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The Gene is the story of one of the most powerful and dangerous ideas in our history.

Selected as a Book of the Year by The New York Times, The Economist, Independent, Observer and Mail on Sunday

THE NEW YORK TIMES NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER

SHORTLISTED FOR THE WELLCOME BOOK PRIZE 2017

‘Dramatic and precise… [A] thrilling and comprehensive account of what seems certain to be the most radical, controversial and, to borrow from the subtitle, intimate science of our time… He is a natural storyteller… A page-turner… Read this book and steel yourself for what comes next’
Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times

The Gene is the story of one of the most powerful and dangerous ideas in our history, from bestselling, prize-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee.

Spanning the globe and several centuries, The Gene is the story of the quest to decipher the master-code that makes and defines humans, that governs our form and function.

This is an epic, moving history of a scientific idea coming to life, by the author of The Emperor of All Maladies. But woven through The Gene, like a red line, is also an intimate history – the story of Mukherjee’s own family and its recurring pattern of mental illness, reminding us that genetics is vitally relevant to everyday lives. These concerns reverberate even more urgently today as we learn to “read” and “write” the human genome – unleashing the potential to change the fates and identities of our children.

The story of the gene begins in an obscure Augustinian abbey in Moravia in 1856 where a monk stumbles on the idea of a ‘unit of heredity’. It intersects with Darwin’s theory of evolution, and collides with the horrors of Nazi eugenics in the 1940s. The gene transforms post-war biology. It reorganizes our understanding of sexuality, temperament, choice and free will. This is a story driven by human ingenuity and obsessive minds – from Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel to Francis Crick, James Watson and Rosalind Franklin, and the thousands of scientists still working to understand the code of codes.

Majestic in its ambition, and unflinching in its honesty, The Gene gives us a definitive account of the fundamental unit of heredity – and a vision of both humanity’s past and future.

Reviews

With a marriage of architectural precision and luscious narrative, an eye for both the paradoxical detail and the unsettling irony, and a genius for locating the emotional truths buried in chemical abstractions, Mukherjee leaves you feeling as though you’ve just aced a college course for which you’d been afraid to register — and enjoyed every minute of it

Andrew Solomon, Washington Post

[Siddhartha Mukherjee] is the perfect person to guide us through the past, present, and future of genome science… It is up to all of us—not just scientists, government officials, and people fortunate enough to lead foundations—to think hard about these new technologies and how they should and should not be used. Reading The Gene will get you the point where you can actively engage in that debate.

Bill Gates, Gatesnotes

The Gene is prodigious, sweeping, and ultimately transcendent. If you’re interested in what it means to be human, today and in the tomorrows to come, you must read this book.

Anthony Doerr, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of All the Light We Cannot See

Dramatic and precise... [A] thrilling and comprehensive account of what seems certain to be the most radical, controversial and, to borrow from the subtitle, intimate science of our time... He is a natural storyteller... A page-turner... Read this book and steel yourself for what comes next.

Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times

The story […] has been told, piecemeal, in different ways, but never before with the scope and grandeur that Siddhartha Mukherjee brings to his new history, The Gene. He fully justifies the claim that it is “one of the most powerful and dangerous ideas in the history of science.” … Definitive

James Gleick, New York Times Book Review

[The Gene is] destined to soar into the firmament of the year's must reads, to win accolades and well-deserved prizes, and to set a new standard for lyrical science writing.

New York Times

The Gene is as engaging, powerful and elegant a piece of science writing as you are likely to read this year… Mukherjee has three rare talents. The first is a shining prose style quite unlike anything else in his field… A novelist’s command of narrative and tone. The third and most unusual talent is an eye for the lustre among the manifold drudgeries of research… It takes a skilful writer to turn all the personalities and patients, data and ideas into something that is dramatic without being melodramatic… The Gene succeeds as a compelling story... For this alone, Mukherjee deserves another part-time Pulitzer.

Oliver Moody, The Times

Mukherjee is an assured, polished wordsmith… This is a big book, bursting with complex ideas… Well-written, accessible and entertaining account of one of the most important of all scientific revolutions, one that is destined to have a fundamental impact on the lives of generations to come. The Gene is an important guide to that future.

