August 3, 2012

Looking for some summer reading?

I like reading popular science books, and go through quite a lot of them. However, recently I have become increasingly picky. Due to overconsumption, I now tend to avoid books on cognitive biases, behavioural economics and such like. I am probably victim of an inverse mere exposure effect.

Another area that I avoid due to overexposure is genomics. As I spend my days working in the field, I prefer to spend my nights reading about other things. This means that I have not read a popular science book on genomics since Matt Ridley's fantastic Genome.

For Elizabeth Finkel's The Genome Generation I made an exception, and I do not regret it. Finkel writes beautifully, knows the subject, and is never boring - in other words, she is a good science writer.

Where she really excels is at covering the areas of genomics less explored by others, such as agrigenomics and immunogenomics

Finkel is clearly and unapologetically enthusiastic about genomics. There is not a lot of mention in The Genome Generation of the ethical questions that a lot of science journalists seem to be obsessed with. If this is what you are looking for, then this is not the right book for you. However, if you are interested in the science itself, then it may be.

My only complaint are the figures: Although they are clear and get the message across, they are also ugly and look a lot like clip art.

If you wonder whether The Genome Generation is for you, here are the most important facts:

Areas covered: Epigenetics, Personal Genomics, Immunogenomics (especially AIDS), Agrigenomics, Ancestral Genomes.

Who it is for: If you want a clear primer to genomics and its diverse applications. If you want something more readable than an academic textbook.

Who it is not for: If you have had recent training in biology or biochemistry, you will already be familiar with most of the material. If you are looking mainly for entertainment, and if you are interested only in Personal Genomics, you will be better served with My Beautiful Genome by Lone Frank.

How much it costs: For reasons I do not understand, Finkel chose Melbourne University Press as her publisher, and they are not cheap. They recommended retail price is $32.95, but online the book is available for $21.75.

Thanks to the Sanger Institute Library for ordering this book following my suggestion.

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