Welcome to week 3 of Nonfiction November! We have another classic #NonficNov prompt this week, hosted by Veronica of The Thousand Book Project. Visit her to link up your responses to this discussion topic and any nonfiction book reviews this week. You can also join Jaymi at The OC Book Girl for the Instragram challenge every day this month. Here’s the full text of this week’s prompt:
Be/Ask/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).
I always like to take two approaches to this topic, sharing a topic I’ve read a lot on and asking for your suggestions for topics that I’d like to learn more about. First, here’s my Ask the Expert for the year! I have two topics I’d love to learn more about – politics in the Middle East and the Snowden papers. Since both topics are divisive, I think reading multiple perspectives and books suggested by other readers could help me learn more accurate info on these topics.
Now, for my Be The Expert, I’ve decided to put together a list of nonfiction about genetics and genomics. I’ve always loved this topic (see: my career), but have really gotten back into reading about it lately. I’ve also sorted from easiest to most challenging reads to help you find the best books for you.
I’m Here for the Stories
The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee is one of my favorite books of all time. I actually included it another Be The Expert 2013 and I’ve been recommending it ever since! It was an incredible blend of precise scientific descriptions with incredibly empathetic human stories around the author’s experience as an oncologist.
The Philadelphia Chromosome is the story of the first cancer treatment that targeted the specific, genetic mechanism that caused a specific cancer. It’s clearly covers some basic genetic info and then dives deeply into one specific story. I thought it was a great look at the collaborative way science works and the stories of individual scientists made it engaging.
The Violinist’s Thumb is accessible and engaging like The Philadelphia Chromosome, but takes a much broader look at genomics. I loved all the anecdotes and fun facts in this one.
I’m Up For A Chunkseter
The Gene is another Siddhartha Mukherjee masterpiece. It’s not quite as engaging and heartbreaking as The Emperor of All Maladies, but it’s still an incredible, thorough, clear intro to how genetics works. I’ve not read many books that did into the details this much.
She Has Her Mother’s Laugh is another long one, but more similar to The Violinist’s Thumb in its focus on fascinating anecdotes. The author includes some great stories and also considers philosophical questions about heredity and society that are still relevant today.
Code Breaker is an incredible biography of Noble Prize winning scientist Jennifer Doudna. I felt like I got to know Doudna, I got a clear explanation of of the science, and I got one of the better explorations of philosophical questions around gene editing that I’ve read. This is an all-time favorite read as well.
I Do Science
A Crack in Creation is a memoir by the same Jennifer Doudna in the biography I just mentioned. As a scientist, I had to read this. It’s a look at Doudna’s Noble Prize winning work from her own perspective and I think it’s predestined to become science classic. However, it wasn’t as engaging as the biography though and I actually felt like I didn’t get to know Doudna as well.
I loved The Genome Odyssey and thought it was pretty cool to read a pop science book that goes into detail about how genomic data is generated. However, in part based on conversations with my co-host Rennie, I have to say that it might go into too much detail. It covers some technologies that ended up being dead-ends and the explanations may not be clear enough if you’re not familiar with the topic.