Herding Hemingway’s Cats: Understanding How Our Genes Work.
Booklist Reviews 2016 February #1
Breakthroughs in the 1960s and '70s in decoding the DNA of microbes fired biologists with hopes for genetic omniscience. But fresh from the frontiers of twenty-first-century research, Arney reports that the genomes of many species (including humans) have stubbornly refused to yield critical secrets, so dashing these hopes. That fact, however, has hardly prevented resourceful geneticists from launching new inquiries. As readers look over the investigators' shoulders, they realize that the genes of mice, cats, bats, and humans are far more dynamic, slippery, and even chaotic than previously supposed. Struggling to come to grips with that genetic chaos, intrepid biologists have learned much about strangely hipless stickleback fish in landlocked lakes, about curiously extra-toed cats prowling Hemingway's estate, and (of course) about inexplicably brainy humans. But even as assiduous investigators answer some genetic conundrums, they expose tantalizing new mysteries. Only those conversant with genetic biochemistry can actually probe these proliferating enigmas, but Arney has well primed her readers to share the intellectual excitement sure to come when today's pioneers announce their findings. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2016 January #1
The human genome is not what the public thinks it is, says Arney, a journalist with a developmental genetics PhD from Cambridge University. Human DNA is not a flawless spiral staircase leading, step by purposeful step, to the perfection of life, for there are too few of us, and we breed too slowly. Because evolution had little time to perfect humans, our genome is filled with "garbage, control switches, and a few thousand proper protein-making genes dotted about in all the mess." Those who decipher it are flawed as well, for "scientists are about as conservative as the average religious type." The author is often highly amusing, and she knows her stuff, but while genetic control switches seem less than "organised," when they play the keyboard of the genome, they produce the awe-inspiring composition that is human intelligence. Arguably, the latter is underdeveloped in this study and could have been emphasized more without stinting on hard truths. VERDICT An intelligent and engaging look at human genetics.—Cynthia Fox, Brooklyn[Page 124]. (c) Copyright 2016 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
PW Reviews 2016 January #2
Writing in a breezy, irreverent style, Arney, a science journalist specializing in genetics, explores what is known about the inner workings of the genome. Her results are both fascinating and surprising. As Arney demonstrates, scientists have uncovered a huge amount since the 1953 discovery of DNA's double helix structure. Scientists can now read DNA sequences easily and quickly, they understand that much of the "junk" DNA in our cells probably plays a role in controlling the functioning of our genes, and they have come to grips with the fact that pieces of DNA occasionally "jump" around the genome. But Arney also points out that much remains unknown. At the most basic level, it is no longer clear that scientists have a meaningful or concise definition of a gene, and the nature of gene regulation has turned out to be far more complex than most originally thought. Arney interviews a host of scientists at the cutting edge of genetics and provides insight into their experiments, as well as into the scientific enterprise. She dismantles some of the commonly accepted wisdom about epigenetics and discusses how some traits might be passed from parent to offspring without the direct involvement of DNA. Both specialists and general readers will find much to savor in Arney's excellent work. (Mar.)[Page ]. Copyright 2016 PWxyz LLC