Structured around the dismantling of the profitable notion pushed by self-help seers such as Malcolm Gladwell that 10,000 hours of monomaniacal practice is the secret of success, David Epstein’s The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance is one of the best books on human biodiversity in recent years.
Beyond undermining Gladwellian blank-slatism, Epstein extols the sheer pleasure of noticing humanity’s variety for its own sake. On his book’s penultimate page, he writes:
…sports will continue to provide a splendid stage for the fantastic menagerie that’s human biological diversity. Amid the pageantry of the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, make sure to look for the extremes of the human physique.…It is breathtaking to think that, in the truest genetic sense, we are all a large family, and that the paths of our ancestors have left us wonderfully distinct.
Epstein, a Sports Illustrated reporter, builds upon the work of journalists such as Jon Entine (Taboo) and me in taking an evenhanded look at the roles of both nature and nurture.