Book Review – The Code Breaker – Walter Isaacson
Title: The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race
Author: Walter Isaacson
Genre: Non-Fiction / Science
Year of Release: 2021
Read 485-page hardcover edition in January 2022.
Despite her teachers saying girls could not be scientists. Jennifer Doudna grew up in Hawaii with a passion and interest in science. Her excitement and curiousity about nature led her and numerous colleagues around the world to study DNA and RNA, which led to the amazing discovery of CRISPR, which can literally edit human DNA, changing our species and its potential forever.
Doudna has gone on to make numerous discoveries and motivate other young women to enter the sciences. This book explores the science and ethics around gene editing, as well as how these advancements allowed scientists to move quickly with regard to the global COVID-19 pandemic, in developing testing and vaccines.
This book by renowned biographer, historian, and writer Walter Isaacson, is an immersive success. As always, Isaacson has written an engaging book, making non-fiction and the information of someone’s life an exciting story.
Jennifer Doudna is an excellent main character for Isaacson to focus on. She comes across as thoughtful, intelligent, and a unique combination of competitive while also humble. The focus on Doudna’s early life in the early stages of the book is a great way to introduce the reader into the sciences that will be explored in more detail.
Early on in the book, there are several chapters that are the heaviest, and non-science readers may have some trouble when Isaacson tries to explain hard science. He is somewhat successful at making this plain language, but there are several points in these early pages where the material can easily be lost on the reader.
Thankfully, the remaining two-thirds of this book are fantastic. Isaacson does a great job combining and weaving between biography of interesting characters, discoveries of nature and genetics, real questions about morality, and the onslaught of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The chapters on morality/ethics and COVID-19 are especially interesting, and particularly relevant in our times today. Isaacson always remembers to return to the cast of characters as well, and his ability to draw out their feelings and emotions as well as the scientific discoveries is what makes this book enjoyable as well as educational.
Overall: 4.5 stars out of 5 stars