Wednesday, November 24, 2021

In Which I Read a Book That is Way (Way, Way, Way) Over My Head (Personal Testimonial)



I avoided science in school. I took every advanced class I could take in every subject (even math!) except science. I made my first C when I was in sixth grade, and it was in this awful science class that I decided ever after that I hated science and that I would avoid science.

Until now. Suddenly, in the last few years, I've started reading everything I can about science. Butterflies...oak trees...climate change...oceans...moss...citizen science...octopi...birds...these are just some of the subjects I've read about in 2021.

And today I'm reading She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity. Heredity, folks. This book is about DNA and genes and mitochondria and lots and lots of other things that are unfamiliar to me. 

Let me say that again: I am reading a book about things I know nothing about. 

And I love it. Even though I don't understand much of what the author is talking about.

I thought it might help me to take a closer look at some of the key vocabulary from the book. But, it turns out, the glossary in the back of the book really just gives you the run-around. Example:

DNA: The double-stranded molecule that encodes genes.
Gene: A segment of DNA that encodes a protein...

See what I'm saying? Not really helpful.

Instead, I'm just going with the whole idea of DNA and genes as...well, let's just call them things...things that control how a person or another...let's just say creature...creature turns out. 

And it turns out that I can read an entire 600+ page book about heredity without the faintest idea of what I'm really reading about. 

And did I tell you that I love it? Yes, I love it.

Here are a few more words that I really don't understand...but nevertheless find quite intriguing...from the book:

Mosaicism: Genetic variation among somatic and germ cells in a single multicellular organism.

Single-nucleotide polymorphism: A site in DNA where a single base varies in a population.

Methylation: An epigenetic mechanism to silence a gene through the addition of a methyl group (-CH3) to a site on a DNA molecule. 

Before I go, let me remind you that I love this book. And, trust me, you will, too. Even if you, like me, are completely clueless about the workings of the tiniest parts of our beings.

Have you ever read a book that was way (way, way, way) over your head?

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered, or spotlight words you love.  Feel free to get creative! It was first created by Kathy over at Bermuda Onion and is now hosted at Elza Reads.


  1. I love this! And science too- although I'm very much a general science person lol. Once I hit Chemistry in high school I started having trouble, so I can relate. :)

    This sounds great.

  2. Mosaicism means you can have different entities in one form, like those cats you get that are one colour one side and one the other, with a line down their face. Intersex folk can have xx and xy chromosomes in different cells in their bodies (I learned last week) so testing just one doesn't help. Does that help at all, though?

  3. Heredity and Genetics are a fascinating field for sure!! I think I'll probably also don't really understand a lot of what I'm reading, but I can bet you will love it too.

    Thanks for taking part in WWW! I am still thinking of what to do to promote it a bit more. December is just, just just around the corner and then I will have a bit more time on my hands to play around.

    Lots of Love,

    Elza Reads

  4. I do read books, both fiction and nonfiction, that are over my head. I'm not a scientist but I do love the various subjects of science. Most of the books about scientific subjects that I read are written for the nonscientist, but even so, occasionally there are parts that are beyond me. Nevertheless, as you say, I love reading them and absorb what I can. Sometimes I even learn something!

  5. I love that you are doing this -- and that you love it. I have read books over my head. Well, at least one and probably in college! Hats off to you!

  6. That's so great that you are challenging yourself (and loving it is a bonus)! Have you read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks yet? It's narrative nonfiction and wonderful; I think you'd find it really interesting.

  7. Ha! I've plunged into books like that and wound up with a pen and paper, making lists.I'm always glad when I persist because I do learn a lot. Good for you.

  8. This does sound like a fascinating book. I have read books that are way over my head. I don't always love it, but if I am in the right head space I usually am so glad I persisted.

  9. I love science on a sixth grade level, which I taught a few times.

  10. I did enjoy science in school but never really read more after school. I've now become more interested in science topics. There's just so much to discover right? Good for you for challenging yourself even when the book may have been a bit over your head.

  11. Ha! I'm a little rusty on my biology but that's the easiest for me to understand. Chemistry is another planet - I did enjoy Uncle Tungsten by Oliver Sacks. It's autobiographical so that made it easier but there was also quite a bit of chemistry in it. Physics would be another galaxy for me. I haven't heard of this book you mention but it sounds like the type of book I would be interested in although it would go over my head now too!

  12. I have a degree in biology but it's 20+ years old at this point so things have changed a lot! I fell into healthcare after college so I haven't actually used my degree much but at least it gives me a decent background for books like this. That said, I'm not even familiar with some of the terms you just used! Good for you for sticking with it AND loving it!

  13. When I was in second grade, I discovered books that were way over my head. Our teacher asked us to read a book, make a list of words we didn't know, and look those words up in the dictionary. We were supposed to keep a notebook with those words and their meanings. I had read a young children's version of Robin Hood, and decided I would read a more adult version. By the end of the first chapter, I had written so many words down that my teacher recommended I give up. I didn't. I just kept going and tried to figure out the meanings by context. And yes, I loved reading that book!

  14. I cannot agree more. It is nice when you can choose the books to read. There are authors who can write so even non-scientific people understand what they are talking about.


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