Genetic Twists of Fate

Genetic Twists of Fate

By Stanley Fields and Mark Johnston

How tiny variations in our personal DNA can determine how we look, how we behave, how we get sick, and how we get well.





How tiny variations in our personal DNA can determine how we look, how we behave, how we get sick, and how we get well.

News stories report almost daily on the remarkable progress scientists are making in unraveling the genetic basis of disease and behavior. Meanwhile, new technologies are rapidly reducing the cost of reading someone's personal DNA (all six billion letters of it). Within the next ten years, hospitals may present parents with their newborn's complete DNA code along with her footprints and APGAR score. In Genetic Twists of Fate, distinguished geneticists Stanley Fields and Mark Johnston help us make sense of the genetic revolution that is upon us.

Fields and Johnston tell real life stories that hinge on the inheritance of one tiny change rather than another in an individual's DNA: a mother wrongly accused of poisoning her young son when the true killer was a genetic disorder; the screen siren who could no longer remember her lines because of Alzheimer's disease; and the president who was treated with rat poison to prevent another heart attack. In an engaging and accessible style, Fields and Johnston explain what our personal DNA code is, how a few differences in its long list of DNA letters makes each of us unique, and how that code influences our appearance, our behavior, and our risk for such common diseases as diabetes or cancer.


$30.00 X | £7.99 ISBN: 9780262014700 240 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 42 b&w illus.


$21.95 T | £17.99 ISBN: 9780262518642 240 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 42 b&w illus.


  • Fields and Johnston succeed in providing an accessible text that may appeal to the general public, and that is both enlightening and entertaining.

    Anthony J. Dellureficio

    The Quarterly Review of Biology


  • Fields and Johnston offer a wild and colorful ride through genetics, popular culture, and medicine. Where else can one learn about a murder trial, a Wimbledon final, Rita Hayworth, and gain-of function mutations? A lively, engaging read.

    Alexander Johnson

    University of California, San Francisco

  • For readers who seek a lucid and demystifying introduction to the complexities of human molecular genetics, this new entry by Fields and Johnston should go to the top of the list. The writing is graceful and the basic concepts are presented in an engaging style.

    Troy Duster

    Silver Professor of Sociology, New York University

  • This book is written in a very approachable style for the layperson wanting to know why there is so much interest in our genes. It provides a very accessible introduction to genetics and explains with well-chosen examples how genetics will affect our lives and its potential for benefit in the future.

    Dame Kay Davies

    Dr Lee's Professor of Anatomy and director, MRC Functional Genomics Unit, University of Oxford

  • With personal genetics kits now available online (and perhaps coming soon to your neighborhood drugstore), with Congress voting against genetic discrimination, and with genetics now influencing our therapies, we really need a book that engages the public in the genetics debate and gives scientists a handy companion in this vital dialogue. The signature personal stories in this book provide a remarkably fresh, engaging, and memorable experience.

    George M. Church

    Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, and founder, Personal Genome Project


  • Honorable Mention, 2010 American Publishers Award for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE Award) in the Popular Science and Popular Mathematics category