She Has Her Mother's Laugh Summary and Reviews

She Has Her Mother's Laugh

The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity

by Carl Zimmer

She Has Her Mother's Laugh by Carl Zimmer X
She Has Her Mother's Laugh by Carl Zimmer

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Book Summary

Award-winning, celebrated New York Times columnist and science writer Carl Zimmer presents a history of our understanding of heredity in this sweeping, resonating overview of a force that shaped human society - a force set to shape our future even more radically.

She Has Her Mother's Laugh presents a profoundly original perspective on what we pass along from generation to generation. Charles Darwin played a crucial part in turning heredity into a scientific question, and yet he failed spectacularly to answer it. The birth of genetics in the early 1900s seemed to do precisely that. Gradually, people translated their old notions about heredity into a language of genes. As the technology for studying genes became cheaper, millions of people ordered genetic tests to link themselves to missing parents, to distant ancestors, to ethnic identities. ...

But, Zimmer writes, "Each of us carries an amalgam of fragments of DNA, stitched together from some of our many ancestors. Each piece has its own ancestry, traveling a different path back through human history. A particular fragment may sometimes be cause for worry, but most of our DNA influences who we are - our appearance, our height, our penchants - in inconceivably subtle ways." Heredity isn't just about genes that pass from parent to child. Heredity continues within our own bodies, as a single cell gives rise to trillions of cells that make up our bodies. We say we inherit genes from our ancestors - using a word that once referred to kingdoms and estates - but we inherit other things that matter as much or more to our lives, from microbes to technologies we use to make life more comfortable. We need a new definition of what heredity is and, through Carl Zimmer's lucid exposition and storytelling, this resounding tour de force delivers it.

Weaving historical and current scientific research, his own experience with his two daughters, and the kind of original reporting expected of one of the world's best science journalists, Zimmer ultimately unpacks urgent bioethical quandaries arising from new biomedical technologies, but also long-standing presumptions about who we really are and what we can pass on to future generations.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. A magnificent work... Journalist Zimmer masterfully blends exciting storytelling with first-rate science reporting. His book is as engrossing as it is enlightening." - Publishers Weekly

"Overall, Zimmer's latest offers a comprehensive look at all aspects of heredity in readable and accessible text for anyone interested in the topic." - Library Journal

"No one unravels the mysteries of science as brilliantly and compellingly as Carl Zimmer, and he has proven it again with She Has Her Mother's Laugh - a sweeping, magisterial book that illuminates the very nature of who we are." - David Grann, #1 New York Times bestselling author, award-winning staff writer at The New Yorker, and author most recently of Killers of the Flower Moon

"Zimmer writes like a dream, teaches a ton of accessible science, and provides the often intensely moving stories of the people whose lives have been saved or destroyed by this topic. I loved this book." - Robert Sapolsky, Professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, and author of New York Times bestseller Behave

"She Has Her Mother's Laugh is a masterpiece - a career-best work from one of the world's premier science writers, on a topic that literally touches every person on the planet." - Ed Yong, author of New York Times bestseller I Contain Multitudes, staff writer at The Atlantic

"She Has Her Mother's Laugh is at once far-ranging, imaginative, and totally relevant. Carl Zimmer makes the complex science of heredity read like a novel, and explains why the subject has been - and always will be - so vexed." - Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Pulitzer Prize winner The Sixth Extinction

"Carl Zimmer lifts off the lid, dumps out the contents, and sorts through the pieces of one of history's most problematic ideas: heredity...it explains some remarkably complicated science with equally remarkable clarity - a totally impressive job all around." - Charles C. Mann, author of New York Times bestseller 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

"Carl Zimmer is not only among my favorite science writers - he's also now responsible for making me wonder why there is more Neanderthal DNA on earth right now than when Neanderthals were here, and why humanity is getting taller and smarter in the last few generations. " - Charles Duhigg, author of the bestselling Smarter Faster Better and The Power of Habit

"The breadth of his perspective is extraordinarily compelling, compassionate, and valuable. Please read this book now." - Jennifer Doudna, professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UC Berkeley, co-author of the New York Times bestseller A Crack in Creation

"Zimmer is a born story-teller. Or is he an inherited story-teller? The inspiring and heartbreaking stories in She Has Her Mother's Laugh build a fundamentally new perspective on what previous generations have delivered to us, and what we can pass along. An outstanding book and great accomplishment." - Daniel Levitin, author of New York Times bestselling The Organized Mind and This is Your Brain on Music

"With this book, Carl Zimmer rises from being our best biological science writer to being one of our very best non-fiction writers in any field, period." - Kevin Padian, professor of Integrative Biology and curator of Museum of Paleontology at UC Berkeley

"This book is a timely account of the uses and misuses of some of the science that directly impact our lives today. It is also a career moment by one of our most important and graceful writers. Here is a book to be savored." - Neil Shubin, bestselling author of Your Inner Fish

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Author Information

Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes the Matter column for the New York Times and has frequently contributed to The Atlantic, National Geographic, Time, and Scientific American, among others. He has won the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Science Journalism Award three times, among a host of other awards and fellowships. He teaches science writing at Yale University. His previous books include Parasite Rex, Evolution and Microcosm.

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