Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity” as Want to Read:
She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity

4.1  ·  Rating details ·  164 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
Carl Zimmer presents a history of our understanding of heredity in this sweeping, resonating overview of a force that shaped human society--a force set to shape our future even more radically.

She Has Her Mother's Laugh presents a profoundly original perspective on what we pass along from generation to generation. Charles Darwin played a crucial part in turning heredity int
Hardcover, 544 pages
Published May 29th 2018 by Dutton
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, science
Yes, it's long – about 540 or so actual pages of text, followed by a glossary, bibliography and endnotes – but She Has Her Mother's Laugh does not waste a single page. Carl Zimmer has produced a masterpiece of science writing, distilling incredibly complex concepts into understandable and relatable language by using narrative journalism and personal anecdotes to perfect effect. Any questions you've had about DNA, genes, inheritance, and the moral and ethical questions surrounding them will be an ...more
Pam Mooney
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An amazing and well researched book. Takes us through the history and research of heredity from
first works to today. It was so interesting to know where we started and how little we knew about heredity not that long ago. Some scientific researchers got it right and others drew wrong conclusions which may be forgivable for the time period but caused so much harm. There were certainly many ethical dilemmas that came in strong. Although it includes studies and scientific outcomes it is easy to rea
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a brilliant earth shuttering book! The staff good science fiction is made of except happening IRL now as we live. So many amazing new ideas and facts, I was forced to stop reading and just contemplate and share with friends and family what I read. I'm not very good at science, although love reading pop science books and magazines, yet this book was quite accessible even to someone with barely passable grade in biology class. I would love to thank the author for the wonderful experience of r ...more
Jul 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
Heredity is the sum of all the previous environments and the current environment we were thrown into. Who we are as a species and as individuals is far more complicated than just our genes. Mendel’s law is a suggestion more than a law. This book lays the ground work for each of those assertions and steps the listener through some of the history of our understanding of the subject and reviews some of the current new research that has been transpiring over the last five years or so.

Humans are spe
Ernst Hafen
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating journey through the multi-facetted biological basis, historical and societal impact of heredity; from Aristotle to plant and animal breeders in the 18th and 19th century to Darwin, Mendel, eugenics, pre-implantation diagnostics and CRISPR/Cas. Carl Zimmer tells the story not in a chronological way but in different vignettes of researchers that are careful, struggle with or are too confident about their discoveries. The book reads or is listened to easily. Zimmer reduces scientific ...more
Jun 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Polo Lonergan
Jun 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Parts of this book are interesting. Parts are excrutiatingly dry. It felt like it took me forever to slog through the ending.
Jun 06, 2018 rated it liked it
If you haven't been following or reading any news on genetics research, then this is an excellent primer, but if you do follow the science pages, there isn't much that is new in here. It's all interesting, but it's written by a reporter on science so none of it is firsthand research and the book isn't coherent enough to be memorable
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: genetics
Great book with numerous points of insight into modern genetics and heredity. The middle lost some momentum, but the author did a great job of finishing well and tying the whole storyline together by the end giving the read a feeling more akin to a novel rather than a textbook.
Gerard Villegas
After reading this, I'm gonna clone myself with my DNA or create a homonculous to help restart humanity. Lord knows we need it
Nazia Naz
The given title she has her mothers laugh attracted me I want to read it.
Isaac Larkin
Beautifully written, tackles important and fascinating areas of heredity. I was surprised to learn that if you go back just a few generations, your odds of sharing *any* DNA with any particular ancestor drops to almost 0 (and if you go back just a few thousand years, then every human being alive then is either every living person's direct ancestor, or no one's.

Zimmer also does a good job of tackling the ways in which the study of inheritance has been misused, from the eugenics movement to scien
Amy C.
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Carl Zimmer delivers a wonderful tribute to the perplexities and fascinating aspects of our DNA in this remarkably illuminating book.
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
The best word to describe this book has to be 'comprehensive'. This is a lengthy and comprehensive overview of every aspect of heredity. It looks at sociological understandings of heredity throughout history, of the history of scientific understanding of heredity, of the discovery Mendel's Law and DNA, of the evolutionary development of DNA, of heredity within the cells of our bodies, of other pathways of heredity besides DNA, of the future of heredity thanks to cutting edge science. Heredity's ...more
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a book about heredity, but Zimmer explores the scope of heredity far beyond what most of us think of when we hear that word. "Thinking broadly about hereditary might help us outside of laboratories as well. In the United States, it has proven all too tempting over the centuries to blame poverty and inequality on biology..." "Others have argued that the gulfs in the United States are the product of the environment into which people are born and grow up. But the word environment is too bla ...more
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Review of:
She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity

Carl Zimmer (Goodreads Author)

Carl Zimmer presents a history of our understanding of heredity in this sweeping, resonating overview of a force that shaped human society--a force set to shape our future even more radically.

She Has Her Mother's Laugh presents a profoundly original perspective on what we pass along from generation to generation. Charles Darwin played a crucial part in turning heredity into
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
The secrets of heredity have always fascinated human beings. Scientific pursuit of the manipulation of the odds of heredity among domestic plants and animals, as well as the works of Lamark, Darwin others, offering theories behind the rules codified by Mendel, led also to efforts by eugenicists to "elevate" humanity by controlling the ability of humans to reproduce ourselves. Carl Zimmer writes this engaging book about heredity and our enduring interest in it.

