- Paganini. Yes, Paganini.
I also recommend:
- The Uncanny by Sigmund Freud
Summary from GoodReads:
In The Disappearing Spoon, bestselling author Sam Kean unlocked the mysteries of the periodic table. In THE VIOLINIST’S THUMB, he explores the wonders of the magical building block of life: DNA.
There are genes to explain crazy cat ladies, why other people have no fingerprints, and why some people survive nuclear bombs. Genes illuminate everything from JFK’s bronze skin (it wasn’t a tan) to Einstein’s genius. They prove that Neanderthals and humans bred thousands of years more recently than any of us would feel comfortable thinking. They can even allow some people, because of the exceptional flexibility of their thumbs and fingers, to become truly singular violinists.
Kean’s vibrant storytelling once again makes science entertaining, explaining human history and whimsy while showing how DNA will influence our species’ future.
I’m going to be honest and tell you the entire reason I picked up The Violinist’s Thumb by Sam Kean is not because I’m interested in biology or DNA or anything to do with science really – it’s because the name Paganini drew me in.
I’ve never been the type of girl to understand science. The closest I came was a low C in Biology 14 years ago when I attended the University of Wyoming. Ever since then I’ve operated under the assumption that magic sparkles course through my veins, that storks bring babies to deserving parents, and that my father gave me his caterpillar eyebrows as a way to torture me in my later years of life. Sound silly? Of course it does – that’s because when I see science explained it looks as strange to me as reading a difficult piece of piano sheet music might to you (I say might here because I’m operating under the assumption that you don’t play Rachmaninoff on a daily basis.)
In spite of all these misgivings, the name of Paganini, the famous violinists who – folk lore states – sold his soul to the devil for his ability to play drew me in to this book. Random fact: Franz Liszt (also rumored to be demonic in places) studied Paganini’s skill on the violin and translated it to the piano. He also was the first to play music memorized on the stage for a concert. I blame him for my many breakdowns.
So Paganini was the bait, but what hooked me about this book was just how accessible the science was. Seriously, it blew me away. In between serious chunks of letters and strands and things I know nothing about were anecdotal stories and historic lessons about names and things I had never known about. It opened up a whole new world to me and in the process, I like to think, I learned a little something more then I expected to.
Fully enjoyable, well-researched and surprisingly fun – this book gave me really strange DNA dreams and made me feel a little bit like a smart person … for a short while.
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