The Sports Gene by David Epstein
Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance

81%

16 Critic Reviews

While he helpfully leads readers into the dugout of modern genetics and sports science, his overall conclusions challenge few assumptions.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

The New York Times bestseller – with a new afterword about early specialization in youth sports.

The debate is as old as physical competition. Are stars like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Serena Williams genetic freaks put on Earth to dominate their respective sports? Or are they simply normal people who overcame their biological limits through sheer force of will and obsessive training?

In this controversial and engaging exploration of athletic success and the so-called 10,000-hour rule, David Epstein tackles the great nature vs. nurture debate and traces how far science has come in solving it. Through on-the-ground reporting from below the equator and above the Arctic Circle, revealing conversations with leading scientists and Olympic champions, and interviews with athletes who have rare genetic mutations or physical traits, Epstein forces us to rethink the very nature of athleticism.
 

About David Epstein

See more books from this Author
David Epstein is an award-winning senior writer for Sports Illustrated, where he covers sports science, medicine, and Olympic sports. His investigative pieces are among Sports Illustrated’s most high-profile stories. An avid runner himself, he earned All-East honors on Columbia University’s varsity track squad. This is his first book. He lives in New York.
 
Published August 1, 2013 by Current. 353 pages
Genres: Nature & Wildlife, Sports & Outdoors, Science & Math, Health, Fitness & Dieting. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Aug 25 2013
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Weeks as Bestseller
Bookmark Counts:
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Critic reviews for The Sports Gene
All: 16 | Positive: 15 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Excellent
on Jul 17 2013

Readers may feel overwhelmed at Epstein’s avalanche of genetic and physiological studies, but few will put down this deliciously contrarian exploration of great athletic feats.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Christie Aschwanden on Aug 12 2013

The narrative follows Mr. Epstein’s search for the roots of elite sport performance as he encounters characters and stories so engrossing that readers may not realize they’re receiving an advanced course in genetics, physiology and sports medicine.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Richard Moore on Aug 22 2013

Illuminating book that challenges the notion that in sport, practice matters more than innate talent.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on Jul 15 2013

While he helpfully leads readers into the dugout of modern genetics and sports science, his overall conclusions challenge few assumptions.

Read Full Review of The Sports Gene: Inside the S... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

WSJ online

Above average
Reviewed by Michael Shermer on Jul 26 2013

"The Sports Gene" is bound to put the cat among the pigeons in the blank-slate crowd who think that we can all be equal as long as we equalize environmental inputs such as practice. But the science says that it just ain't so. Not even 10,000 hours of wishful thinking will change nature.

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Washington Times

Good
Reviewed by Robert VerBruggen on Aug 26 2013

That is what makes “The Sports Gene” such a worthy read: While the book’s purpose is to push back against the widespread denial that genes matter, Mr. Epstein avoids taking too strident a stance in the opposite direction.

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The Maine Edge

Excellent
Reviewed by Allen Adams on Aug 07 2013

[A]n utterly fascinating work - a thought-provoking read that manages to be densely packed with information without ever becoming overwhelming.

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The Boston Globe

Good
Reviewed by Shira Springer on Aug 12 2013

“The Sports Gene” is most engaging when sections combine science with real-life examples and when anecdotes and athletes move away from popular American professional sports. The part about Lance Mackey and his sled dogs is one such highlight.

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Washington Independent Review of Books

Good
Reviewed by Jay Price on Aug 15 2013

The Sports Gene confirms some of what we’ve already intuited about inherited abilities in sports. And scientists, it seems, are less squeamish than most of the rest of us when it comes to ascribing those advantages or disadvantages to specific ethnic groups.

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

Good
Reviewed by Barnes and Noble Review on Sep 09 2013

Are our best athletes born great, or do they achieve greatness? David Epstein dissects the physical and mental makeup of Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, Usain Bolt and others, to at last distinguish athletic nature from nurture.

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The Washington Post

Good
Reviewed by Steven Roberts on Sep 06 2013

In his fascinating book “The Sports Gene,” David Epstein — a senior writer for Sports Illustrated and a former college runner — comes to a compelling if not surprising conclusion: Nature and nurture are both essential ingredients for athletic achievement.

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Boston.com

Good
Reviewed by Shira Springer on Aug 11 2013

By examining how far scientists have come in understanding the impact of genes on athletic performance and what remains undiscovered, Epstein adds another layer to the ongoing debate.

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Business Week

Above average
Reviewed by Bryant Urstadt on Aug 01 2013

Epstein fights his own conclusions throughout the book... everything about his book feels like a takedown of the argument we all want to make.

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Science News

Excellent
Reviewed by Tina Hesman Saey on Jul 26 2013

...hear him out. By the time his tale comes to an end, Epstein will have persuaded you that most athletic traits are “a braid of nature and nurture so intricately and thoroughly intertwined as to become a single vine.”

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Scientific American

Good
Reviewed by Lee Billings on Aug 09 2013

Time and time again, his deeply researched and nuanced investigations of the genetics underlying the athleticism of different races, genders and individuals reinforce a comforting, commonsense conclusion: excelling at sports isn't just a matter of natural talent or nurtured practice—it's both.

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Podium Cafe

Good
Reviewed by fmk on Aug 07 2013

That The Sports Gene is challenging isn't a criticism. What Epstein is doing is showing how science itself progresses, following one theory, building up more evidence, and maybe finding that a different theory fits better.

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