Audiobook Review: The Invisible History Of The Human Race

The Invisible History Of The Human Race: How DNA And History Shape Our Identities And Our Futures, by Christine Kenneally, read by Justine Eyre

Before I review the contents of the book, I would like to comment briefly on the difference that can be made with a book based on the quality of its reading. While I found much to enjoy about the book itself, one thing I found excruciatingly painful was the croaking and unpleasant voice of Ms. Eyre. It would be difficult to imagine a more unpleasant voice to convey the material, especially someone getting paid to read it aloud. That said, it is fortunate that the book itself was still worthwhile and enjoyable to listen to despite the awful voice of the book’s reader, for though the book has its flaws, the fact that it still comes off well despite less than desirable reading is a mark of high praise, depending on whose choice determined the book’s reader, that is. One imagines that this book would have been even more pleasant to read on paper, if one had the chance to do so.

In terms of its contents, this is a book that is framed around the author’s search for information and insight into DNA based on her background as an Australian with some family secrets. The book jumps around a bit from topic to topic, introducing subjects that have further implications in much later chapters, and spending a good deal of time dealing with the doctrine, technology, and politics of ancestry and DNA in particular. As the book is written from an outsider perspective, it deals with the stigma attached to heredity as a result of the eugenics movement in a thoughtful way, pointing to the benefit of having and using knowledge about one’s background from both stories and genes while being sufficiently naïve scientifically to fail to distinguish between the intelligent design of genetic information as a language and the supposedly design-like qualities of genetic drift and natural selection. At times, despite the inaccuracy of much of the scientific framework of genetics, something the author explains by pointing to the fact that genetics is in its infancy, the author makes amusing claims like the fact that a Huntington’s gene would not be so widely found among species from human beings to slime molds unless it had served some sort of purpose.

Despite the book’s flaws, which are unavoidable given the author’s approach [1], there is much to appreciate in this book, like the interaction between science and culture, the omnipresent problem of politics, the role of epigenetics and environment in general, and the way that genetic information is passed from one generation to another. There is a great deal to appreciate in the book’s friendly approach and in the way the author shows herself to be genuinely fond of exploring all kinds of stories and getting to know many types of people. The result is a history book that, while likely to be an artifact of the early 21st century and rapidly obsolete, is still a worthy discussion of the drive of people to understand their past, its contentious history and legal context, and the wider scientific and political context in which the search for identity is undertaken in the contemporary world. Overall, it makes for a worthwhile book, full of interesting comments about migration and marital counseling, among many other subjects.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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5 Responses to Audiobook Review: The Invisible History Of The Human Race

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