Robin McKie, Observer

His sweeping and compellingly told history – and there is no more accessible and vivid survey available – is about hubristic ambition as much as stunning achievement.

Guardian

Magisterial ... [The Gene] will confirm [Mukherjee] as our era’s preeminent popular historian of medicine. The Gene boasts an even more ambitious sweep of human endeavor than its predecessor ... Mukherjee punctuates his encyclopaedic investigations of collective and individual heritability, and our closing in on the genetic technologies that will transform how we will shape our own genome, with evocative personal anecdotes, deft literary allusions, wonderfully apt metaphors, and an irrepressible intellectual brio

Elle magazine (US)

[It] takes a monumental and complex subject which is woven into every part of our lives and makes it both gripping and accessible.

Mark Haddon, Guardian

Not just first-class science writing but an important intellectual contribution in its own right.

Philip Ball, Prospect

He writes with the natural flate of a seasoned novelist… [The Gene] is a pleasure to read… This is an exceptional book, and I thoroughly recommend it to every inquisitive person.

Tabish Khair, Daily Mail

The book is compassionate, tautly synthesized… A page-turner.

Jennifer Senior, New York Times

Mukherjee is an outstanding guide…[The Gene] is a remarkably instructive, stimulating and, at every level of its generous construction, artful work of popular science.

Gregory Radick, Times Literary Supplement

Visceral and thought-provoking descriptions of the horrors of early-twentieth-century US eugenics.

Matthew Cobb, Nature

Virtuoso performance… Remarkably clear and compelling prose… Glorious tour of human genetics.

Abigail Zuger, New York Times

Remarkable and thought-provoking book… Mukherjee explores in considerable and lucid detail… What he does magnificently is trace the history of the gene in illuminating detail… If you want to know what is happening now, this is an essential read.

Simon Griffith, Mail on Sunday

Outstanding... an exceptional writer

The Times

A sweeping history of genetic theory and a considered look at where it might lead us in the future.

Mail on Sunday, Book of the Year

Dazzling... There is nothing about Gene that is less than nuanced.

Sathnam Sanghera, The Times

A magnificent synthesis of the science of life, and forces all to confront the essence of that science as well as the ethical and philosophical challenges to our conception of what constitutes being human

Paul Berg, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Wise and lucid...excellent

Andrew Marr, BBC Radio 4 Start the Week

A tourist guide to the new Africa, the human genome… Mukherjee gives an exhaustive account of the development of the modern science of inheritance… Mukherjee does a good job of cutting away the web of ambiguity and complexity’

Steve Jones, New Statesman

Written with the rollicking enthusiasm of sports journalism… Mukherjee has an ear for his subject’s rhetorical brilliance.

Andrew Solomon, Guardian Weekly

Meticulous… Carefully constructed, deliberate prose.

Sumit Paul-Choudary, Literary Review

Makes a compelling case that our ability to harness the medical benefits of genomic science while avoiding its hazards promises to be among the defining challenges of the 21st century.

Andrew Ward, Financial Times

Mukherjee has done readers an admirable service, by turning one of the most important scientific sagas – arguably the most important – in history into a tale that is too good not to know

Globe and Mail

Rather wonderful book… All-encompassing and eye-opening and moving and amusing, at times, and endlessly fascinating and truly brilliant… As long as intelligent, empathetic, thoughtful people like himself are to the forefront, it should turn out alright.

Darragh McManus, Irish Independnet

An accessible and beautifully written overview of the complex field of genetics by the Indian-born doctor. It’s compellingly personal and provocative, too.

Telegraph

Mukherjee views his subject panoptically from a great and clarifying height, yet also intimately.

James Gleick, Scotland on Sunday

Dr Mukherjee uses personal experience to particularly good effect… He writes tenderly.

The Economist

[A] Magisterial historical survey.

Philip Ball, Chemistry World

Mukherjee has a gift for making gripping, vivid narrative out of the cataclysmic but largely invisible drama of molecular biology.

Lev Grossman, Time Magazine

Compelling

Stuart Ritchie, Spectator

Fascinating, complex and accessible.

Anna Carey, Irish Times

Intimate, insider’s account of the role that genetics.

