The Violinist’s Thumb, Nonfiction Review

Author Sam Kean

The Violinist’s Thumb: And Other Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code

The full title of The Violinist’s Thumb fills in what it’s about pretty well. Sam Kean takes the reader on an exploration of how genes and DNA can affect every little aspect of human life. He also goes into the history of how it was discovered, how it’s been used and manipulated, and how it may be used in the future.

It’s a well written book, I’ve yet to be let down by Kean in that aspect. He really does his research and he knows how to meld history, science, and human interest into a fully readable story.

My personal problem with this book is probably just my own. I think I’ve officially read too many books on subjects similar to those discussed in The Violinist’s Thumb. I already knew a lot of what this book talks about.

I am not saying this will be universal as I used to perform genetic research for my local science museum (before covid) so it makes sense that I already know a lot of the science. I found myself skimming those pages to get to the next story.

But then I already knew the stories. I used to listen to hours and hours of podcasts a day while I was at work at my previous job. Many of these were science and history based so they already covered a lot of this ground. I suppose this is the burden of being very interested in a subject. At some point it’s no longer new.

It would be unfair to let this personal conundrum lower the rating of this otherwise highly educational book. This is just my experience with it at this point in my life.

If you are new to the subject matter this would be a great place to start. Kean makes difficult subjects approachable. His writing doesn’t dumb everything down and sound condescending, he just makes it simple to understand.

He finds truly interesting human interest stories to accompany the science and history lessons about genes and DNA. These stories really help make the lessons applicable to our own lives. It takes the lecture from the classroom to the home front.

My only other complaint about this book is that there are many footnotes that add nothing to the context. I stopped checking them after a while because so few of them were at all interesting.

Other than that this is a great science non-fiction read for those wanting to try out a new subject. For seasoned science readers there are probably still a few stories that you’ll find interesting, I’m definitely glad I read it.

4/5 double helixes 🧬🧬🧬🧬

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Buy it here: The Violinist’s Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code

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