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Y: The Descent of Men

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In his highly entertaining and enlightening book, the acclaimed geneticist and author Steve Jones offers a landmark exploration of maleness. With effervescent wit, Jones argues that men, biologically speaking, are the true second sex. Here he lays out the cases for and against masculinity -- exploring every biological aspect from the genesis of the Y chromosome onward -- b In his highly entertaining and enlightening book, the acclaimed geneticist and author Steve Jones offers a landmark exploration of maleness. With effervescent wit, Jones argues that men, biologically speaking, are the true second sex. Here he lays out the cases for and against masculinity -- exploring every biological aspect from the genesis of the Y chromosome onward -- based on the recent explosion of biological research. Along the way, he offers pithy commentary on topics such as male hormones, hair loss, and the hydraulics of man's most intimate organ. Fascinating and often surprising, Jones's evidence offers fresh fuel for the battle of the sexes.


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In his highly entertaining and enlightening book, the acclaimed geneticist and author Steve Jones offers a landmark exploration of maleness. With effervescent wit, Jones argues that men, biologically speaking, are the true second sex. Here he lays out the cases for and against masculinity -- exploring every biological aspect from the genesis of the Y chromosome onward -- b In his highly entertaining and enlightening book, the acclaimed geneticist and author Steve Jones offers a landmark exploration of maleness. With effervescent wit, Jones argues that men, biologically speaking, are the true second sex. Here he lays out the cases for and against masculinity -- exploring every biological aspect from the genesis of the Y chromosome onward -- based on the recent explosion of biological research. Along the way, he offers pithy commentary on topics such as male hormones, hair loss, and the hydraulics of man's most intimate organ. Fascinating and often surprising, Jones's evidence offers fresh fuel for the battle of the sexes.

30 review for Y: The Descent of Men

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    This book is another of Steve Jones' updates/responses to/homages to Charles Darwin's work. It's probably remarkably different in many ways, in terms of the content, but it is an interesting read. I do think Jones goes a bit too much into gender essentialism -- I played rough with my sister and the local boys, which the female-bodied are allegedly hard-wired not to do -- and sometimes his constant reiteration that the Y chromosome is dying out seems a little hysterical, like maybe it might give This book is another of Steve Jones' updates/responses to/homages to Charles Darwin's work. It's probably remarkably different in many ways, in terms of the content, but it is an interesting read. I do think Jones goes a bit too much into gender essentialism -- I played rough with my sister and the local boys, which the female-bodied are allegedly hard-wired not to do -- and sometimes his constant reiteration that the Y chromosome is dying out seems a little hysterical, like maybe it might give fuel to the men's rights people. And if he could maybe stop talking about promiscuous gay men causing the spread of AIDs in every book, that'd be great. (I don't care how true it may be, straight people get AIDs too, thank you very much.) There is interesting stuff here in terms of genetics, foetal development, even the development of the human race as witnessed by the Y chromosome. Honestly, though, I'm not finding Jones' work that fun to read -- it seems to drag on forever -- so once I've finished the last one I have out of the library, that'll be it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Robert Day

    In which the author wittles himself to death about the possibility that men are largely redundant. I liked the science (biology mostly) and the picture on the front (someone swimming?) I disliked the writing (too many 'vague pronouns'*), the examples (men being vaguely useless, including the author) and the pessimistic tone of the whole book. Don't bother reading this unless you are a real nut for ... ach, I don't know. My advice: just don't bother. *Pronouns are frequently used in academic writing In which the author wittles himself to death about the possibility that men are largely redundant. I liked the science (biology mostly) and the picture on the front (someone swimming?) I disliked the writing (too many 'vague pronouns'*), the examples (men being vaguely useless, including the author) and the pessimistic tone of the whole book. Don't bother reading this unless you are a real nut for ... ach, I don't know. My advice: just don't bother. *Pronouns are frequently used in academic writing, but the use of ‘vague pronouns’ can be problematic. A pronoun is considered to be vague when it is difficult to determine what the pronoun refers to (the antecedent). Ambiguity or confusion can occur when demonstrative pronouns, such as ‘this’ or ‘it’ (which have no clear antecedents), are used to begin a sentence. (Leila Emery - https://www.aje.com/en/arc/editing-ti...)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca_harley

