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Download The Violinist’s Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Violinist’s Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code, by Sam Kean Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,456 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Sam Kean Narrator: Henry Leyva Publisher: Hachette Book Group Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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In The Disappearing Spoon, New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean unlocked the mysteries of the periodic table. In The Violinist’s Thumb, he explores the wonders of the magical building block of life: DNA.

There are genes to explain crazy cat ladies, why other people have no fingerprints, and why some people survive nuclear bombs. Genes illuminate everything from JFK’s bronze skin (it wasn’t a tan) to Einstein’s genius. They prove that Neanderthals and humans bred thousands of years more recently than any of us would feel comfortable thinking. They can even allow some people, because of the exceptional flexibility of their thumbs and fingers, to become truly singular violinists.

Kean’s vibrant storytelling once again makes science entertaining, explaining human history and whimsy while showing how DNA will influence our species’ future.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “The periodic table meets the bestseller list with Sam Kean’s Disappearing Spoon, an engaging tour of the elements…with the éclat of raw sodium dropped in a beaker of water.” 

    New York Times

  • “Kean’s writing sparks like small shocks…He gives science a whiz-bang verve so that every page becomes one you cannot wait to turn just to see what he’s going reveal next.” 

    Boston Globe

  • “Nonfiction to make you sound smart over summertime gin and tonics: the human history behind the periodic table.” 


  • “Science is made fun whenever bestselling author Kean…is narrating.”

    New York Post

  • “Kean turns his clever eye and engaging prose to unveiling the secrets of our DNA.”

    Denver Post

  • “The book established Kean as that rare thing: a science writer with a sharp sense of humor.” 


  • “Kean offers up strange stories of how our genes help and hinder us.” 


  • “The DNA molecule, Kean asserts, is the ‘grand narrative of human existence’—and he boldly sets out to tell the tale, not only explaining genetics and its scientific history but linking Mendel’s pea shoots to the evolution of early humans…He’s crafted a lively read packed with unforgettable details.”


  • “The wonderful thing about Kean…is his ability to focus on a spiraling narrative while he climbs up the double-helix ladder in this history of genetics, remaining more or less at the center of the rungs while he goes from the struggles of Mendel and Miescher to the Human Genome Project…It is a handsome story.”

    Daily Beast

  • “Kean’s real knack is for digging up strange details most textbooks leave out…More than an assortment of trivia, the book is an engaging history.”

    Science News

  • “Kean educates readers about a facet of science with wonderfully witty prose and enthralling anecdotes…Kean’s thoughtful, humorous book is a joy to read.” 

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Kean has created another page-turning scientific history in The Violinist’s Thumb. With fluid gusto, he turns the discovery of DNA into riveting human drama…Kean illuminates clues embedded in our genes that help map the meandering trajectory of our species then leaves readers with the distinct impression that all this has been a fantastic preamble to our species’ most thrilling (and likely chilling) chapter: manipulating our DNA to remake future humans, and all life on Earth.”

    Amazon.com, editorial review

  • “A science journalist with a flair for words…[Kean’s] language is fluid and accessible, even for the science-challenged.”

    Library Journal

  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month, July 2012
  • A New York Times Bestseller (extended list)
  • One of the Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books for Nonfiction

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Jennifer | 2/19/2014

    " Another excellent volume of science history and exploration from the author of The Disappearing Spoon. Kean ranges widely, encompassing both the history of research into genetics and DNA, as well as cutting edge studies. His delvings into the scientists who have led the investigation into genetics are particularly interesting. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by MJ | 2/19/2014

    " The book itself was interesting enough, but I personally didn't appreciate the author's conversational tone in non-fiction. He ended a lot of sentences with "and whatever", called one of his story's subjects "a dick" referred to someone's opinion of sex as "just a lay" and called someone else a "boner". I suppose this is to make the stories more relate-able (?), but it seemed extremely unprofessional to me. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Tim | 2/7/2014

    " Stylishly written and quick! After reading about the book's subject matter I was prepared for a slog. I'll be damned, it was fast-paced and laced with amusing stories - and not too science-y or unscience-y, just the right amount of science-y-ness. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Ashley | 2/6/2014

    " Good book, but there are sections that I could have lived without (I don't think I wanted or really benefited the level of detail I got). Interesting topic.... "

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About the Author
Author Sam Kean

Sam Kean spent years collecting mercury from broken thermometers as a kid, and now he’s a writer in Washington, DC. His work has appeared in the New York Times magazine, Mental Floss, Slate, and Science, and it has been featured on NPR’s Radiolab and All Things Considered. The Disappearing Spoon and The Violinist’s Thumb were New York Times bestsellers.