She Has Her Mother's Laugh by Carl Zimmer
The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity

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It’s a testament to his achievement, then, that “She Has Her Mother’s Laugh” ranges from philosophy to history to biology, looping forward and back and forward again — a lush, enthralling book that transforms the reader with its insights.
-Star Tribune

Synopsis

Heredity is redefined in this sweeping, resonating overview of a force that shaped human society—a force set to shape our future even more radically.

“Extraordinary”—New York Times Book Review   
“A beguiling narrative”—Nature  
“A treasure trove”—Science    
“Magnificent”—Publishers Weekly   
“Enchanting”—Kirkus Reviews

Award-winning, celebrated New York Times columnist and science writer Carl Zimmer presents a profoundly original perspective on what we pass along from generation to generation. Charles Darwin played a crucial part in turning heredity into a scientific question, and yet he failed spectacularly to answer it. The birth of genetics in the early 1900s seemed to do precisely that. Gradually, people translated their old notions about heredity into a language of genes. As the technology for studying genes became cheaper, millions of people ordered genetic tests to link themselves to missing parents, to distant ancestors, to ethnic identities...

But, Zimmer writes, “Each of us carries an amalgam of fragments of DNA, stitched together from some of our many ancestors. Each piece has its own ancestry, traveling a different path back through human history. A particular fragment may sometimes be cause for worry, but most of our DNA influences who we are—our appearance, our height, our penchants—in inconceivably subtle ways.” Heredity isn’t just about genes that pass from parent to child. Heredity continues within our own bodies, as a single cell gives rise to trillions of cells that make up our bodies. We say we inherit genes from our ancestors—using a word that once referred to kingdoms and estates—but we inherit other things that matter as much or more to our lives, from microbes to technologies we use to make life more comfortable. We need a new definition of what heredity is and, through Carl Zimmer’s lucid exposition and storytelling, this resounding tour de force delivers it. 

Weaving historical and current scientific research, his own experience with his two daughters, and the kind of original reporting expected of one of the world’s best science journalists, Zimmer ultimately unpacks urgent bioethical quandaries arising from new biomedical technologies, but also long-standing presumptions about who we really are and what we can pass on to future generations.
 

About Carl Zimmer

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Carl Zimmer is a lecturer at Yale University, where he teaches writing about science and the environment. He is the author of numerous books, including Microcosm; Parasite Rex; Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea; At the Water’s Edge; and Soul Made Flesh. His numerous essays and articles on the life sciences have appeared in the pages of the New York Times, Scientific American, Discover, Time, Science, Popular Science, and National Geographic. His work has been anthologized in both The Best American Science Writing and The Best American Science and Nature Writing series.
 
Published May 29, 2018 by Dutton. 672 pages
Genres: Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math. Non-fiction
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Reviewed by Hamilton Cain on Jun 08 2018

It’s a testament to his achievement, then, that “She Has Her Mother’s Laugh” ranges from philosophy to history to biology, looping forward and back and forward again — a lush, enthralling book that transforms the reader with its insights.

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