The Epigenetics Revolution

How Modern Biology is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease and Inheritance




Nessa Carey


Columbia University Press, paperback edition, 2013


ISBN: 978-0-231-16117-6


I purchased this book because I had recently mentored a student who put together an epigenetics course he taught to fellow undergraduate students at UCLA. I was slightly disappointed that I had not seen this book earlier, to read it and potentially recommend it to the students in his class, but at the same time the title made me uneasy as it sounded too grandiose. I worried that this book might be a speculative and fantastical digest of how genetics will change humankind. Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist so I decided to read it anyway, and boy am I glad I did. This book is a marvelous account of the biology of epigenetics. All major concepts are clearly explained, often using the cleverest analogies I have ever seen to clarify abstract concepts, and always explaining their significance in everyday life. The author walks us through key experiments, with simplified figures and diagrams, so that the reader not only learns how epigenetic phenomena were discovered and understood by scientists, but also gets a taste for how the process of experimental science works. As a bonus, we also get to meet some of the major players in epigenetics, many of whom the author knows personally. In conclusion, this book was a wonderful surprise, a gem in the vast quarry of popular science literature. I highly recommend this book not just to the casual reader, but to any student considering taking a formal class in epigenetics. For the casual reader, this book will demystify the wonderful and mysterious world of epigenetics, while for the student this book will provide a solid base with which to tackle a rigorous epigenetics course.