    It took me a long time to get into this book, and even longer to finish it. The order seems a bit random, and the author tends to jump back and forth between topics anyway. He only very briefly discusses matters such as sexism, homosexuality and transgenderism/sexuality which I think should have been given more coverage. I was expecting the book to be filled with purely genetics and scientific fact, however it became clear quite quickly that a lot was closer to sociology and there was a lot of w It took me a long time to get into this book, and even longer to finish it. The order seems a bit random, and the author tends to jump back and forth between topics anyway. He only very briefly discusses matters such as sexism, homosexuality and transgenderism/sexuality which I think should have been given more coverage. I was expecting the book to be filled with purely genetics and scientific fact, however it became clear quite quickly that a lot was closer to sociology and there was a lot of what I would call speculation. In summary I feel as though this book was simply an example of self-indulgence on the writer's part and contributes very little to genetics or biology, but perhaps that's because I am female.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rahele Tavana

    As typical of Steve Jones books, lots of jumping back and forth. You can't follow one story without being presented lots of different stories at the same time, but overall, an amazingly interesting book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Very interesting. Sometimes the author can try to cram so much information in that the writing becomes unclear.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Happy Wang

    Really fascinating take on the origin of the male sex as well as its future involving topics from genetics to evolution.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Aurélien Thomas

    With a title which is both an hint at Darwin's 'The Descent of Man' and, an humorous allusion to the Fragile Y Hypothesis ('descent' as in decline, for Steve Jones clearly adheres to it) here's a book that delivers exactly what it implies on the tin: a witty yet enlightening read on evolutionary biology. Sure, it can be tough at times. I mean, if you're not familiar with the basics of genetics (including the Fragile Y Hypothesis then) some passages will be a bit challenging to go through. Neverth With a title which is both an hint at Darwin's 'The Descent of Man' and, an humorous allusion to the Fragile Y Hypothesis ('descent' as in decline, for Steve Jones clearly adheres to it) here's a book that delivers exactly what it implies on the tin: a witty yet enlightening read on evolutionary biology. Sure, it can be tough at times. I mean, if you're not familiar with the basics of genetics (including the Fragile Y Hypothesis then) some passages will be a bit challenging to go through. Nevertheless, it remains a brilliant work of popular science, far-ranging and full of fascinating titbits about the making of the human male. Guarding against the dangers of reductionism/ biological determinism, but still brave enough to compare us to other species, the author also shows brilliant insights, served by an engaging and witty writing style that makes, all in all, for an engrossing read. Yes, it does have its weaknesses! First, claiming the Y chromosome may disappear within ten million years -given its fragility and rate of decay- is a controversial idea that has been challenged even since the publication of this book. Then, Steve Jones may at times seem to loose the plot, as when he gets tangled up in debates on circumcision or castration. Indeed I found here that, ironically, he was falling into a trap he himself is keen to denounce that is, using science as a sole determinant to societal decisions when it should be only one of it. Well! This might be only my own impression because, I confess I found it regretful too that, at other times, he didn't go far enough in using the insights of biology to debunk some ideological rubbish (e.g. Kennewick Man as an argument against racism)! Whatever, 'The Descent of Men' remains a very good read, both delightful and very instructive. I really liked it!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Peter Grant

