Author: Jennifer A. Doudna, Samuel H. Sternberg
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Summary: A valuable perspective, but less comprehensive or engaging than the more recent Isaacson bio.
This memoir from Dr. Jennifer Doudna, Nobel prize-winning co-discoverer of the CRISPR gene editing system, is sure to become a science classic. Like The Double Helix by James Watson, it’s a chance to hear about an incredible scientific discovery from one of the scientists involved.
Despite the value of this first-person perspective, I must admit that for most readers, I’d recommend Walter Isaacson’s new biography of Doudna instead. Since this book was published several years prior to Isaacson’s bio, most of this story was also included in his book. I’m sure he used it as a source. Doudna’s book was clearly and simply written. It includes slightly more scientific detail than Isaacson’s book. However, she spends at least as much time explaining basic biology and is sometimes repetitive. Doudna’s book was not quite as engaging as Isaacson’s either, which makes sense given that only one of them is a professional author.
I think scientists and non-scientists alike are likely to enjoy the Isaacson book more. If you’re interested enough in this story though, these two books made for a great pairing. The difference I found most interesting was that Isaacson clearly identifies Doudna’s competitive side. Here, she emphasizes how happy she was to collaborate, never expressing the frustration she must have felt when being scooped. I would probably recommend reading Doudna’s book first. I think Isaacson’s book will hold up better as a second look at this story. He also covers her more recent work, post her publication of this book. As a scientist doing related work, I’m glad I read both.