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Why We Die

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Audiobook Downloadable / ISBN-13: 9781529369274

Price: £24.99

ON SALE: 19th March 2024

Genre: Society & Social Sciences / Sociology & Anthropology

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A major exploration of the science of why and how we age and die – from a Nobel Prize-winning biologist and former president of the Royal Society.

‘Ramakrishnan’s writing is so honest, lucid and engaging’ – Siddhartha Mukherjee

The knowledge of death is so terrifying that we live most of our lives in denial of it. Our fear of death has underpinned our religions, inspired our cultures, and also driven our science. Today we are living through a revolution in biology. Giant strides are being made in our understanding of why we age and die, and why some species live longer than others. Immortality, once a faint hope, has never been more within our grasp.

Here, Nobel Prize-winning biologist Venki Ramakrishnan offers a definitive look at why we die – and whether we can do anything about it. Covering the recent breakthroughs in scientific research, he examines the cutting edge of efforts to extend lifespan by altering our natural biology and how this raises profound questions. Although we might not like it, might death might serve a necessary biological purpose? And what are the social and ethical costs of attempting to live forever? As science advances, we have much to gain. But might we also have much to lose?

Why We Die is a narrative of uncommon insight and beauty from one of our leading public intellectuals.

(P) 2024 Hodder & Stoughton Limited

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"[Ramakrishnan] has a knack for making biology accessible, and he brings a searching philosophical sensibility when considering the wisdom of seeking to extend life. ... The result is a strikingly pensive exploration of how bodies decline and whether efforts to slow that process are worth the cost."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Enthralling and eminently accessible. ... [Ramakrishnan] probes the essential ethical question that runs through it all. Even if we could live forever, should we?"
"Combines science, politics, memoir and medicine with ease, grace and lucidity. An incredible journey.'
Siddhartha Mukherjee
"Ramakrishnan is a fine writer, so readers will enjoy his expert if intensely detailed overview of genetics and evolution as it applies to ageing. ... Fascinating. ... An illuminating account of the science of life extension with a more critical eye than most."
Kirkus Reviews
"Why We Die is a candid, wide-ranging, and hype-free survey of the latest in longevity research, from tortoises to telomeres. With his delightful gift for storytelling, Venki Ramakrishnan breathes life into the biology of death. If you want to know what science tells us about lifespan, Why We Die is the only book you need."
Safi Bahcall, bestselling author of Loonshots: Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries
Why We Die is a crisply written, captivating and clear-eyed view of death, and how to defeat it. From research on starvation diets, young blood and cryonics to the longevity of naked mole rats, Nobelist Venki Ramakrishnan introduces us to a cast of extraordinary characters in his quest to fathom how elastic lifespan could prove to be. I believe Why We Die will be his enduring legacy yet, deep down, suspect most of us would still rather achieve immortality through not dying.
Roger Highfield
'Utterly fascinating. Venki Ramakrishnan's ability to take the most challenging subjects and make them clear, enthralling and packed with insights fills me with awe.'
Bill Bryson
"Why We Die brilliantly captures the essentials of our current understanding of the aging process. This is an enjoyable romp through molecular and cell biology - and thought-provoking about ethical issues."
Dame Prof Linda Partridge, world-renowned geneticist and ageing researcher
'For a book about death, Venki Ramakrishnan's Why We Die is joyfully alive. The story he tells is one of aging and death, but along the way he covers a huge range of biology, evolution, genetics, chemistry, and medicine. This is science writing at its finest: readable, authoritative, and impactful.'
Steve Brusatte
The conquest of premature death has been remarkably successful in the past century. Can we go one better and extend life? This erudite, nuanced and insightful book tells a rich tale of discovery about why we age and die, skewers some charlatans along the way and offers just a glimmer of hope about immortality.
Matt Ridley
This riveting and revealing book is for all of us who wonder whether ageing and mortality are the next frontiers for human science to cross. Has the first person destined to live of two hundred already been born? Can we really extend our longevity further and further until ... until what? Immortality? Why We Die takes us on a thrilling ride through the science of ageing and death. Meet naked mole rats, lugworms, budding yeast and creepy human charlatans on the way. Venki Ramakrishnan, a Nobel laureate at the very cutting edge of molecular biology has an extraordinary gift for explaining the science behind ageing and death with clarity, wit and enviably entertaining narrative flair. A must read.
Stephen Fry
'A wide-ranging look at the changes that take place inside our cells as we age, the prospects for being able to prevent them, and the possible consequences of doing that. An engrossing read.'
Sarah Gilbert - creator of Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine
'I have so enjoyed reading this spectacular book - it's full of hope and fun and extraordinary research. It beautifully answers the question at the core of every life. Understanding why we must die helps us understand how we must live. It changed my perspective on the whole living world but most of all myself and the time I have left.'
Chris van Tulleken, bestselling author of Ultra-Processed People
'Why We Die brilliantly captures the essentials of current understanding of the aging process. This is an enjoyable romp through molecular and cell biology-and thought-provoking about ethical issues.'
Linda Partridge, Founding Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Biology of Ageing
'Highly accessible . . . poetic . . . Throughout this authoritative book there is a sense of our bodies as complex systems in delicate balance - a balance we still barely understand.'
The Times
Ramakrishnan weaves a story that illuminates this existential topic from so many angles - brilliant!
Tom Cech, Nobel Laureate and former president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Why We Die is both an engaging, accessible overview of the science of ageing and a barbed takedown of the immortality crowd. It is also a love letter to our fleeting existence... By the end, one realises that Why We Die is not an attempt to solve the enigma of mortality but an exhortation to dine well during our brief appearance at the feast of life.
Anjana Ahuja, New Statesman