The Sports Gene by David Epstein

This is a book, written by a staff writer for Sports Illustrated, about the search for genes that influence athletic ability. It is basically an in-depth summary of the various studies that look for these genes. It also discusses the various places in the world like Jamaica and Kenya that have a large amount of people good at various track and field events.

The book describes several genetic abnormalities that can help in athletics, particularly endurance events. The easiest to explain now is that having “thick” blood, which means he has high levels of hemoglobin, helps in endurance events. I cannot honestly explain why this helps but the book does a good job explaining why so read it if you are interested in understanding more.

To me, the most interesting parts of the book are about the areas of the world that excel in different track and field events. The author explains a theory that Jamaica could be dominant in sprinting events because of a successful slave revolt on the island. The theory is that these runaway slaves were the strongest of an already strong group and passed down these genes throughout the years.

The book also has a chapter or two on baseball stars trying to bat against Jennie Finch, a gold-medal winning Olympian in softball. The baseball players could not even make contact with any of her pitches, even though a softball is larger than a baseball. This is likely due to several reasons, one of which is that the baseball players have never tried to hit a ball pitched like a softball. This effects their ability to judge where the ball should be and where to swing. This example is used to show that baseball players don’t have faster than normal reactions outside of baseball. They have learned how to read things from a pitcher and have developed over a very long time how to identify where to swing.

I liked this book a lot, mostly because I consider myself an athlete. I was originally going to place this on level three, but the more I wrote about the book, the more I realized I liked it better than that. If you are interested in genetics you may like this book but I think sports fans are the most likely to enjoy this book. I placed it on level two.

Click here for a link to the book on amazon. If you are considering purchasing this book and you like my review or find it useful, please consider buying it after clicking that link. I get a commission at no extra cost to yourself.

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