    I have to admit that when I started this book I was a bit distracted but this book did nothing to gain my attention or grab me. It just ended up as a string of interesting facts, sometimes connected sometimes not. Often the facts made you want to dig deeper behind the initial anecdote but, no, it was straight on to the next 'interesting fact' so that in the end you just ended up feeling worn out by fact after fact after fact. I persevered after the distraction had passed and the only improvement I have to admit that when I started this book I was a bit distracted but this book did nothing to gain my attention or grab me. It just ended up as a string of interesting facts, sometimes connected sometimes not. Often the facts made you want to dig deeper behind the initial anecdote but, no, it was straight on to the next 'interesting fact' so that in the end you just ended up feeling worn out by fact after fact after fact. I persevered after the distraction had passed and the only improvement was a slight improvement in the readability which might be down to the fact that I didn't feel obliged to think about the relentless procession of facts but just press on to the next one. It's frustrating as the author is clearly a master of his subject but just lacked the ability to communicate this mastery.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Giulia B

    I found it difficult to finish this book, mostly because chapters have a title about something, then an introduction about something else and then the author starts taking about something completely different (chapter 8 was agony). Beside following him through random topics and having statistics and trivia about genitals and sex in other animals thrown in, I didn't quite catch the point of this (there's no fil rouge connecting the topics, beside "men" - and that is a very large topic to talk abo I found it difficult to finish this book, mostly because chapters have a title about something, then an introduction about something else and then the author starts taking about something completely different (chapter 8 was agony). Beside following him through random topics and having statistics and trivia about genitals and sex in other animals thrown in, I didn't quite catch the point of this (there's no fil rouge connecting the topics, beside "men" - and that is a very large topic to talk about)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Goran

    Interesting...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sue Chant

    A bit thin and anecdotal compared to his previous genetics books.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Farrah

    Men have become the weaker sex, eh? Simone de Beauvoir would love this. Baldness, circumcision, the struggle of the little swimmy sperm, paternity, and erectile dysfunction must really burn. Too bad these are super shallow and have no real bearing on maleness and superiority in modern society. But they lose their hair...so that's something. I like that he spans different cultures and geographies to offer a thorough examination of "prepuce" removal, so that gets a star. The history of circumcisio Men have become the weaker sex, eh? Simone de Beauvoir would love this. Baldness, circumcision, the struggle of the little swimmy sperm, paternity, and erectile dysfunction must really burn. Too bad these are super shallow and have no real bearing on maleness and superiority in modern society. But they lose their hair...so that's something. I like that he spans different cultures and geographies to offer a thorough examination of "prepuce" removal, so that gets a star. The history of circumcision is interesting, on the realsies. But, this guy sounds a little rapey at times, like an MRA fuckrag. And it's like, "AIDS" bla bla bla "Africa" and "AIDS" and "Kenya." Other people get AIDS too, as he says of the US " highest incidence of the illness in the developed world" but only gives stats on Africa. Being that I studied gender on an annoyingly grandiose level, the final chapters come off as amateur hour in an Introduction to the Sociology of Gender course at a junior college. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I took that class. Years later, I taught that class. But this drivel is sophomoric. Admittedly, I'm not the audience for this book. I was hoping for some new perspectives, challenges to my cavewoman thoughts, or simply some interesting reading. Alas... I will say, that there is a sentence which got me thinking: "the notion of modern man as the savage tamed is...." . His concluding thoughts on the matter bore me. But the first half of the sentence got me thinking--what is the appeal? Things like the Sterling Institute, men's retreats, the fascination with cavemen, the Paleo diet etc. Is it comforting or empowering to know that we, as modern humans, have power over nature? It takes away the symbiosis of our roles in nature. Also, our working lives have changed through time, as we live in "a world filed with professions rather than trades." OK, OK, So i got a new perspective and liked more than one sentence. But the muck he ends with about the ascent of woman matched with an equivalent descent of man? Go back to your MRA meeting, meathead.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Danielle T

