Top positive review
A book that broadens your vision...
22 June 2016
I liked the book-The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Being a former teacher of Human Anatomy including Genetics, I am aware of the vastness of the subject and its branches but this book covers all the important aspects in less than 600 pages. The book has been divided into Parts and in each Part, there are several chapters; this makes convenient reading. All the parts and chapters have been thought provokingly titled.
The author has meticulously avoided technical terms as the book is intended to be for the lay readers. If you are interested in the development and evolution of the subject, this is a book for you; it makes interesting reading. The author’s background has lent authenticity to the contents. He has tried to give justice to every character who contributed significantly: Aristotle, Darwin, Mendel, Morgan, Bateson, Johannsen, Galton, Garrod, Beadle and Tatum, Jacob and Monod, Watson and Crick, Khorana, McKusick, Sanger, Berg, Venter, Gurdon and Yamanaka; it is actually ‘Who is who’ of Genetics. Some new terms like previvors have been introduced and Human Genome project has been discussed in details.
The narrative is so detailed and vivid that we feel that the author was personally present when and where the history (and the future) happened! I enjoyed reading accounts pertaining to Eugenics, BRCA1, Indian counter part of Nazism, sexual identity, Gay gene etc. I tend to agree with the author’s prediction- “The discontinuity of genes-the discreteness and autonomy of each individual unit of heredity-will turn out to be an illusion: genes may yet be more interconnected than we think.” That would be the end of the prevalent reductionist view of the word-Gene.
A clinician is mainly concerned with what can be applied on patients in the clinic. In spite of the tremendous strides that Genetics has taken in recent years, there is not much that can be offered to the needy patients as far as the curative treatment is concerned; this is particularly true for the mental ailments (the author with several members of his family suffering from such disorders knows about this more intimately than anyone else) and the cancers. Some of the advancements are rightly facing political, social and ethical hurdles. If researches on the stem cell and gene therapy are approved wholeheartedly in due course of time, we may see more practically beneficial genetics which not only satisfy curiosity but also cures. Human Genome project has been rightly proved to be just the beginning in this direction; we are now eagerly awaiting the outcomes of Human Epigenome project and Encode. This is a book that broadens your vision whatever your background may be.