Book Review: The Sports Gene by David Epstein

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“In reality, any case for sports expertise that leans entirely on nature or nurture is a straw-man argument. If every athlete in the world were an identical sibling to every other athlete, the only environment and practice would determine who made it to the Olympics or the professional ranks. Conversely, if every athlete in the world trained in exactly the same way, only genes would separate their performances on the field. But neither of those scenarios is ever the case.”

David Epstein dives deep into, basically, the nature vs. nurture debate of what makes a great athlete great. Where do all these tall, long basketball players come from? How do all the best swimmers seem to have such long torsos? Is the determination and will to train learned or passed down from our parents?

All the above questions have many answers, and Epstein goes to great lengths — literally — to get answers. From reindeer farms in Finland to finding out why so many Africans dominate distance races worldwide, David interviews hundreds of people and spares no detail in explaining studies down on these every questions over the years. The book is quite detailed at some points, and I would not call this book entirely a “sports” book in the sense of what I’m used to reading when “sports” is in the title. This book is as much academic and scientific as it is leisure.

the sports gene david epstein

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