14 Jun, 2019

Book review: the best books about personal genetics and DNA?

Here is a list of some of our favourite books on personal genetics and DNA which are perfect for people of all knowledge levels and would make a great gift for someone interested in discovering more about themselves or exploring the science behind their genes.

A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived

This excellent book by Adam Rutherford (science writer, presenter for the BBC) covers an amazing amount of ground. It has a lot of information about modern genetics studies, understanding the genetics underpinning health/traits as well as using DNA to understand more about our ancestors and past. I particularly liked how Adam does not mince words about pseudoscience - you will come away with all good information and no myths or hype.Use this link to get it now on Amazon Prime whilst supporting Great Ormond Street Hospital

The Gene

This book was #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and is loved by scientists and non-scientists alike. It has a storytelling style and covers an amazing amount of history, from Darwin’s theory of evolution, all the way through the author’s own personal family history, and covering many things in between including eugenics perpetrated by the Nazis, and the discovery of the DNA double helix.Use this link to get it now on Amazon Prime whilst supporting Great Ormond Street Hospital

She Has Her Mother’s Laugh

Written by science writer Carl Zimmer, this book covers not only the history and science behind hereditary traits but also some of the ethical issues around genetics. This book is one of the most recent on the list, and as a result it also covers some exciting new technological developments including gene editing using CRISPR. The book is long (more than 500 pages!), but very well worth the read.Use this link to get it now on Amazon Prime whilst supporting Great Ormond Street Hospital

Gene Eating

This book is perfect for anyone who is really interested in better understanding the role of genetics in obesity and our eating habits. The book clearly explains why many well-known fad diets, like the ‘paleo diet’, don’t stand up to scientific scrutiny. This book is a great example of a world-class scientist (Giles Yeo, a researcher at Cambridge University) communicating cutting-edge science in a way that anyone can understand.Use this link to get it now on Amazon Prime whilst supporting Great Ormond Street Hospital

The Selfish Gene

This book, by Richard Dawkins , is probably the most popular genetics book of all time. Part of its popularity comes from the fact that it flips around the idea that humans (or other organisms) are the central players in evolution. Dawkins explains how our genes really are the central player, pulling the strings generation after generation to keep themselves alive. This perspective helps explain a number of strange phenomena in the behaviour of humans and other animals.Use this link to get it now on Amazon Prime whilst supporting Great Ormond Street Hospital

The Epigenetics Revolution

Our DNA is exactly the same in each of our trillions of cells, but yet some turn into neurons, other heart cells, and some into skin. Epigenetics studies the way our DNA can be switched on and off by external modifications. This field helps explain patterns in nature - like the different colours in cat fur - as well as genetic conditions. Some scientists have warned that the book takes a leap too far in some cases, but this is nonetheless a great overview of the field.Use this link to get it now on Amazon Prime whilst supporting Great Ormond Street Hospital

I Contain Multitudes

A bonus book on this list is not about humans, but about the microbes that live inside us. Written by Ed Yong, an incredible science writer for the Atlantic, the book details the incredible relationships between humans and the bacteria/viruses that live within us. This book also describes some of the latest science around the ‘microbiome’ and gives fair criticism where it is needed.Use this link to get it now on Amazon Prime whilst supporting Great Ormond Street Hospital

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

This book is only in small part about genetics - really, it is a story of one of the most used scientific tools of all time (HeLa cells, which mimic cancer in the laboratory) and the story of how they came to be. Neither Henrietta Lacks, nor her family, knew that her cells were taken from her when she was hospitalised. This book weaves together stories from the past and present to bring ethical issues around using human materials in research to the forefront.Use this link to get it now on Amazon Prime whilst supporting Great Ormond Street Hospital

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