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Book Review: The Rough Guide to Genes and Cloning

14 January 2010
Appeared in BioNews 542

The Rough Guide to Genes and Cloning

By Dr Jess Buxton and Jon Turney

Published by Rough Guides

ISBN-10: 1843537591, ISBN-13: 978-1843537595

Buy this book from Amazon UK

'The Rough Guide to Genes and Cloning' by Dr Jess Buxton and Jon Turney

This book does what it says on the tin: it is filled to the brim with information on genes and cloning. The authors have managed to treat the basics of the subject without dumbing it down, venturing into specialist areas such as laboratory techniques for cloning and behavioural genetics and explaining the associated jargon along the way, and exploring links with philosophy, culture and psychology. Despite this impressive information load, the writing style is entertaining, if concise.

The result is that reading this book feels a bit like being on a rollercoaster: it is great fun, but I can only handle a short while at a time for fear of an overload of (intellectual) stimulation. After a chapter or so, I needed to put it down and take some time to recover.

This made me wonder if perhaps this rough guide was never meant to be read from cover to cover, but rather as a reference work for those not otherwise involved in the subject. However, a small index and limited contents pages, as well as suggestions in the text that it is meant to be read in sequence, suggest otherwise and make it unsuitable as a reference work.

The first part of the book starts off with a series of FAQ (such as 'Can I clone my pet cat?'), followed by an overview of the basics on the structure of genes, inheritance and DNA related laboratory techniques. The five further parts of the book deal with topics ranging from stem cells and GM to governmental policies and patents to eugenics and medicine to evolution. Short anecdotes on important discoveries in the field are also included - mostly in red boxes separate from the main text. In these boxes, questions like 'Can you patent yourself?' and 'Can you blame your genes for your actions?' are also asked and answered.

In short, this book contains a wealth of interesting information on the subject, presented in an entertaining and structurally sensible fashion and with a sense of humour, but needs to be enjoyed in small doses. It would be particularly suitable for those wanting to quickly read up on part(s) of the subject at hand.

Buy The Rough Guide to Genes and Cloning from Amazon UK.

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