Science Nonfiction Review: The Genome Odyssey

March 8, 2021 Uncategorized 6 ★★★★

Science Nonfiction Review: The Genome OdysseyTitle: The Genome Odyssey: The Promise of Precision Medicine to Define, Detect, and Defeat Disease
Author: Euan Angus Ashley
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Summary: I loved the patient stories in this book and am excited to find a popular science book explaining the details of precision medicine.

If you’ve ever been interested in the potential of genome sequencing for personalized medicine, I highly recommend this book. Stanford professor and author, Dr. Euan Ashley, covers the development of sequencing technology in great detail. He also includes many fascinating, moving cases of patients who have been helped by precision medicine. Then he wraps up with a look to possible future developments in the field.

This book is very close to covering exactly what I do for work (although I’m on the research side, not in medicine). In some ways, that makes me a great reader and reviewer for this book. I can tell you that it contains accurate information with a high degree of confidence. Personally, it also made it more fun to read that I’ve met some of the people mentioned and heard of many others. On the other hand, I don’t feel confident in my ability to tell if concepts were explained clearly enough for any reader. I know I admired some of the analogies the author used and I think everything is explained well. I already knew many of the concepts in this book though, so it’s probably easier for me to follow than for other readers. I also found it a little more difficult to enjoy this during a week when I was already quite busy with work!

I thought the level of detail the author went into was quite impressive. He didn’t avoid explaining technical concepts, which were necessary for him to tell some incredible stories. While the technical bits make me excited to be able to recommend this to anyone who wants to know more about what I do, the patient stories were my favorite parts. The research descriptions included some good people stories, but nothing so moving as hearing about how scientific advances improved quality and/or length of life for specific patients. For that reason, I would also recommend this book to people who enjoy medical memoirs, although only if you’re up for a healthy does of science concepts as well. And this is definitely the book I’ll reach for in the future if someone wants to understand how sequencing technology can impact health and medicine.

6 Responses to “Science Nonfiction Review: The Genome Odyssey”

  1. Helen Murdoch

    Including patient stories is a great idea as it helps the reader understand how the more technical/scientific aspects play out in real life. It’s always fun to read a book where you are acquainted with the people and the industry.

    • DoingDewey

      It’s true! The patient stories really showed the impact of the science and even as a science person, I thought the human element they added to the story was one of the strongest elements of the book.

      And I do enjoy reading books about people or places I know. It makes me feel like I’m in on a secret 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      Good point! I do think you could probably find really good resources online if anything wasn’t clear. I’m optimistic it is clear enough, but yeah, it’s a little hard to say for sure on a topic this close to my work life 🙂

  2. Rennie

    I was curious about this one when I first heard of it, but not having such a good foundation/background in the subject area, I was immediately unsure whether I’d be able to grasp all of it. It makes it so much more interesting that it’s the work you’re doing and that you have personal connections to some of the people in it! How cool. I think I’m going to see if I can get it from the library and give it a try, especially if you say you can vouch for the accuracy in particular 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      I was sorry to hear that this didn’t work quite as well for you. I found hearing your thoughts on it really helpful though. I felt like the author might have tried to pack too much in, but as someone in the field, it was was fun to see that much detail. I just finished The Codebreaker, a bio of Nobel prize winner Jennifer Doudna, and I thought the author did a much better job of explicitly calling out which things it was important for the reader to remember.

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