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The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance Paperback – April 29, 2014
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“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.”
“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 Aschwanden, The 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 is an award-winning investigative reporter at ProPublica, and was previously a senior writer at Sports Illustrated. He earned All-East honors on Columbia University’s varsity track squad, and has a master’s degree in environmental science.
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Top customer reviews
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David Epstein does a fantastic job digging into the argument and unearthing qualified evidence to support both sides. He remains objective and professional throughout the entire treatise. In the 280 or so pages he spans the globe, spans the sports landscape and spans the genetic map to find out what makes superior athletes superior athletes. He interviews scientists, authors, professors, trainers and athletes. He references research from many different scientists and researchers to support their claim of genetics or environment or history or other. I've never had such a thorough lesson in genes and gene mutations.
But don't let the content intimidate you or scare you into believing that this book is drab and reads like a text book. It is very interesting and uses a somewhat storytelling style to convey the facts, opinions and anecdotal evidences. It was very interesting to read how certain genes were found in certain athletes or how poverty or lack thereof can contribute to athletics. Poverty and the absence of facilities and training has hindered some nations and wealth has hindered others! Yes, when you have cars, plenty of food and video games with no need to walk to school and no interest in running because there is no need to--then your nation will lose runners.
It was great to read the different hypotheses, their evidence and their conclusions. I think David did a very objective and fair job in presenting everything there was to present. Even the conclusions he presented in a very non-biased way and leaving them open for the reader. Ultimately there are so many factors that go into being a superior athlete that no one thing can be pointed to but it won't stop us from trying to find out.
In David Epstein's THE SPORTS GENE our bodies' diversity and limits are encoded in the very cells we're born with. The book is thorough and far-reaching. It's an exciting (and ominous) time in the science of genetics, and Epstein's research sizzles with the breakthroughs and questions that are escalating every year. In minute detail, he deconstructs the science revealing what distinguishes an Olympic gold medalist from my Aunt Linda with the lazy eye and buttocks-softened sofa.
The book's most intriguing element is its exploration of the innate differences between genders and races. This is where Epstein deserves a lot of credit - he boldly plows through the briar patch and comes out unscathed on the other side. With Kenyan runners dominating marathons and athletes of African descent showing statistical superiority over a range of sports, we all know there has to be something to the idea that there is a genetic component to athletic prowess. Epstein delves into the subject and offers objective reasons for the phenomenon.
The writing is bumpy at times. E.g. "Like flying fighter jets, no one participates for too long without an injury." (Uhh...) Writing a book about genetics for the general reader is challenging given the complexity of the subject. THE SPORTS GENE does occasionally slip into wonk - boredom and wonk being conjoined twins.
Despite the fact that Usain Bolt has a genetic predisposition for athleticism, Epstein never says that people can't make astounding improvements through training and determination. All men may not be created equal, as it seems in THE SPORTS GENE, but that doesn't mean that 10,000 hours is a waste of time.
A good and worthy addition to the subject of genetics.
A radio interview prompted me to buy the book. DE displayed a keen understanding of a field that may be experiencing the most rapid scientific growth: genetics. While his focus is on the nature/nurture debate in sports, DE simplifies the role genes play in every aspect of our health.
DE is very thoughtful in addressing issues around race and athleticism. He doesn't pretend there are easy answers, but ducks none of the questions.
I expected this book to be informative; I didn't expect it to be so entertaining.
DE is an ex-jock with a comprehensive understanding of sports. More importantly, he's a great story-teller. 'TSG' smoothly transitions from one sport to another, spanning decades of amateur and professional athletics.
This is the type of book I'd buy for a rabid sports fan like my father and encourage my mother to read after he's done.