Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.
Review of The Invisible History of the Human Race:
This fascinating reader-friendly book covers a diverse but related set of topics including ancient human origins, the history of our fascination with genealogy and ancestors, the inexplicable longevity of ideas that arise in a culture almost incidentally, the latest sometimes surprising finding about the workings of the human genome, and the benefits, risks, and limits of DNA testing for disease likelihood, cultural identity, and prehistoric ancestry.
The Invisible History of the Human Race is the kind of book that compels me to interrupt otherwise occupied people in the hope that they’ll share my deep interest in the thought-provoking passage I’ve just read and want to discuss it. Here is some of what intrigued me the most:
*The gene whose mutation causes Huntington's disease is ancient enough to be found in slime mold. It’s crucial to slime mold, when it’s disabled the slime mold will sicken, but when a nearly identical human copy of the gene is inserted the slime mold revives.
*Someone can be your direct blood ancestor but contribute nothing to your actual DNA--it’s not as simple as having one-sixteenth of your DNA from each of your great-great-grandparents.
*Ideas tend to stick around way past their expiration date. For instance, the author cites research indicating that in areas where people farmed wheat and began using the plow, which requires a lot of upper body strength, the idea developed that men should be in the field/world and women should stay in the home--it was seen as natural and right. Now hundreds of years later, and even though no one in the area is still farming, that belief persists, having been passed down somehow through generations, and is more prevalent than in communities which didn't use the plow, like in places where rice was farmed instead. The pernicious latent influence of institutions like slavery is also discussed in this chapter.
Christine Kenneally’s other book, First Word, also hooked me completely and I highly recommend it too. It’s similarly broad in scope and would appeal to readers interested in the origins and evolution of human language, the history of language research, and the proto-languages of animals. I first read it years ago and am still thinking about it.