The Book Review

Siddhartha Mukherjee Talks About ‘The Gene’

Episode Summary

The oncologist and Pulitzer-winning science writer discusses his 2016 book about the history of genetics, and the novelist Kate Atkinson talks about her spy novel “Transcription.”

Episode Notes

For the next few months, we’re sharing some of our favorite conversations from the podcast’s archives. This week’s segments first appeared in 2016 and 2018, respectively.

Since winning the Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction for his first book, “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer,” in 2011, the physician and professor Siddhartha Mukherjee has gone on to write two more sweeping studies of medical and scientific subjects: “The Song of the Cell,” which will be released next week, and “The Gene: An Intimate History,” which came out in 2016. Mukherjee was a guest on the podcast when “The Gene” was published, and he told the host Pamela Paul that his earlier book about cancer had led him naturally to the topic of genetics and heredity. “The more I thought about disease, illness, the more I came back to the question of inheritance: What do we inherit, what do our families give to us? How much of it is genetic, how much of it is environmental?” he said.

Also this week, we revisit Kate Atkinson’s podcast appearance from 2018, when she discussed her World War II spy novel “Transcription” and its heroine, who starts out as “a very clever girl who’s slightly out of order.” Atkinson’s latest novel, “Shrines of Gaiety,” was published last month.

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