is highly entertaining, not an easy feat.
Nov 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nook-book, science
A genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all of its genes. Each genome contains all of the information needed to build and maintain an organism. In 1953 Francis Crick and James Watson decoded the structure of DNA and with this discovery Crick exclaimed “We’ve discovered the secret of life.” What they discovered was that the main purpose of genes is to store the recipe for making proteins. The proteins are what determine the color of our hair, fight infection, and carry oxygen as ...more
Mark Fallon
Jul 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Are your body and brain pre-wired for certain tendencies? That’s one of the questions raised in Matt Ridley’s Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters. Using a gene from each of the 23 pairs of chromosomes that make up our DNA as a launching point, Ridley discusses what we’ve learned about the history of the human race. Some concepts about heredity are confirmed, while others are discarded.

Through the Human Genome Project, scientists have mapped out the complete set of human genes.
In the beginning there was the word and it was RNA? Wha? Stop trying to wax poetic about my genome! I tried to slog through this but my brain felt like my legs do when I walk across wet, clay soil and it builds up on the bottom of my shoes as I walk along.
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The book might be slightly out of date but that's the only negative thing I can say about it. The amount of information and perspective I gained from this book truly surprised me. Highly recommended.
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Fascinating, but dated now. I need to look for more recent books on the subject.
Ben Dubielak
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Certainly did not comprehend every description of the genetic code and biological functions within, but this was fascinating nonetheless.
Apr 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most humbling book I have ever read so far. I've learned more about myself in the past week than I have in my 16 years of life.
Hannah Russell
Aug 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
A good read overall. Some things were out of date. Interesting concept and information. The condescending tone (especially towards religious people) was off-putting. I've news, Matt Ridley: many life scientists, myself included, believe in God, creation, evolution and genes. All at the same time.
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Science and Inquiry: September 2019 - Genome 13 74 Sep 30, 2019 07:14PM  
Science Book Club: Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters 1 16 Feb 28, 2017 03:36PM  

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Matthew White Ridley, 5th Viscount Ridley DL FRSL FMedSci (born 7 February 1958, in Northumberland) is an English science writer, businessman and aristocrat. Ridley was educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford where he received a doctorate in zoology before commencing a career in journalism. Ridley worked as the science editor of The Economist from 1984 to 1987 and was then its Washington cor ...more

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