Amazon Best Books of the Month, July 2012: Born to parents named Gene and Jean, Sam Kean got enough ribbing in school science classes to develop an early aversion to genetics. Lucky for us, curiosity overcame conditioning as he became increasingly fascinated with the role DNA plays in shaping destiny. As he did in The Disappearing Spoon, a captivating chronicle of human interactions with each periodic element, Kean has created another page-turning scientific history in The Violinist’s Thumb. With fluid gusto, he turns the discovery of DNA into riveting human drama, then unfurls a series of anecdotes that expand our understanding of genetic influence on our lives as (sometimes uniquely gifted) individuals, from presidents to physicists to violin virtuosos with exceptionally dexterous digits. Kean illuminates clues embedded in our genes that help map the meandering trajectory of our species, then leaves readers with the distinct impression that all this has been a fantastic preamble to our species’ most thrilling (and likely chilling) chapter: manipulating our DNA to remake future humans, and all life on Earth. —Mari Malcolm
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.