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on April 15, 2014
"Inheritance" is compelling reading; a real page turner! As an adult patient with the rare genetic disease CADASIL (Cerebral Autosomal Dominant Arteriopathy with Subcortical Infarcts and Leukoencephalopathy), from a mutation on the NOTCH3 gene, I found this book to be enlightening in many ways, especially how all of us, rare patients or not, are at this very moment changing our destiny by our genetic expression. I am inspired to have my full DNA sequenced now, so I can better learn what foods, vitamins, medications, environmental factors, etc. are helping me or hurting me. I am so grateful to Dr. Moalem for this book and its contents, for his dedicated work with rare patients, and for his discovery of a new antibiotic called Siderocillin to combat superbug infections. I highly recommend this book for anyone with DNA.
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on May 10, 2014
I received an advanced reading copy of this from the publisher via Goodread's First-reads Giveaway program.

This popular science book is a broad overview of genetic and epigenetic inheritance, basically exactly what the subtitle says. The introduction oversells the the epigenetic focus (how life experience or environment can lead the changes in DNA that are not strictly sequence-based) because the majority of the book does stay within the realms of traditional sequence-based inherited genetic variation. Moreover, given Moalem's specialty, the focus is not so much on inheritance itself, nor even the specific mechanisms of inheritance.

Instead this book really comes down to these ideas: 1) There are a lot of genetic disorders. 2) Individually these disorders are often rare. 3) It is fairly likely that an given individual though will have some kind of disorder. In other words, everyone is unique; most all of us have unique rare disorders of some severity or another. The truth of this may surprise some, as may the implications: namely that any health advisories are tailored for the 'average population'. But no one is average. So not everyone can take the same amounts of medication. Eating high amounts of fat may be great for some people. Eating any fruits may be really bad for someone else. Running is good exercise for your spouse, it might give you a heart-attack, etc.

"Inheritance" thereby sweeps across a wide realm of human genetic variation, threading topics together under common themes. Moalem avoids getting bogged down into a lot of detail, making this book of greatest interest to the general public with medical interests, or those in particular who find medical anomalies interesting. For those that are really ignorant just how much variation there is to life, and how easily life can go wrong, this book is an excellent primer, and even for those with a background in medicine or biology, many of the specific rare disorders in the book that Moalem discusses may be new to them.

Personally I wish that given the title he had delved a little more in depth, particularly into the mechanisms of inheritance, and variations across life. The book is squarely human- (or at least mammalian-) centric. Moalem's style is very light-hearted, at times veering into stories whose connections to the actual topic at hand aren't apparent, but for its intended audience, I find the style appropriate. Finally, I appreciated him bringing up discussion on how studies of genetic disorders allow us to have a firmer grasp of how 'normal' biology occurs.

