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The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance Hardcover – August 1, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“I can’t remember a book that has fascinated, educated—and provoked—me as much as The Sports Gene. Epstein has changed forever the way we measure elite athletes and their achievements.”
Malcom Gladwell

“Clear, vivid, and thought-provoking writing that cuts through science anxiety for rank-and-file sports fans.”
Bonnie Ford, Senior Writer, ESPN

“Many researchers and writers are reluctant to tackle genetic issues because they fear the quicksand of racial and ethnic stereotyping. To his credit, Epstein does not flinch.”
The Washington Post 

“Epstein’s rigour in seeking answers and insights is as impressive as the air miles he must have accumulated . . . his book is dazzling and illuminating.”
The Guardian

“Few will put down this deliciously contrarian exploration of great athletic feats.”
Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
 
“The narrative follows Mr. Epstein’s search for the roots of elite sport performance as he encounters characters and stories so engrossing that readers may not realize they’re receiving an advanced course in genetics, physiology, and sports medicine.”
Christie AschwandenThe New York Times 

“An important book . . . The Sports Gene is bound to put the cat among the pigeons in the blank-slate crowd who think that we can all be equal as long as we equalize environmental inputs such as practice.”
Michael Shermer, The Wall Street Journal 

“This is the book I’ve been waiting for since the early 1960s. I can’t imagine that anyone interested in sports—particularly the fascinating question, ‘How do the best athletes become the best?’—will be any less enthralled than I.”
Amby Burfoot, (1968 Boston Marathon Champion), Runner's World 

“A must-read for athletes, parents, coaches, and anyone who wants to know what it takes to be great.”
George Dohrmann, author of Play Their Hearts Out
 

About the Author

David Epstein has a master’s degree in environmental science and is an award-winning senior writer for Sports Illustrated, where he covers sports science, medicine, and Olympic sports. His investigative pieces are among Sports Illustrated's most high-profile stories. An avid runner himself, he earned All-East honors on Columbia University's varsity track squad. This is his first book. He lives in Brooklyn.

For more information visit http://thesportsgene.com.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Current (August 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591845114
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591845119
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (323 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

The book is well written, interesting, and informative.
Theabe
What I like the best about The Sports Gene is its uncompromising look at the nature and nurture of extraordinary athletic performance.
C.R. Hurst
I have always wondered how genetics fits in and this book gives you a window into that thought.
Carl

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

101 of 110 people found the following review helpful By Book Shark TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein

"The Sports Gene" is an enjoyable book that shares the latest of modern genetic research as it relates to elite athleticism. In the never-ending quest to settle the debate of nature versus nature, David Epstein takes the readers on a journey into sports and tries to answer how much does each contribute. This fascinating 352-page book includes the following sixteen chapters: 1. Beat by an Underhand Girl: The Gene-Free Model of Expertise, 2. A Tale of Two High Jumpers: (Or: 10,000 Hours Plus or Minus 10,000 Hours), 3. Major League Vision and the Greatest Child Athlete Sample Ever: The Hardware and Software Paradigm, 4. Why Men Have Nipples, 5. The Talent of Trainability, 6. Superbaby, Bully Whippets, and the Trainability of Muscle, 7. The Big Bang of Body Types, 8. The Vitruvian NBA Player, 9. We Are All Black (Sort Of): Race and Genetic Diversity, 10. The Warrior-Slave Theory of Jamaican Sprinting, 11. Malaria and Muscle Fibers, 12. Can Every Kalenjin Run?, 13. The World's Greatest Accidental (Altitudinous) Talent Sieve, 14. Sled Dogs, Ultrarunners, and Couch Potato Genes, 15. The Heartbreak Gene: Death, Injury, and Pain on the Field, and 16 The Gold Medal Mutation.

Positives:
1. Well-written, well-researched book. Epstein is very engaging and keeps the science at a very accessible level.
2. Fascinating topic that sports fans will enjoy. A look at elite athleticism through the eyes of science. Sports elites. I'm there!
3. Epstein does a fantastic job of skillfully handling the very sensitive topic of race and genetics. Any minor miscue and it would have derailed the book but Epstein never lets that happen and should be commended for his utmost care.
4.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on August 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Not too many years ago Malcolm Gladwell published 'Outliers,' asserting that the significant differences between so-so achievement and excellence was 10,000 hours of committed practice. (So even I, despite lacking significant talent, can be an NFL star, concert pianist, AND Nobel winner!) Similarly, we've also be deluged with articles contending that anyone can learn most anything, given enough support. Craig Venter, leader in the human genome project, said 'we are all essentially identical twins,' while geneticist Kenneth Kidd stated 'Race is not biologically definable, we are far too similar.' Despite the fact that such assertions fly in the face of common sense and experience (eg. selective breeding of animals, domination of professional sports by African-Americans), such nonsense continues to be perpetrated.

Finally, we have a bit of an antidote in David Epstein's 'The Sports Gene.' His conclusion, after extensive research and objective thought, is that 'it's much easier to have been born genetically gifted.' Establishing that conclusion, however, has taken some time - the human genome was only mapped a decade ago (23,000 'pages'), and single genes usually have effects too tiny to be undetectable in small studies.

Epstein, like others before him, doesn't conclude it's either 'nature or nurture,' but both. The question is, 'How much of each?' He concludes that athleticism is a complex trait with many dimensions, subject to numerous genetic and environment variables and their interactions.

Turns out that 17% of men over 7' and between 20 and 40 in the U.S. are playing in the NBA. This illustrates the ridiculousness of Gladwell's '10,000 hour rule.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Beam on August 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What an interesting, fun, and important read! This book will change the way I watch athletic events and helped me understand my own abilities better. Epstein explains the science behind athletic performance, and then makes it stick by providing fascinating examples that make the concepts more accessible to the layperson. He also provides references for those that want to dig deeper. It's obvious that the book is well researched. He delves into some touchy subjects about gender and race and handles them respectfully and in a way that will hopefully promote some much needed dialogue. Be sure to read the footnotes. There are lots of interesting facts that you won't want to miss there.

I gave the audiobook to a friend who is a team physician for a Division I school. Despite having a background in athletic medicine and involvement in kinesiology research, his reaction was an excited, "I'm hanging on every word." Many of the stories illustrating the concepts were new to him, and he appreciated that Epstein interviewed many of the most respected researchers in sports medicine. While he had run across some bits of the research and ideas before, he had never seen it pulled together in such a comprehensive or practical way. He said that reading this book would change the way he looked at his own workouts and even his own patients and added that he had sent a copy to friends who are new parents because, "Anyone who has kids should read this."
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Geraldine Ahearn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover
David Epstein delivers an interesting and impressive narrative, through extensive research on sports and genetics. The author highlights what makes a successful athlete, and how to obtain excellence to become one of the elite. The stories and interviews are thought-provoking, and inspiring. This insightful account is a must-read not only for athletes, but coaches, and parents as well. Of all the sports information I've read in books about athletes, this one is a golden gem on this topic. The science behind an athlete's performance is covered to a great extent, and the more you read, the more interesting it becomes. Informative, and educational. Highly recommended!
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The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance
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