Published by Little Brown & Company on January 1, 2012
Genres/Lists: Non-Fiction, Science/Technology/Psychology
Length: 12 hrs, 35 mins
Read synopsis on Goodreads
Buy the book: Amazon/Audible (this post includes affiliate links)
How much do you know about DNA? If you’re like me, you know the basics – it’s the building block of life and comes in that cool double helix shape, but not much else. If, however, you’re interested in learning more about how DNA works and how it impacts everyday living in incredibly surprising ways, then pick up The Violinist’s Thumb by Sam Kean.
When I first started listening to this book, I was overwhelmed. I wasn’t overwhelmed to the point that I was ready to give it up but I was overwhelmed to the point that I wasn’t sure how much longer I would make it because I began questioning my ability to understand and appreciate the book. Just when I was about to throw in the towel, though, things changed. The book shifted from the detailed minutiae of genetics and DNA and on to how they play a part in everything from hoarding to musical ability, which is where things got interesting. That said, I understood the latter portions of the book much better because I understood the how’s and what’s of DNA so while complicated and frustrating at times, it was worth paying attention to.From DNA to cat pee, The Violinist's Thumb by @sam_kean has it all. #nonfiction Click To Tweet
For example, there is a parasite found in cat pee that contains the same genes that release dopamine in humans, which helps explain why some people become so addicted to their cats and don’t smell the cat pee. Or, the fact that there’s a computer program at UC Berkeley that can sort both book genres and DNA because the sequencing of DNA is so perfect that it can actually be found in books and music. And lastly, how a palindrome caused testes to form because who doesn’t want that fun fact at a party?
The Violinist’s Thumb covers a lot of territory, some of which is extremely scientific and detailed but some of which is absolutely fascinating. From the morbid discussions of Einstein’s stolen body parts to the parasite that causes people to love their cats, the book follows a trajectory that starts out overwhelming and ends up fascinatingly delightful. It’s certainly a book that takes you from one place to another while teaching you things along the way, so if you’re at all interested in Paganini’s outrageously limber ligaments or the stories people used to explain defects way back in the day, then pick this one up.
Recommended for: Anyone interested in the links between DNA and outward behavior.