A highly optimistic review of anti-aging science that may persuade older readers that they were born too soon.



An uplifting review of the science suggesting that “prolonged healthy lifespans are in sight.”

According to Sinclair (Genetics/Harvard Medical School), scientists have discovered what causes aging. They’ve also discovered how to treat it because, despite what doctors and philosophers have claimed throughout history, aging is not inevitable. It’s a disease. Throughout the book, the author’s enthusiasm jumps off the page. Scientifically inclined readers may be occasionally turned off by his affection for dramatic stories of individuals who defy aging, but they cannot deny that he is an acclaimed, award-winning scientist who works hard to explain his groundbreaking research and that of laboratories around the world. Beginning at the beginning, he writes that “way back in the primordium, the ancestors of every living thing on this planet today evolved to sense DNA damage, slow cellular growth, and divert energy to DNA repair until it was fixed—what I call the survival circuit.” In the 1950s, scientists discovered that DNA damage occurs throughout life. Since it’s disastrous for a cell to divide with broken DNA, repair mechanisms suppress growth and reproduction until they’re finished. Cells that don’t divide live longer. Insects and mice mature quickly, reproduce, and soon die. Elephants and whales grow slowly and live much longer lives. Cells of the bristlecone pine, the oldest of which is nearly 5,000 years old, show no signs of aging. Researchers have discovered the mechanism of growth suppression in hormones and also in genes that produce such specific enzymes. These longevity enhancers respond to stress but also to exercise, intermittent fasting, low-protein and low-calorie diets, and several pharmaceuticals that, the author assures readers, will soon emerge from the laboratory. Also in the works are DNA monitoring and reprogramming, already well advanced in animals, that can detect malfunctions and reset the aging clock.

A highly optimistic review of anti-aging science that may persuade older readers that they were born too soon.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9197-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.


A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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