With the discovery of DNA, the idea
Jul 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: biology
This is a popular history of genetics from classical times through the twentieth century, when most of it was figured out, to the present. There is a lot of fascinating stuff for the non-biologist: a contagious tumor as an immortal life form derived from dogs; embryos giving their stem cells to mothers, who then give them to their subsequent children; a human hermaphrodite formed by the merger of a boy embryo and a girl embryo; a fish-bacteria symbiont that reproduces by having the bacteria swim ...more
Jul 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, science
While he's not as funny as Mary Roach and his anecdotes aren't as quirky as those of Sam Kean (whose book The Violinist's Thumb covers similar territory), Carl Zimmer is probably the better science journalist, writing a detailed, comprehensive look at heredity that manages to get really technical and run 500+ pages without becoming boring. Zimmer covers all the bases here, offering a pretty good survey of Darwin, Mendel, Lamarck, Goddard and a variety of other important figures in the fields of ...more
Robert Monk
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
A nice overview of the current state of the science of heredity. It goes through a lot of topics, the most interesting one of which was, for me, the fact that fetal stem cells go back and forth between a mother and a fetus, leading both of them to carry a bit of genetic material from the other. This happens with twins in utero, as well, which can have some odd effects on the later adults. Mr. Zimmer had his own genetics sequenced, which he used as a kind of framing device through the book, addin ...more
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a fascinating read about genetics and inheritance (not just biology) and the history of heredity. Well-written, it kept me turning the pages. The most fascinating chapters for me were on mosaics and chimeras. It was fascinating to read how some of us may be chimeras (the biological but rare reason reason why people can be born intersex) and not know it, being genetically comprised of our unborn twin or as a woman, taking on the genetics of an unborn child. Fascinating and scary to learn ...more
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is some book. IT's INCREDIBLY detailed and interesting look at hereditary and genetics in the human genome.

I did this in audio book, and it was kind of hard to catch some things the first time through. This is definitely a book that will need a re-read. IT's incredibly detailed, and thorough scientifically. Sometimes almost to distraction.

That said, this was a wonderfully comprehensive book on heredity. Of particular interest was the complexity of heredity, the chapter on how we inherit h
Earl P. Chantrill
I enjoyed the book but was ultimately disappointed that in the final two chapters the book was summed up as political, rather than scientific, in its purpose. I found many of the stories included in the book to be educational as well as interesting and surprising. It's been many years since I first learned about DNA and its likely importance in passing characteristics from parent to child. The information I gained from this book greatly expanded my knowledge and understanding of genetics and rel ...more
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Having a very limited high school biology background (and since then, supplemented with YouTube videos) the last third of this book was beyond my grasp, but because I enjoyed the writing style of the first 2/3, I certainly didn't want to give up on it. It's likely little of the presented info will be retained, however, learning about the science of genetics up to the time I got my HS diploma made for enjoyable reading and I sense the audience it was written for would agree with a strong rating.
Justin Gaynor
Jul 15, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm giving this three stars, but in fact I found it extremely tedious and gave up about halfway through. I recognize, however, that this is largely because my own interests are quite different from what the author was trying to accomplish; the writing and research were quite good, and if you're interested in what he chose to focus on -- some examples of actual family histories, and what he learned from his own 23andme analysis -- you'd probably enjoy this.

If, on the other hand, you were hoping f
Lorraine Dunlap
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure how I found this book, but it is amazing. It contains so much information about heredity which enlightens, amazes, and sometimes frightens.
This book is both personal and universal, and must be a very recent publication. It gets a little technical at times, but just when you get lost with Nanogs and epigenetics, he brings it back with a story from his daughter's preschool or something else down to earth.
I highly recommend it to anyone who has genes, and can read!
Josh Michaud
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book, learned so much about genes and heredity. Blows up the nature vs. nurture debate by showing that it's both and it's complicated. Got me up to speed on the latest developments like CRISPR, three- and four-parent embryos, and commercial genetic sequencing. Exposes the horrors of history whereby scientists and moralists have used simplistic understanding of genes and heredity to support horrible abusive policies such as eugenics and sterilization. Great nonfiction read.
Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is so big it took me quite awhile to finish. It really slowed down my number of books read, but it was so interesting it was worth it! The first section is a good refresher on heredity, both the history of the science as well as how it all works. The rest of the book focuses on genetics in families, including from a genealogical perspective. Zimmer wrote in such an engaging way that even the more difficult scientific explanations weren't too dry or confusing.
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Science writing is a hard thing to do - dumb the science down too much, it becomes inaccurate, use too much jargon, and it's inaccessible to those with little background. Carl Zimmer remains my favorite science writer because of his ability to communicate complex ideas to the general public while maintaining scientific fidelity. She Has Her Mother's Laugh was a fascinating read throughout combining history, ethics, and genetics tackling race, disease, and intelligence.
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This should be required reading for anyone who uses one of those 23 and Me or AncestryDNA gene sequencing companies. The author does a nice job explaining the limitations of such knowledge - in part by exploring non-Mendelian inheritance (such as epigenetics as well as cultural and ecological inheritance).
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
Carl Zimmer is a columnist for the New York Times and the author of 13 books about science. His latest book, She Has Her Mother's Laugh, will be published in May 2018. Zimmer is a frequent guest on Radiolab and has written hundreds of articles for magazines such as National Geographic, The Atlantic, and Wired. He is, to his knowledge, the only writer after whom a species of tapeworm has been named ...more
More about Carl Zimmer
“He might breed them for years before reaching the proper form. After a few years of breeding a type of lily, Burbank found a single specimen that met his standards. A rabbit ate it.” 0 likes
“The ability to read DNA allowed scientists to measure this genetic similarity in real people. In 2006, Peter Visscher, a geneticist at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Australia, and his colleagues studied 4,401 pairs of siblings, examining several hundred genetic markers in each volunteer. The siblings often had a series of identical genetic markers along a chromosome—segments they inherited from one of their parents.” 0 likes
More quotes…