MixedNew York Times Book ReviewThe primate tales that de Waal uses to discuss gender are both fascinating and enlightening ... But as an argument about humans, I found Different less satisfying ... De Waal sometimes stretches evidence to fit his claims ... When De Waal asserts that male apes and men are both judged by the width of their shoulders, he doesn’t even offer a footnote ... Sometimes de Waal’s evidence for a link between humans and other primates feels more like free association ... Different would have benefited from less free association and more sustained argumentation ... It is hard to tell from Different to what degree our genders have been shaped by history before and after our split from our fellow primates. None of this is to take away the value of the stories of Donna and the rest of the primates that have filled de Waal’s life. If you don’t know your bonobo from your gibbon, Different has many surprises in store for you, surprises that will leave you humble about complex primate evolution has been, and how much we have yet to learn about how it shapes our lives.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewI can’t say what it would have been like to read Editing Humanity back in July 2019. But reading it now—at a time when the coronavirus is killing nearly a thousand Americans every day—is a disorienting experience ... Davies recounts the history of Crispr in detailed yet breezy prose ... Davies, the author or co-author of four previous books and the executive editor of The Crispr Journal, digs deeper into this same history with a journalist’s relish ... A Chinese scientist named He Jiankui had edited the DNA of human embryos. He had them implanted in women’s bodies, and nine months later the first Crispr babies were born. Davies offers a deeply researched look at how He managed this dubious feat ... But Davies doesn’t limit the blame to He. The Chinese government enabled He with lavish support and surely must have known what he was up to.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewSome of the scenes in Mark Honigsbaum’s The Pandemic Century were so vivid they had me drafting movie treatments in my head ... Whether familiar or forgotten, parrot fever or Ebola, [Honigsbaum] finds striking similarities among them. And those similarities ought to make us worried about the next outbreak ... Each chapter s deeply researched ... His account of the 1918 influenza pandemic feels fresh, thanks to his deep dive into archives and recent research into its origins. There’s much to learn here. But in order to fit nine pandemics in one book, Honigsbaum chose to leave a lot out. And some omissions are misleading. His account of H.I.V., for instance, feels like a look in the rearview mirror at a vanishing threat ... Despite all those details, I was still left with some misgivings about the central message of the book, embodied in its title. Should we call the past hundred years the Pandemic Century? ... overlooks efforts that might help fight future pandemics or even stop them before they start...Surely the value of understanding history is that it gives us a chance to stop repeating our mistakes.