Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Story of Heredity, Its Past, Present and Future” as Want to Read:
She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Story of Heredity, Its Past, Present and Future
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Story of Heredity, Its Past, Present and Future

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  2,476 ratings  ·  413 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
Paperback, 672 pages
Published June 13th 2019 by Picador (first published May 29th 2018)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.16  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,476 ratings  ·  413 reviews

More filters
Sort order
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
Diane S ☔
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: evolution, biology
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
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.
Olive (abookolive)
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Check out my review on booktube:
Pam Mooney
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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!
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
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
Jun 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Catherine Davison
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
Aaron Arnold
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Camelia Rose
Nov 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, audio
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 s ...more
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.
What a brilliant earth shuttering book! The staff good science fiction is made of except happening IRL now as we live. So many amazing new ideas and facts, I was forced to stop reading and just contemplate and share with friends and family what I read. I'm not very good at science, although love reading pop science books and magazines, yet this book was quite accessible even to someone with barely passable grade in biology class. I would love to thank the author for the wonderful experience of r ...more
Polo Lonergan
Parts of this book are interesting. Parts are excrutiatingly dry. It felt like it took me forever to slog through the ending.
Danielle DeVane Wells
this was an incredibly informative 600ish page book with everything you would ever want to know about genetics and heredity. Some parts were difficult for me to follow and bogged my reading down...but that's not reflective of the author but of my understanding. Some chapters seemed like I was reading a history book while the author was explaining the history of specific scientific ideas and advancements made over the last 200 years. Other chapters seemed as if I was reading a medical journal wit ...more
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has is an awesome journey through time and space. It covers much of the same ground as Siddhartha Mukherjee‘s book, The Gene, An Intimate History, but not too much. It would be more accurate to say they overlap a bit.

Its a very accessible history of hereditary and our relationship with it. It covers all the major brake-throughs and the human stories connected with them, how we get to where we are and the perilous road ahead. Will we be wise enough to navigate the minefields connected
This book achieves what I would previously have described as impossible: it makes genetics, molecular biology, and other aspects of heredity interesting and (almost) accessible to the layperson. Zimmer masterfully guides us through the history of heredity research, its cultural context, and its ramifications for large groups of people. Despite having two degrees in biology, some of the information was new to me, and at one point I was so shocked by what I was learning from the audiobook version ...more
This book caught my eye when I saw it on a "best of 2018" book list. I was initially interested because I thought it would address some of (what I see as) the nonsense surrounding the market in DNA testing that has exploded over the past couple of years. Obviously North Americans have a lot of disposable income to invest in discovering the percentages of their "ancestry," as if this has some meaningful impact on their own identity. Zimmer's book delivers far more than an assessment of the boomin ...more
Ernst Hafen
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating journey through the multi-facetted biological basis, historical and societal impact of heredity; from Aristotle to plant and animal breeders in the 18th and 19th century to Darwin, Mendel, eugenics, pre-implantation diagnostics and CRISPR/Cas. Carl Zimmer tells the story not in a chronological way but in different vignettes of researchers that are careful, struggle with or are too confident about their discoveries. The book reads or is listened to easily. Zimmer reduces scientific ...more
May 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Betsy by: GR Science & Inquiry Group
This is a long book -- 575 pages not including the glossary, notes, and other supplemental sections. I also found it to be oddly organized, not by time as might be assumed, but first by attitude to heredity, then by "channel" of heredity. It made sense to the author, and I could follow it, but I found it annoying and sometimes confusing that he jumped around in time, and with respect to people involved. Sometimes in a later chapter he would reference a scientist he had first introduced earlier, ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Choice ...: She Has Her Mother's Laugh - Sept 19 3 45 Sep 01, 2019 05:28PM  
Non Fiction Book ...: she has her mother's laugh 14 11 May 07, 2019 08:18PM  
Science Book Club: She Has Her Mother's Laugh 1 9 May 04, 2019 08:38PM  
Science and Inquiry: April 2019 - She Has Her Mother's Laugh 18 73 May 04, 2019 03:21AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please correct number of pages 1 10 Apr 04, 2019 09:55PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life
  • Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past
  • The Poison Squad: One Chemist's Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
  • Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything
  • Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet
  • Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes
  • Improbable Destinies: Fate, Chance, and the Future of Evolution
  • A Feast of Science: Intriguing Morsels from the Science of Everyday Life
  • Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine
  • Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray
  • In Pursuit of Memory: The Fight Against Alzheimer's
  • The Book of Humans: The Story of How We Became Us
  • The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us and What We Can Do about Them
  • The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World
  • The Invaders: How Humans and Their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction
  • Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live
  • Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them): A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying
  • How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution
See similar books…
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
“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.” 2 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.” 2 likes
More quotes…