The Gene: An Intimate History - Siddhartha Mukherjee
In 2011, when the Pulitzer committee awarded Siddhartha Mukherjee the non-fiction prize, it praised The Emperor of All Maladies as “an elegant inquiry, at once clinical and personal.” Well, he’s done it again in The Gene: An Intimate History (Scribner, $32), which tells the story of the development of genetics by weaving science and social history with some of Mukherjee’s personal narrative about his own relatives. As Mukherjee recalls in the acknowledgments, he was actually so physically and mentally exhausted after Emperor that he hadn’t expected to write another book. But The Gene turns out to be a natural pairing with Emperor—a sort of prequel in that it focuses on biological normalcy before things get distorted into the malignancy of cancer. If you’ve ever wondered how much of our lives is determined by genes or by external environmental factors, read this book. But don’t expect a simple answer!