Review In 500 Words: Power, Sex, Suicide – Nick Lane

Title: Power, Sex, Suicide

Author: Nick Lane

Publisher: Oxford University Press (2009)

Price: £9.99

Rating: 7/10

The title of this book is one which causes a few raised eyebrows, I have to admit. Whenever I read this nearby other people I kept receiving funny looks and comments. The joke is on them though, this book is really very interesting. It’s a comprehensive summary of all things to do with mitochondria and the roles which they have in the body. We know them as the ‘powerhouse of the cell’ and this book really shows us just what makes mitochondria so important.


As fascinating as this book is, there’s a LOT of information to take in. The book is split into seven sections, each of which is made of smaller chapters. This is useful, as it allows strategic points to take a break to sit back and absorb all of the information which has been thrown at you. Otherwise there could be the danger of getting a little too immersed in a world of mitochondrial control.


The book is primarily text based, and that is rather a small sized print. So I wouldn’t pick this up if you want a quick scientific flick with some pretty looking pictures. The diagrams and pictures used are useful, but none of them especially jump out of the page as something which an everyday person might see and want to explore further. That is not to say that the book is boring, though. There are several things touched upon on this book that I personally want to explore further and find out more about. To me, if I finish a book with a new interest or fact, the book has not been a bad one.


Now, my biggest problem with this book is how accessible I believe it is to people who may not have had a huge scientific education. Nick Lane does start by saying that he aims to make it as easy to understand as possible, but this book certainly isn’t one you could just pick up and understand without a basic knowledge of cell biology. There is a glossary at the back, so any terms which people struggle with are likely found in there. A problem with this book is this: the various roles of mitochondria are not necessarily an easy topic to relay to people who do not know all that much about them. By nature, the workings of cells are complex, that’s why people are still researching them. Overall, Nick Lane does a good job of making the book as easy to follow as possible.


That isn’t to say that everyone will find it interesting. I read what I thought was a great passage out to some of my family, who weren’t at all enthralled and admitted they weren’t that bothered about the subject. That’s potentially another issue this book has at being engaging to the public: perhaps they’re just not interested in mitochondria.


An overall good book, which I personally found interesting even if people less bothered about biology wouldn’t find it as fun to read.



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