The Violinist's Thumb by Sam Kean
And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code

92%

12 Critic Reviews

The Violinist's Thumb's most refreshing aspect is the light it sheds on the role women played in studying DNA and genetics.
-NPR

Synopsis

From New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean comes incredible stories of science, history, language, and music, as told by our own DNA.

In The Disappearing Spoon, bestselling author Sam Kean unlocked the mysteries of the periodic table. In THE VIOLINIST'S THUMB, he explores the wonders of the magical building block of life: DNA.

There are genes to explain crazy cat ladies, why other people have no fingerprints, and why some people survive nuclear bombs. Genes illuminate everything from JFK's bronze skin (it wasn't a tan) to Einstein's genius. They prove that Neanderthals and humans bred thousands of years more recently than any of us would feel comfortable thinking. They can even allow some people, because of the exceptional flexibility of their thumbs and fingers, to become truly singular violinists.

Kean's vibrant storytelling once again makes science entertaining, explaining human history and whimsy while showing how DNA will influence our species' future.
 

About Sam Kean

See more books from this Author
Sam Kean is a writer in Washington, D.C. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Mental Floss, Slate, The Believer, Air & Space, Science, and The New Scientist. He is currently working as a reporter at Science magazine and as a 2009 Middlebury Environmental Journalism fellow.
 
Published July 17, 2012 by Little, Brown and Company. 401 pages
Genres: Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math, Other, Professional & Technical, Education & Reference. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
icon21
Peak Rank on Aug 12 2012
icon1
Weeks as Bestseller
Bookmark Counts:
3
Want to Read
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for The Violinist's Thumb
All: 12 | Positive: 11 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Excellent
Jun 01 2012

In an impressive narrative, the author renders esoteric DNA concepts accessible to lay readers.

Read Full Review of The Violinist's Thumb: And Ot... | See more reviews from Kirkus

WSJ online

Excellent
Reviewed by Christopher Chabris on Jul 27 2012

Though his subject is a serious one, Mr. Kean enlivens his narrative with an appealing sense of humor.

Read Full Review of The Violinist's Thumb: And Ot... | See more reviews from WSJ online

NPR

Good
Reviewed by John Wilwol on Jul 17 2012

The Violinist's Thumb's most refreshing aspect is the light it sheds on the role women played in studying DNA and genetics.

Read Full Review of The Violinist's Thumb: And Ot... | See more reviews from NPR

Entertainment Weekly

Excellent
Reviewed by Keith Staskiewicz on Jul 25 2012

Paganini's story joins a slew of other intriguing tales, which Kean spins in light, witty prose while also placing them in a broader scientific context.

Read Full Review of The Violinist's Thumb: And Ot...

The Washington Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Amy Stewart

...“The Violinist’s Thumb” is a thoughtful work of literature that allows all of us... to grapple with the big questions about the history and future of our genetic code.

Read Full Review of The Violinist's Thumb: And Ot...

Dallas News

Excellent
Reviewed by Fred Bortz on Jul 27 2012

...the best part of the book will be the rediscovery of greats such as Mendel, Darwin and Watson, through little known stories

Read Full Review of The Violinist's Thumb: And Ot...

The Boston Globe

Excellent
Reviewed by Jesse Singal on Jul 18 2012

So while the occasional passage of scientific exposition can be hard to grasp without a couple of passes, Kean makes up for it with a generous helping of wild human stories

Read Full Review of The Violinist's Thumb: And Ot...

San Francisco Chronicle

Excellent
Reviewed by David Perlman on Jul 30 2012

Sam Kean has written an often very funny book - and a clear one, too - about a crucial subject few really understand. It's well worth tackling.

Read Full Review of The Violinist's Thumb: And Ot...

Mail Online

Excellent
Reviewed by John Harding on Aug 09 2012

...an accessible history of the discovery and mapping of DNA and a compellingly entertaining layman’s guide to what it’s all about.

Read Full Review of The Violinist's Thumb: And Ot...

Winnipeg Free Press

Below average
Reviewed by Douglas Johnston on Jul 21 2012

By mid-book, though the science may be excellent, there's far too much detail for anyone but a geneticist or molecular biologist to grasp.

Read Full Review of The Violinist's Thumb: And Ot...

Science News

Excellent
Reviewed by Allison Bohac on Jul 13 2012

More than an assortment of trivia, the book is an engaging history.

Read Full Review of The Violinist's Thumb: And Ot...

Utica Observer Dispatch

Excellent
Reviewed by Judy Jerome on Aug 31 2012

In a whimisical but eminently readable style, Kean relates the stories of other famous people who may have been who they were because of their inherited DNA.

Read Full Review of The Violinist's Thumb: And Ot...

Reader Rating for The Violinist's Thumb
84%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 309 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review

Reader reviews & activity

Shao Jean Sim

Shao Jean Sim 7 Aug 2015

Added the book to want to read list

mareth

mareth 18 Nov 2013

Added the book to want to read list

Tracy Farkas

Tracy Farkas 5 Sep 2013

Added the book to want to read list