Neat. Tough sledding, but neat.
“Mutants” Armand Marie Leroy is about, well, mutants: people born with genetic or other birth defects. Unlike most books I’ve seen on these people, this isn’t a social history of freak shows and freak society. It’s a science-for-the-layperson book, looking at how humans (and other animals) develop in the womb, and taking what happens when that process goes wrong as a way of understanding what happens when it goes right.
The book is tough going at times. It really, really doesn’t dumb down the science; as a result, there were good-sized stretches that I didn’t follow at all and just had to skim. And I’m usually pretty good with this “science for laypeople” kind of thing.
But I found it very much worth it. I have a far better sense now (which is to say, any sense at all) of how exactly DNA and embryonic development works, how the genetic code tells an embryo to do what it does. And I have a much, much better sense of gaping awe and wonder at the fact that this un-fucking-believably complicated and delicate process even works at all, not to mention that it works most of the time. I’m feeling much more humble since reading it: less inclined to gripe about my petty aches and pains (asthma, allergies, bum knees, etc.), and more grateful for the fact that my body basically works, and has for over 40 years.
Nitpick: I do wish there had been more pictures. Not just because the pictures it does have are cool, but because I think I would have been baffled less often if there had been more visual imagery.
Books I’m currently still in the middle of:
“Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond
“The Forbidden Zone” by Michael Lesy
“Will The Circle Be Unbroken?” by Studs Terkel
“Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius
“The Onion Ad Nauseum: Complete Archives Volume 14″ by the staff of The Onion
“Zounds! A Browser’s Dictionary of Interjections” by Mark Dunn
“Existentialism and Human Emotions” by Jean-Paul Sartre
“Essays” by Michel de Montaigne