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The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ Is Wrong
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The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ Is Wrong

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  1,902 ratings  ·  258 reviews
With irresistibly persuasive vigor, David Shenk debunks the long-standing notion of genetic “giftedness,” and presents dazzling new scientific research showing how greatness is in the reach of every individual.


DNA does not make us who we are. “Forget everything you think you know about genes, talent, and intelligence,” he writes. “In recent years, a mountain of
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 9th 2010 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2010)
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Start your review of The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ Is Wrong
Apr 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In my opinion, this book is superb, but many vehemently disagree. Shenk examines Nature vs. Nurture in the light of modern science and makes the argument that genes have less control over our outcome than has been popularly believed. But he doesn’t contend that environment is the sole influence on outcomes, either. Genius and giftedness are misunderstood, according to Shenk, and the capacity for high level performance is not left to fate. Reviews in Amazon have chastised Shenk as a naïve romanti ...more
Alisa Kester
Jan 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I've long noticed that people who say they "aren't creative" never seem to actually try to do anything creative. They admire different things I've made, then shake their heads and say "But I could never do that, because I'm not creative." I've never actually said anything to those people, but I always walk away with a tinge of annoyance. Creativity is a thing you DO, not a thing you ARE. Sure, you probably won't be able to sit down and make a masterpiece your first time out, but you know what? N ...more
Sep 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
After just completing a review of intro biology....dna makes rna makes protein, I enjoyed the explanation of the GxE (genes interact with environment to create traits) theory. I get it, and the evidence provided for this theory seems solid. The idea that intelligence (not just intellectual, but any of the 9+ proposed by psychologists, e.g., Howard Gardner) is not an innate gift, but rather results from a process, is quite compelling. Interesting how a number of reviewers and critics interpret th ...more
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely incredible. Written and expressed with passion and backed up with solid research and references.

I cannot praise this enough.

Especially if you want advice on how to ruin your children. (And therefore of course, how not to!)

So it goes.
Apr 21, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
This book had so much potential, but it performed abysmally. Even the organization of the book sets it up for failure. The author divides the book into 'The Argument' and 'The Evidence'. 'The Argument' is 134 pages including the epilogue. 'The Evidence' is 143 pages. At first glance, this seems pretty awesome - look at how much evidence there is to support what this guy claims - FANTASTIC. Only, not so. The so called evidence is nothing more than his chapter notes. 143 pages of notes on 134 page ...more
Gina Herald
Jul 20, 2012 rated it liked it
He's sugarcoating everything. You know when he uses as a central quote someone saying "genetics doesn't code for parts of the nervous system, and definitely not parts of personality" that something's fishy and the whole story isn't being told. Genetics does code for the development of our brains to great extent. The USE of those brain parts does effect size, but if you happen to have a genetically-more-apt specific part, things are just gonna be a lot easier for you from the get-go than somebody ...more
Benjamin Zapata
Sep 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Everybody needs to read this amazing book,David Shenk takes us on a tour de force to understanding exceptional performance,and the reasons why we too can reach all the way to the top. What an exciting book! Inspiring and liberating! David Shenk handily dispels the myth that one must be born a genius. Anybody can be a genius,just find your motivation,and give it all. You have to want it,want it so bad you will never give up like Ben Franklin,Jerry Rice,Ted Williams,Mozart,The Polgar sisters in ch ...more
Jun 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think all of us probably know someone with superior intelligence who was born to parents of just average intelligence. How does that happen? In The Genius in All of Us , author David Shenk attempts to show the reader why genius is not all about the genes we were born with. Shenk explains why intelligence is more of a combination of genes and the environment we were raised in, along with outside stimuli, that determines our potential for greatness.

Sadly, the majority of us never reach our pote
May 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book was really good and quite similar to another book I've read called, "Talent is Overrated." It basically says that our genes alone don't determine our intelligence or how good we can become in any particular activity. We become genius in anything based on a basic genetic ability, but also hard work and practice. The book calls this dynamic development. If you do any activity for 10,000 hours you can become awesome in this skill. 10,000 hours takes 10 years of 3 hours a day. It entails d ...more
Aug 10, 2010 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Richard by: KQED Forum
Shelves: cognition, nonfiction
Interviewed by Michael Krasny (who never quite "got" the fundamental message, it seemed) on KQED Forum. About 48 minutes; recorded 18 March 2010; available here at as an MP3 download or streaming audio.

Seemed several times to be extraordinary similar to Malcolm Gladwell's
Outliers. But Gladwell, while a great popularizer, sometimes doesn't quite get the science right. At least that's what Steven Pinker claimed in a dust-up in early 2010. Moreover, Shenk sets aside half of his book for "evidence", e.g.Outliers.
Apr 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education, nonfiction
My five-star rating reflects the importance of this book. Our genes really don't dictate our ability to achieve greatness. Instead, what we inherit is multiplied (not added to) environmental factors. We have less control over our environment than we may think, which means it is vital that our schools and society figure out how to motivate each child to achieve well in the ways that are fascinating to them.

Way too many of us settle for mediocrity, believing the myth that only a few are destined
May 13, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
As other reviewers have observed, the entire second half of David Shenk’s book consists of extensive endnotes. In fact, I’d say that despite being marketed as a work of popular science, _The Genius in All of Us_ wants to be much more. The second half of Shenk’s text is intended, no doubt, to be useful to academics and other researchers.

Although I am a professor—and I read this volume with an eye to how its lessons might inform my classroom pep speeches—I doubt that I’ll be crafting any conferen
Jun 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Firstly, don't dismiss this book as too demanding and scientific to be of interest. It's not dry, boring, condescending, or complicated, so you can't use those as excuses to avoid it. Secondly, this book is interesting, very accessible, and will likely change the way you think about talent, giftedness, and inherited genes. Which is a very good reason to give it a read.

