If you follow me on Twitter, you'll know I was assigned to read p53 The Gene that Cracked the Cancer Code (by Sue Armstrong) at the start of the semester for a voluntary assignment. I actually thought it was a very nice assignment -extra marks for reading a book, what's not to like?! :D
Essentially, it is the story about the discovery of p53 -a gene that was found to be the key to knowing what cancer is, and how it makes your cells go crazy (it's non-fiction, of course). Shockingly enough, we've only discovered this recently, and so much work has been put into it. p53 also gives you a tour around what the scientific method is (how experiments occur -how they are planned, carried out and eventually understood), which I think is a great topic -too many times we take science for granted when really so many people are working for the world to understand! (hey, med student right here :P).
p53 is a book that is meant for the average citizen, so there are lots of basic concepts that are explained throughout the book. I found that helpful too because, even though I knew most (I'm taking a science course at university), I thought it was nice reviewing it. However, I believe readers who have nothing to do with science and are just looking for an approach to cancer might find it slightly hard to follow as the explanations are not as thorough. Even though Sue Armstrong is not a scientist, she is a science-specialist journalist, which I guess made her used to this kind of language. Regardless, I do think the author did make an effort to use the simplest language possible taking into account she is talking about such a specialised topic.
The story of the discovery is amazing. So many wrongs and rights, and so much serendipity! However, I found it quite hard to get through the half part of it -too many complicated experiments that meant the same thing over and over. I have to say I didn't quite enjoy that part... The final part though, with all the latest discoveries and treatments was quite nice. I think it got much better form the smoking chapter. I would even tell you, if you are planning on reading this book and aren't really interesting in the scientific method but in the story of the discovery, if you start feeling a bit bored just skip to the smoking part :P
Overall, I did like the story that was being told, but I didn't always find it that readable -so I ended up giving p53, The Gene that Cracked the Cancer Code a 2.5 out of 5 stars
Would you read a scientific book of this kind? I don't think I would have anytime soon if I hadn't been instructed to, but I take it as an overall positive experience :)
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