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How We Live and Why We Die: The Secret Lives of Cells Hardcover – October 19, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (October 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393072215
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393072211
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,155,824 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Wolpert, professor emeritus of biology at University College London (Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast), conceives bodies as complex societies of cells, with each individual cell and cell type fulfilling a very specific role. As Wolpert explains, cells are incredibly complicated, representing evolution in action. Indeed, Wolpert asserts, However clever one thinks cells are, they almost always turn out to exceed one's expectations. He provides basic biological information about cell structure, genetics and reproduction, and then discusses the roles cells play in disease, aging, death, reproduction, memory, emotion and much more. In focusing on the process of human development, he marvels at how a single cell, a fertilized egg, can grow into a complex organism. Along the way, Wolpert lightly touches on some hot-button topics like the ethics of stem cell research; when a developing fetus might be considered human; and the ethics of cloning. His range is so great that he has little time to delve beneath the surface of any of the subjects he raises, making this a cursory introduction for the novice in basic cell biology and its implications. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

'The secret lives of cells' shouldn't be kept a secret, and Wolpert makes a good start at breaking the silence. . . . Impressively up to date.--Helen Pickersgill --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

If I was just rating the text, it deserves 5-stars.
Tech Historian
Although he explains his points from the perspective of a scientist, he succeeds in his use of very readable language and draws clear conclusions.
D. Wayne Dworsky
This is the book that is required for AP Biology at my high school.
Zina Rhoad-weinberger

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Tech Historian on November 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you want to catch up on basic biology of the cell Lewis Wolpert had written the primer. In plain and precise english he takes through a tour of all that's known about the cells that make us who we are. If I was just rating the text, it deserves 5-stars.

Unbelievably this masterful text is dumped on the reader without a single diagram, drawing or illustration. You read this right. Imagine taking your college biology course by just reading 200+ pages of text. I spent hours reading a few pages and then getting on the web to find pictures or videos to help explain what I was reading. I finally gave up when I realized I should just go out and buy a book that had invested the time in illustrating these difficult concepts.

I don't know what the publisher was thinking and why the author would agree to this. If the purpose of the book was to provide the lay-reader with insight into the workings of the cell in the body, this is an unfinished book.

Kudo's to the writer for the text but not worth buying until the book is completed. Shame on the publisher for trying to do this on the cheap.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By DJ Outro on January 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wolpert gives an expert's overview of everything we know as humans about our own cells. The book is appropriate for anyone with some vague familiarity with biology looking to get up to speed. However, there are two major flaws with this text. First, there are no pictures, diagrams, or even references to accompany the text. This makes understanding the process of cell division, for example, next to impossible. Second, there are glaring grammatical and basic style errors. I encountered many run-on sentences and sudden changes of topic in the middle of paragraphs. I would have expected better writing from such an acclaimed researcher and presumably reasonable editor! Regardless, I enjoyed reading it and recommend it as a primer for more in depth reading on biology elsewhere.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. J. Snyder on September 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I hadn't even thought about the lack of illustrations until a 1-star reviewer mentioned it. But, it's true. And, half a dozen basic drawings would have been enough.

Otherwise, as I note, the book is a solid overview of the whole nature of cellular life and death. There's nothing really new to the book, though, and at a nondiscount list price of $25 for something barely more than paperback size, that's just too much.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Walter on March 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book does NOT need illustrations. It is written almost as a stream of consciousness in which having to refer to an illustration would have been a distraction.
Concepts are absorbed and details retained without conscious effort. It is written like a narrative in which the before and after flow together seamlessly.
Initially, while reading it I thought it needed a editor but then I realized that would only have interrupted the flow and would not have contributed anything - it would have become as sterile as a textbook.
It is like a romance, in which the author scatters details of the characters which make them real.
The author's excitement and wonder shine through and are infectious.
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By D. Wayne Dworsky on September 29, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
The base of all life is the cell, of which all living things are composed. Cell study enables scientists to understand How We Live & Why We Die. Cells are amazingly adapted to gather proteins, enzymes and other molecular structures, which provide the building blocks and energy of life. Cells also provide the written instructions of how to build the organism, from their DNA.

Like a nail-biting mystery, the author unravels the secrets locked up in the cell. He reveals the grand contribution of Gregor Mendel and other great scientists who helped develop the theories that explains how life works. Many of these have given rise to new ways to study diseases and understand in a more profound way, the meaning of life itself.

Sensitive to the bases of all life, Wolpert goes on to explain how we become human, how we reproduce, how we move, think and feel, how we grow and why we age, how we survive, how cancer strikes, how deceases are caused and the origin of life. Although he explains his points from the perspective of a scientist, he succeeds in his use of very readable language and draws clear conclusions. A mind-expanding read.
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