April 28 2016




A tiny scrap of genetic information determines our sex; it also consigns many of us to a life of disease, directs or disrupts the everyday working of our bodies, and forces women to live as genetic chimeras. The culprit – so necessary and yet the source of such upheaval – is the X chromosome, and this is its story. An enlightening and entertaining tour of the cultural and natural history of this intriguing member of the genome, The X in Sex traces the journey toward our current understanding of the nature of X. From its chance discovery in the 19th century to the promise and implications of ongoing research, David Bainbridge show how the X evolved and where it and its counterpart Y are going, how it helps assign developing human babies their sex – and maybe even their sexuality – and how it affects our lives in infinitely complex and subtle ways. X offers cures for disease, challenges our cultural, ethical and scientific assumptions about maleness and femaleness, and has even reshaped our views of human evolution and human nature. First off, The X in Sex is a very accessible non-fiction book about the genetics that make us who we are sexually. It was interesting to the non-scientist and a very quick read. But I do have to say that I didn’t learn nearly enough new material to make me feel like it had been absolutely worth my time. David Bainbridge acts like he’s bestowing never-before-mentioned news when he talks about X and Y chromosomes and sex-linked diseases. As I mentioned, this is a very accessible book for the non- scientist. I think it would be an excellent book for someone who has very little or no knowledge whatsoever of chromosomes, genes, DNA, etc, and how they work. Bainbridge manages to talk about fairly complex topics in language the layman can understand and infuses his writing with humor. His humor is much  better when it is unconscious (or at least gives a better impression of being so). The more blatant, “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” sexual references and the anecdotes which are prefaced with “Let me tell you this funny little anecdote” aren’t nearly as funny as he would seem to think. The one exception is his anecdote about (quite literally) the Duke of Kent’s testicles. Despite the racy title and cover, this book really is a history of the X Chromosome. It mostly covers the X Chromosome in humans, but contrasts it with a lot of other species. The book also gives cogent descriptions of several chromosome abnormalities. It’s  also a short and easy read — always a plus!

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