As I recall, my only regret about The Double Helix back in 1968 was that it had taken so long for Watson to sit down and write it. He sounded young, but he really wasn’t. That was the one sin I found it hard to forgive him—he was almost 40. I saved this criticism for the last line of my review, the only sentence I can still remember: “It is disappointing to realize that the book’s young hero is now middle-aged.”

Today, I have a few years on Watson the author—20 years, to be exact. I see so much more in his story now than I did the first time around, and even more on each re-reading. And, every time, I think: This is the place to go, for a writer. Somewhere in the twining of science and story, this is where you can write about life itself.

Gifts of a great book. 


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Jonathan Weiner Is the Maxwell M. Geffen Professor of Medical and Science Journalism at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism and is the author of several books, including The Beak of the Finch, which won the Pulitzer Prize.