Wednesday, April 23, 2014

NON-FICTION | Review: Inheritance: How Our Genes Change Our Lives and Our Lives Change Our Genes

A week ago, I didn't think I would be doing another Non-Fiction week for April. The only NF I had read was more David Sedaris, and I had talked about him enough.

Then just a few days ago, I stumbled across Inheritance. I have read few science books for pleasure (The Emperor of All Maladies being the only other one attempted). My high school biology class left me never wanting to broach the subject with a 10-foot pole. But when it comes to genetics, I can't help but be intrigued by it's implications. 

Title: Inheritance: How Our Genes Change Our Lives and Our Lives Change Our Genes
Author: Sharon Moalem
Genre: Non-Fiction > Science
Pages: 272
Release date: April 15th, 2014
Links: Amazon | Goodreads

My rating: 3.25 out of 5 stars

DESCRIPTION (courtesy of Goodreads):

"Conventional wisdom dictates that our genetic destiny is fixed at conception. But Dr. Moalem's groundbreaking book shows us that the human genome is far more fluid and fascinating than your ninth grade biology teacher ever imagined. By bringing us to the bedside of his unique and complex patients, he masterfully demonstrates what rare genetic conditions can teach us all about our own health and well-being.

In this trailblazing book, Dr. Moalem employs his wide-ranging and entertaining interdisciplinary approach to science and medicine-- explaining how art, history, superheroes, sex workers, and sports stars all help us understand the impact of our lives on our genes, and our genes on our lives. INHERITANCE will profoundly alter how you view your genes, your health--and your life."


In order to read this book, I would say, you need next to zero prior knowledge of biology and genetics. A knowledge gained from a high school biology class (no matter how dwindled) will suffice. Essentially, if you have absolutely no basic knowledge of biology and genetics, you may have slight difficultly with this book. Otherwise, you'll be fine just diving straight in.


The Analogies.
Moalem makes numerous analogies to make his concepts clearer for a wider audience range (which apparently involves comparing our physical attributes to the Louis Vuitton logo). Most, if not all, of these analogies were crude and unnecessary. They only vaguely related to the concepts at hand and didn't make points any more clear (because his explanations, as they were, were already clear enough).

Moalem was essentially only making one point throughout his entire book, and that point is stated in the title- that our genes change our lives and, more surprisingly, that our lives change our genes. The book is basically Moalem giving examples of how individuals lives have affected their genes. The examples were great, but from the start he just hammers repeatedly at that same point with few other revelations. This resulted in a rather hollow conclusion to the book as a whole.


Everything else.

The writing was easy to read (a concern for me when it comes to biology-talk).

The contents (analogies aside) were intriguing and kept hold of my attention from beginning to end.

And though I already mentioned that I disliked the analogies, there were plenty of real-life examples (which I loved reading about!). Every case was fascinating. I could probably read a book 5 times its size just full of real patient studies. And fortunately for me, this book mostly consists of said examples.


I'm hesitant to call this book an enjoyable read, because it covers many devastating tales, but it really was enjoyable. That said, the book felt a bit hollow as whole. The analogies were crude, but in contrast, the real-life struggles were jaw-dropping. All these factors included, I would this book 3.25 stars out of 5. Would I read it again? Most likely not. But I would recommend it to select others.

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