    I haven't read Darwin's The Descent of Man yet so I can't tell if Steve Jones is trying to parallel structure here, though it's certainly a slimmer volume. A nice broad survey of all the things that make someone biologically male- hormones and genes that play a role in development, the mechanics of the penis, the diversity of sperm types across Animalia, tracing genealogy via the Y chromosome, etc. He provides a list of further reading for nonspecialists which could be handy, though because this I haven't read Darwin's The Descent of Man yet so I can't tell if Steve Jones is trying to parallel structure here, though it's certainly a slimmer volume. A nice broad survey of all the things that make someone biologically male- hormones and genes that play a role in development, the mechanics of the penis, the diversity of sperm types across Animalia, tracing genealogy via the Y chromosome, etc. He provides a list of further reading for nonspecialists which could be handy, though because this was published >10 years ago you may be better off googling newer material.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Peter Kobryn

    An interesting and illuminating book from the eminent scientist that covers much ground. He ranges across explanations of the biological differences between women and men being grounded in the different distribution of the X & Y chromosome and the weaknesses that this can create in the male. He covers sociological ground also as well as pure scientific explanation and I enjoyed reading it throughout. The only questions I would have related to the last chapter that seemed to be rather more specul An interesting and illuminating book from the eminent scientist that covers much ground. He ranges across explanations of the biological differences between women and men being grounded in the different distribution of the X & Y chromosome and the weaknesses that this can create in the male. He covers sociological ground also as well as pure scientific explanation and I enjoyed reading it throughout. The only questions I would have related to the last chapter that seemed to be rather more speculative than previous chapters about the balance in society between men and women but this is a minor query

  15. 5 out of 5

    Veronika KaoruSaionji

    Poor and silly colection of sometimes very interesting facts about men (human males). But, it would be great if there could be some (much better) book about women (human females)! And similar good one about men (huma males), too. Plus, the autor clearly very fear feminity, which can "to devour" him. Nothing for me. But I was able to read it whole - amazing me. :o) But maybe, for (some?) male readers good book - I don´t know, because I am female one. :o)

  16. 5 out of 5

    P.

    Steve Jones' y, is an elegantly written discussion of maleness, masculinity, manhood, in the latin VIRTU. He touches all bases in a wry yet exhaustive manner. From his initial claims that man is truly the second sex to his exhaustive discussion of the penis and all penile issues and beyond, he does a masterful job.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tea

    As usual with books by Steve Jones there are some interesting facts related with good humour that appeal to a wider audience than science fanatics. Despite the title, the book is concerned primarily with the characteristics of the Y chromosome and not the imminent demise of the male of the species.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Genetic Cuckoo

    A real page turner of a book. Wonderful and enlightening at the same time. It explored the origins of the Y chromosome and some interesting studies and findings regarding the evolution of sex and sexual reporduction. This is a must read for anyone interested in genetics.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty Darbyshire

    Fabulous look at what makes men men and at all kinds of aspects of masculinity, all of the obvious ones and a few that aren't. Lots of genetic stuff as you'd expect but quite a lot that dives out into other areas of biology and beyond. Great writer as well as a good scientist.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    Possibly because I don't own the chromosome in question, I did not find this as involving as Jones's other books, as I did not think that the chapters followed a logical order. That being said, the science was well explained and the book contained a wealth of interesting information.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nina Mcneill

    it was an explique of the genetic causation of male (humans) and i don't have enough science to really appreciate it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    every american man should be forced to read the chapter about circumcision. the rest of the book is great too.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tom Richards

    Had to skip a couple of chapters because it all got a bit too much like a textbook and I started to suffer from fact-overload. Was never quite sure what the point of the book was.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Marijana

    wow!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Dionne

    To be added if given a time

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tim Domagalski

    an informative, if sometimes uncomforable(for men) look at mens cotributions to reproduction, etc. A rather humbling experience

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sheri Fresonke Harper

    Steve Jones evaluates fatherhood and the Y chromosome, covering many topics. My review: http://voices.yahoo.com/a-review-y-de... Steve Jones evaluates fatherhood and the Y chromosome, covering many topics. My review: http://voices.yahoo.com/a-review-y-de...

  28. 5 out of 5

    Andreia

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jane

  30. 5 out of 5

    Laura

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