Good science in service of a convincing case that vast life extension is inevitable.



An optimistic exploration of aging.

“No matter where you live in the world,” writes British science writer Steele, “you’re very likely to live long enough to experience the frailty, loss of independence and diseases associated with getting old.” The astounding doubling of life expectancy since 1800 (from 40 years to 80) has occurred without any treatment for aging. All advances, including sanitation, better diet, and vaccines, have focused on preventing premature death. Yet tortoises and many other coldblooded animals display “negligible senescence”: Their bodies don’t seem to deteriorate with age. Amazingly, a few life forms possess “negative senescence.” Long regarded as an inherent feature of life, aging did not capture the interest of scientists until the 1990s, but then matters moved quickly. Readers searching for secrets of long life must absorb Steele’s explanations of the hallmarks of aging, but it’s worth the wait to understand the sad litany: DNA damage, malfunctioning mitochondria, deterioration of our bacterial microbiome, declining immunity, disappearing telomeres, etc. In a long section on preventing or reversing aging with drugs, transplants, procedures, and genetic manipulations, the author shows how many succeed—in the lab and small human studies. Dietary restriction, currently popular, works less well in large animals than in organisms like worms, but drugs that mimic the effect are in development. A diligent scientist, Steele does not ignore flops and fads; antioxidants flopped, but health food enthusiasts have not lost faith. The author concludes with a list of proven life-extenders, few of which will surprise readers—e.g., don’t smoke, exercise, get vaccinated, take care of your teeth. Furthermore, “don’t bother with supplements,” and “don’t bother with longevity drugs—yet.” Science will eventually explain any phenomenon that obeys natural laws. The mechanism of aging obeys, so scientists will get there eventually. Once that happens, achieving a much longer life will be a matter of technology.

Good science in service of a convincing case that vast life extension is inevitable.

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54492-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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The lessons to draw are obvious: Smoke more dope, eat less meat. Like-minded readers will dig it.


The chef, rapper, and TV host serves up a blustery memoir with lashings of self-help.

“I’ve always had a sick confidence,” writes Bronson, ne Ariyan Arslani. The confidence, he adds, comes from numerous sources: being a New Yorker, and more specifically a New Yorker from Queens; being “short and fucking husky” and still game for a standoff on the basketball court; having strength, stamina, and seemingly no fear. All these things serve him well in the rough-and-tumble youth he describes, all stickball and steroids. Yet another confidence-builder: In the big city, you’ve got to sink or swim. “No one is just accepted—you have to fucking show that you’re able to roll,” he writes. In a narrative steeped in language that would make Lenny Bruce blush, Bronson recounts his sentimental education, schooled by immigrant Italian and Albanian family members and the mean streets, building habits good and bad. The virtue of those habits will depend on your take on modern mores. Bronson writes, for example, of “getting my dick pierced” down in the West Village, then grabbing a pizza and smoking weed. “I always smoke weed freely, always have and always will,” he writes. “I’ll just light a blunt anywhere.” Though he’s gone through the classic experiences of the latter-day stoner, flunking out and getting arrested numerous times, Bronson is a hard charger who’s not afraid to face nearly any challenge—especially, given his physique and genes, the necessity of losing weight: “If you’re husky, you’re always dieting in your mind,” he writes. Though vulgar and boastful, Bronson serves up a model that has plenty of good points, including his growing interest in nature, creativity, and the desire to “leave a legacy for everybody.”

The lessons to draw are obvious: Smoke more dope, eat less meat. Like-minded readers will dig it.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4478-5

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...


A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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