Nilanjana Roy, Financial Times

A tourist guide to the twenty-first century’s uncharted continent, the human genome... Gives a full and lively account of the development of the subject... He has talked to many of the main players and gives deep insights into their moments of discovery... Mukherjee does a good job of cutting away the web of ambiguity and complexity that scientists have woven.

Steve Jones, New Statesman

A daring and highly personal voyage into the future of genetic research

Vogue

The Gene’s dominant traits are historical breadth, clinical compassion, and Mukherjee’s characteristic graceful style… Mukherjee writes eloquently

Nathaniel Comfort, Atlantic

A fine read, with many fine stories.

David McConnell, Irish Times

[It is] accessible and beautifully written… It’s compellingly personal and provocative, too.

Daily Telegraph

The Gene is a staggeringly impressive piece of writing… [It] takes us on a fascinating journey through the world of genetics… Written with a clarity that brings the most complex concepts to life… An accessible, gripping and thought-provoking read. In short, this book is a masterpiece and you should read it.

Jamie Durrani, Chemistry World

An essential read.

Mail on Sunday

Inspiring and tremendously evocative

San Francisco Chronicle

A fascinating read

Hugh Jackman

You may think this book is not for you. Thing again… My only caution would be not to recommend it to too many people… So whether you’re a teacher or parent attempting to inspire…or you simply want an erudite anecdote, this book is for you. It’s a dazzling example of scientific story-telling and definitely my book of the year.

Cath Murray, School's Week

An epic 150-year, 500-plus page journey of genetic discovery… [An] excellent and authoritative account.

Charalambos Kyriacou, Times Higher Education

This is a brilliantly readable celebration of the science and scientists who have transformed out understanding of what it means to be human.

Nick Rennison, Daily Mail

The Gene is a truly impressive achievement… Mukherjee has created a masterwork of the history of the gene and its study. In this popular science book, scientist and non-scientist readers alike will feel they have a true understanding of the history, biology and ethics of genetics.

Bio News

He deftly lays out a history of the gene… One of the great science books of the decade with an engagingly enthusiastic personality at its heart.

Saga Magazine

[A]superbly written tale.

Stephen Meyler, RTE Guide

Mukherjee writes with clarity and passion… This should prove a fascinating read for anyone interested in understanding how far the study of the gene has taken us, particularly with respect to medicine, and where the future may lie.

Emma McConnell, Pharmaceutical Journal

Ambitious and honest, The Gene sheds light on both our past and future.

Kitty Knowles, Memo

Mukherjee’s text brims with potential… Surely The Gene has to be the new bible for a new generation of aspiring biologists, biochemists and, frankly, thinking people? So whether you’re a teacher or parent attempting to inspire a reluctant teen to get excited about science, or you simply want an erudite anecdote, this book is for you. It’s a dazzling example of scientific story-telling, and definitely my book of the year.

School's Week

If you want a good overview of the history of the gene, you can’t go wrong starting here.

Paul Cheney, Nudge

A provocative and engaging [read].

Independent Nurse

Mukherjee’s prose tends to be lavish, but this befits the weighty topic, and his explanatory style is clear yet enveloping… Compelling scientific and medical storytelling… A spectacular effort from an author I hopes has plenty more tales to tell.

Euan Ashley, Lancet

An essential guide to biology.

Gentleman's Journal, Book of the Year

A brilliant, chunky, study of genes.

William Leith, Evening Standard

This book captures the progression from that intuitive sense of genetics to its birth as a veritable science and, for better or for worse, its evolution into a powerful tool… The book ends not with a conclusion, but with a feeling of anticipation… In many ways, The Gene is a call for caution and for a thoughtful consideration of the possibilities that progress may bring… When genes become tools, what will those tools be used for? As we try to answer that question, Mukherjee’s book asks us to carefully look back before we continue to move forward

Claire McDaniel & Daniel Marchalik, British Medical Journal

A comprehensive – and gripping – history of the gene

Emma Finamore, Memo

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9780099584575

    April 18, 2017

    Vintage

    608 pages

    RRP $24.99

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  • EBook

    9781448181162

    June 2, 2016

    Vintage Digital

    608 pages

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