A BRIEF HISTORY OF EVERYONE WHO EVER LIVED by Adam Rutherford

A BRIEF HISTORY OF EVERYONE WHO EVER LIVED

The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes
BUY NOW FROM
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

An enthusiastic history of mankind in which DNA plays a far greater role than the traditional “bones and stones” approach, followed by a hopeful if cautionary account of what the recent revolution in genomics foretells.

According to British geneticist and science writer Rutherford (Creation: How Science Is Reinventing Life Itself, 2013), “we have literally thousands of ancient, hardened bones, found all around the world; many in the nursery of the human story in eastern Africa, many in Europe, and the more we look the more we find.” They reveal clues about how our ancestors looked, hints about their behavior, and vague, contradictory hypotheses about their relation to our species. Deciphering DNA from these relics turns up more specific information about “how our evolution has proceeded.” Neanderthals were close relatives. They separated from a common ancestor around 500,000 years ago and met and interbred with us throughout Eurasia, dying out 30,000 years ago and leaving a small percentage of their DNA in ours. Amazingly, DNA from a single finger bone uncovered another subspecies, the Denisovans, which wandered Asia at the same time, leaving a sprinkling of DNA in Pacific Islanders and Australian Aborigines. Turning to the present, Rutherford recounts this century’s spectacular discoveries in genomics, pausing regularly to grind axes. For readers who wonder if racism has any basis in genetics, he explains at length that it hasn’t. He examines companies that offer to analyze an individual’s DNA and reveals why many of their claims are nonsense. Casting doubt on the steady stream of media announcements that scientists have discovered the gene for…addiction, homosexuality, height, anxiety, obesity, etc…the author emphasizes that dramatic advances in human well-being through genomics are guaranteed, if not quite yet. “Life is the accumulation and refinement of information embedded in DNA,” writes Rutherford. “We are the data.”

Often quirky but thoughtful—solid popular science.

Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-61519-404-9
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: The Experiment
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2017




SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

NonfictionSHE HAS HER MOTHER'S LAUGH by Carl Zimmer
by Carl Zimmer
NonfictionTHE STRANGE CASE OF THE RICKETY COSSACK by Ian Tattersall
by Ian Tattersall
NonfictionLIFE’S GREATEST SECRET by Matthew Cobb
by Matthew Cobb