An episode of the X-Files I adore, "Humbug" addresses several of the issues covered in "Inheritance", including the speculative ones regarding the increasing genetic technologies available to our society. At what point will we be able to eradicate all genetic disorders? What understanding will we lose in the process? How do we decide what is a serious enough disorder? Though briefly touched upon, the book could have spent more space covering the implications of our increasing knowledge and technological powers.
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on January 24, 2015
As a physician I was looking for a book to recommend for patients with questions regarding genetics and genomics. This is a collection of cases and how genetic knowledge aided in diagnosis and treatment. While interesting, it really does not educate about genetics or genomics. It gave only a brief mention of epigenetics. I will have to look elsewhere.
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on April 16, 2014
IAn amazing read! I was reminded of an old film, vintage 1966, Fantastic Voyage. Long ago, this film captured me, held me hostage to the wonders of the human body. While there were a lot of issues surrounding the cold war and miniaturizing matter, it was focused on trying to save a life. Following an attempted assignation, a scientist was alive but comatose. Using miniaturization technology, a small group of scientists get onboard a submarine (proteus), traveling though the body in order to remove a clot lodged in the scientist's brain. I recall sitting in the theater amazed and mesmerized, by the ‘view’.
INHERITANCE expands our Fantastic Voyage, this time shedding light on the uncertainties and unknowns of those early years, laying out our genetic map, the small changes in our genes that make us unique, wonderful creatures; the genes that are disease causing and those that are protective as well as the environmental influences that will change who we become. Dr. Moalem’s book is friendly, an easy read and an adventure that is here today for all of us.
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on April 17, 2014
Fascinating science told through intriguing stories. It will break the rules you learned about the genetic code and give you new ones to ponder. Dr. Moalem makes the complex simple. This book will not only influence you as you think about you own genetic code but will influence health policy for years to come. “When it comes to genetics, the rare informs the common.” A must read! C. Dillon
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on August 4, 2015
Great for beginners. Are you trying to get your patients to understand their genetics and how important it is to know what hand you've been dealt? Give them this book. Genetics are your loaded gun, life style and diet are the things that pull the trigger. Don't worry if you've got some bad SNP's. Just take the supplements you need to fill the gaps and live a clean healthy life!
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on April 16, 2014
As the parent of a child with a rare genetic disease, I desire to learn as much as I am able to comprehend about the field of genetics and what can be done to improve the quality of life for my son. In one book, and in an easy to read and understand format, Dr. Moalem has expanded my knowledge exponentially. The concepts he describes are intriguing, and the way he conveys them in layman's terms sparked many "aha" moments for me as I moved through the book. What is normally a very dry and tedious subject matter Dr. Moalem actually manages to make entertaining and at times almost fun. He does balance this approach with solid science and does underscore the seriousness of advancements in genetic understanding and the potential societal consequences they may produce. All in all after reading this book I am even more optimistic about the chances that we can discover a way to effectively combat the debilitating symptoms of alternating hemiplegia of childhood (AHC) and give AHC Champions worldwide a better quality of life than they have today. I believe every parent of a child with a rare genetic disorder would benefit from reading this book.
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on April 29, 2014
This is an excellent introduction to the current state of genetics research for laypersons. The author - a leading geneticist - goes to great pains to make the material accessible by presenting each genetic variation he discusses in the context of real people. He tries to tell a story in each chapter, beginning with an individual with a particular genetic variation, and then getting into the science. He explains what it really means to have a genetic propensity for a disease, epigentics (how genes are toggled on and off by our environment and other factors), the genetics of gender identity, and a bit about some of the ethical dilemmas genetics work poses (including how genetic variation, in the form of people with rare genetic diseases, often help researchers discover the roots of other genetics diseases.)

My only complaint is that at times he seems at such pains to make it readable that the science is actually skimmed over a little too much, and he moves between genetic conditions too quickly, rather than taking more time to help us understand each one in detail. He will introduce an individual with a rare genetic condition, get us attached to the story, explain the science, and then move on quickly to the next story. It is very 'chatty' in tone. I think it could have had some sidebars or images or something that were a little more 'science book' like to offer more depth, without turning anyone off.

But really, I learned a lot, and I haven't found another book like this, so I highly recommend it if you are interested in genetics.
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on June 25, 2014
My family has a rare inherited condition, Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia, so I had a reason to be interested. Dr. Moalem in this book says that rare diseases together affect a large percentage of the American populace. So more people than I would have thought would be interested in reading this book.

He offers in this book many one on one stories of people with rare conditions and some idea of how their rare conditions work to cause their maladies. What was left out, I think, is the science and practical how-to's behind the stories. How are researchers trying to fix the genes that he is describing? How do people with this or that condition live their lives today? Who or what agency supports people with this or that condition and how do their families cope? He mentions Obamacare briefly but I imagine this would date the book too much if he were to delve too heavily into today's issues. These were all questions I was left with but again it was an interesting fast read.
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on August 2, 2014
This is a really good read. The author does a great job of writing in a chatty, nontechnical way for the most part. Chapters are organized so that the main idea of each chapter builds on the points made in the chapter before. However, I came away from reading this with a sense of having read numerous interesting anecdotes about rare genetic disorders and with a better grasp of how there is a real interplay between genes and the environment one lives in. I didn't give it five stars because I'm not sure there really is a cohesiveness to the book as a whole. I did come away with an appreciation for epigenetics: how the environment affects genes.
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