This book is essential for anyone involved in personal genetics. If you're thinking of getting the tests done, it will illuminate the moral conundrums and some of the pitfalls that you can fall in to. If you work in this area, you get to read some back-story on many of the biggest names in this field, relayed with humor and sensitivity. And if you are an historian of science, reading this 20 years in the future, you will be able to read this very personal journey of one of the first 10 Personal Genome Project (PGPs) participants to be sequenced, and marvel at how far you've come. Then float away on your 3D holographic hoverboard.
Genetics to me has always been kind of a tease. When I was in high school we learned about "gene therapy" and how it was going to cure cystic fibrosis any day now. When I got to college we learned about "nature vs nurture" and heard about how the race to sequence the human genome would reveal every cause of disease once and for all. When I got to grad school I met patients with variants of inherited diseases that would affect their lifespan by a factor of decades, but still with no clearer answers than that. And now here I sit with my 23andMe account sitting in my bookmarks next to Facebook and my online banking. This book, more than anyone could do, has told me how we strayed from that pathway to genomic revelation promised to be a decade ago to today, where "recreational genomics" is widely available and through the web I can find out whether my kids will have red hair (1 in 4 chance). But just assuming those results are valid, or that the genetic truth has always been out there, would seem absurd to anyone on the inside, and what Misha Angrist does so well in this book is to introduce us to the personalities and the characters that have shaped this field.
As an ethicist and genetic counselor he is able to comment on the field's moral terrain, and as a self-deprecating participant in a grand experiment he is able to bring into personal focus his concern for his children and his family in the data that may be contained in his genome. I predict a future where we will all know much more about our genomes than our ancestors ever could have done, and we will decide as a society that genetic privacy is something worth protecting. Angrist is an engaging, witty, and quietly persuasive writer and I look forward to him documenting the next chapters of personalized medicine.