But this is not a light read, either - probably not something you would take to the beach or read on that flight from
Adam Ross
May 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture, science
This was a mind-blowing book. Shenk argues that the environment really does impact and change your genetic makeup. He presents a solid blow to the idea that we're simply stuck with the genes we receive from our parents, and analyzes clones, twins, child protégées (Mozart features heavily), and more, showing that through determination and hard work, the ordinary person can train themselves to be extraordinary.

He finally (in my view) settles the racial IQ gap, as well as the rich/poor
Brandon Cahall
Certainly an interesting way of looking at genetic impact on intelligence and talent, but I'm not convinced of much after reading the book - and I'm not certain the author is either. The blurb "a thinking man's Outliers" was misleading: Shenk's book is divided into two parts (narrative argument and what Shenk calls "evidence"), the evidence is basically a regurgitation of the argument with the addition of in-line citations and notes - hardly compelling. Shenk definitely borrows Gladwell's recipe ...more
Jerry Michel
Jan 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Especially liked the layperson's description of how the brain is built for continual growth; enjoyed the first half better than the second half...the recommendations for giving parents/students/colleagues concrete ways to move neuroscience research into learning in the classroom and home are really helpful.
Mar 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: creativity
I enjoyed this one. The author makes a compelling case for the theory of "nature x nurture" instead of the common "nature + nurture". Which basically asserts that your the expression of your genes are affected by your environment, not independent or despite them.

The book calls on research in the fields of talent, performance, learning and creativity by authors of familiar research such as Carol Dweck, Anders Ericsson and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

As a father of four girls, the part th
Travis Standley
Apr 12, 2019 rated it liked it
I found this book refreshing as it shows the scientific side of Carol Dweck’s research on the growth mindset. I learned from this book that the phrase “it’s in the genes” is false or at least only part of the equation. Genes and their interaction with their environment along with what activities and culture they are exposed to create a kaleidoscope of gifts and talents that we see out there. We grow and learn and train our brains and increase our capacity based on what we desire and what we work ...more
X-Man Francis
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
This author seems deeply western minded and covertly biased towards western/European cultures. I enjoyed reading this book until chapter 9 - "how to foster a culture of excellence." At one point, he insinuates that African universities aren't as advanced as western universities.

His depiction of excellence only rests with all that is European/western and excludes the contributions of other cultures to art, science, technology, etc. Especially African culture.

I agree with his main the
Sep 20, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 I’m still processing this one. I appreciated the science the author used to back up his thesis and it seems sound. At the same time, I feel like the concept that “we all have the same potential for genius/excellence if all factors are the same” is an impossible reality. Perhaps I misunderstood, but it sounded like even if two people lived the exact same life but had different experiences in the womb, their potential would still possibly be different. No two humans will ever have that to be t ...more
Nov 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfic, neurobiology
I enjoyed reading this. It's nothing new if you already follow this sort of thing, but I like to read this stuff from time to time anyway. It kind of inspires me.

Shenk's style is easy-to-read and engaging. He describes science in a very nicely digestible way without dumbing it down too much or exaggerating what is knowable. A very good book to read if you are interested in the subjects of neuroplasticity and human development. It will make you want to work harder on your goals.
James Park
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Super inspiring on how what I do in my life can change my epigenetics. But it's still really tough getting anything in my civics class done. Still amazing and I learned so much more about what I can do through my life to change my future. Like I should study instead of watching Harry Potter dank memes and work on my craftsmanship. Let's kill em sahil
Nancy Currie
May 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book presented clear arguments in favour of thinking of genius differently than how we've been taught to think of talent, genius, and intelligence or skill. The author creates a bridge between the science of genetics and the study of achievement that is helpful to the reader.
Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
It was a very interesting listen. Genes do not determine everything and anyone can learn to become an expert on anything. Might be worth listening to again keeping kids in mind. Biggest takeaway is the competition drives greatness.

Aug 17, 2019 rated it liked it
"No one is genetically doomed to mediocrity." (p28)

"IQ scores do not actually report how well you have objectively mastered test material. They merely indicate how well you have mastered it compared to everyone else." (p34)
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
There is nothing like hard work and good choices. And it may impact your children and grandchildren even before they are born.

It makes sense, actually.

Very enjoyable, readable and understandable argument that weighs in on the "Nature vs. Nurture" debate.
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
A good book but note that it is only 138 pagesof actual narrative, the rest of the book is notes and sources.
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved it!
Mar 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 16, 2019 rated it liked it
mostly skimmed this tome, and the message is hard work wins every time.
guess science is just catching up with common sense
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Getting better at what you do 1 5 Sep 06, 2012 05:46PM  

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David Shenk is the award-winning and national-bestselling author of six books, including The Genius in All of Us: New Insights Into Genetics, Talent, and IQ ("deeply interesting and important" - New York Times), The Forgetting: Alzheimer's, Portrait of an Epidemic ("remarkable" - Los Angeles Times), Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut ("indispensable" - New York Times), and The Immortal Game ...more
“You have to want it, want it so bad you will never give up, so bad that you are ready to sacrifice time, money, sleep, friendships, even your reputation,” he writes. “You will have to adopt a particular lifestyle of ambition, not just for a few weeks or months but for years and years and years. You have to want it so bad that you are not only ready to fail, but you actually want to experience failure: revel in it, learn from it.” 13 likes
“It’s not that I’m so smart,” Albert Einstein once said. “It’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Einstein’s simple statement is a clarion call for all who seek greatness, for themselves or their children. In the end, persistence is the difference between mediocrity and enormous success.” 7 likes
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