Book of the Month, June 2022 - The Code Breaker

June 2022 — The Code Breaker

Conversations, optimism and concern about gene editing, CRISPR, and other DNA-focused technologies have been growing over the last several years, particularly with the quick development of vaccines for COVID-19. The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race*+ by Walter Isaacson follows the career and discoveries of a scientist who made significant strides towards the development of this vaccine (and other future applications) before it was even known that it was needed.

The bestselling author of Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs returns with a “compelling” (The Washington Post) account of how Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues launched a revolution that will allow us to cure diseases, fend off viruses, and have healthier babies.

When Jennifer Doudna was in sixth grade, she came home one day to find that her dad had left a paperback titled The Double Helix on her bed. She put it aside, thinking it was one of those detective tales she loved. When she read it on a rainy Saturday, she discovered she was right, in a way. As she sped through the pages, she became enthralled by the intense drama behind the competition to discover the code of life. Even though her high school counselor told her girls didn’t become scientists, she decided she would.

Driven by a passion to understand how nature works and to turn discoveries into inventions, she would help to make what the book’s author, James Watson, told her was the most important biological advance since his codiscovery of the structure of DNA. She and her collaborators turned a curiosity of nature into an invention that will transform the human race: an easy-to-use tool that can edit DNA. Known as CRISPR, it opened a brave new world of medical miracles and moral questions.

The development of CRISPR and the race to create vaccines for coronavirus will hasten our transition to the next great innovation revolution. The past half-century has been a digital age, based on the microchip, computer, and internet. Now we are entering a life-science revolution. Children who study digital coding will be joined by those who study genetic code.

Should we use our new evolution-hacking powers to make us less susceptible to viruses? What a wonderful boon that would be! And what about preventing depression? Hmmm…Should we allow parents, if they can afford it, to enhance the height or muscles or IQ of their kids?

After helping to discover CRISPR, Doudna became a leader in wrestling with these moral issues and, with her collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier, won the Nobel Prize in 2020. Her story is an “enthralling detective story” (Oprah Daily) that involves the most profound wonders of nature, from the origins of life to the future of our species.

Click here to order the book or download the Kindle version. Order through our link and AgBookClub gets a little somethin’-somethin’ back from Amazon to help keep this website running. 

Here’s what you need to do this month:

Get the book. Buy it, borrow it, download and listen to it, read it over your neighbor’s shoulder — we don’t care. But don’t steal the book. 

Read the book.

  • Week 1: Intro + Part 1 [pages xiii-70] (Twitter chat on 6/1)
  • Week 2: Part 2 [pages 71-152] (Twitter chat on 6/8)
  • Week 3: Parts 3 + 4 [pages 153-266] (Twitter chat on 6/15)
  • Week 4: Parts 5, 6 + 7 [pages 267-372] (Twitter chat on 6/22)
  • Week 5: Parts 8, 9 + epilogue [pages 373-482] (Twitter chat on 6/29)

Join the chat (#AgBookClub) on Wednesdays at 8:00pm Central on Twitter. Learn how to participate in a Twitter chat here. While we hope you can participate in our discussion every week, we know that everyone has busy schedules. We always include general questions following the topic(s) of the book that can be answered by anyone, so please don’t hesitate to jump in the Twitter chat if you didn’t have a chance to read the section we’re discussing. We welcome any and all to join the discussion!

Happy reading!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s