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About the book
  • Published: 29 August 2013
  • ISBN: 9781448189922
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 352

The Sports Gene

What Makes the Perfect Athlete

An entertaining and thought-provoking examination of the truth behind talent and success.

‘A wonderful book. Thoughtful…fascinating’ Malcolm Gladwell

Do you believe some people are born athletes?

Is sporting talent innate or something that can be achieved through endurance and practice?

In this ground-breaking and entertaining exploration of athletic success, award-winning writer David Epstein gets to the heart of the great nature vs. nurture debate, and explodes myths about how and why humans excel.

Along the way, Epstein:

- Exposes the flaws in the so-called 10,000-hour rule that states that rigorous practice from a young age is the only route to success.

- Shows why some skills that we imagine are innate are not – like the bullet-fast reactions of a baseball player.

- Uncovers why other characteristics that we assume are entirely voluntary, like the motivation to practice, might in fact have important genetic components.

Throughout, The Sports Gene forces us to rethink the very nature of success.

  • Pub date: 29 August 2013
  • ISBN: 9781448189922
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 352

About the Author

David Epstein

David Epstein is an award-winning senior writer for Sports Illustrated, where he covers sports science, medicine, and Olympic sports. His investigative pieces are among Sports Illustrated’s most high-profile stories. An avid runner himself, he earned All-East honours on Columbia University's varsity track squad. This is his first book.

Praise for The Sports Gene

“A wonderful book. Thoughtful... fascinating.”

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers

“Provides a powerful and convincing analysis of how genes influence all our lives, especially the careers of elite sportsmen”

The Times

“A fascinating, thought-provoking look at the leading edge of sports performance, written by a guy who knows the territory. David, besides being a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, was a collegiate runner for Columbia University. More to the point, he’s a terrific researcher and a fine, thoughtful writer”

Dan Coyle, author of The Talent Code

“Full credit to David Epstein, a Sports Illustrated journalist with a serious and deep knowledge of genetics and sports science, for his terrific and unblinking new book, The Sports Gene, a timely corrective to the talent-denial industry”

Ed Smith, New Statesman

“Endlessly fascinating”

John Harding, Daily Mail

“Epstein’s book does not try to simplify the argument, but it does provide a welcome corrective to those who have deliberately underplayed the notion that genetic make-up is irrelevant”

Mike Atherton, The Times

“David Epstein's illuminating synthesis of the latest research into the nature v nurture debate as applied to sport”

Simon Redfern, Independent

“Provoking spirited debate about the merits of the 10,000 hour rule”

Rick Broadbent, The Times

“An important book on the relative roles of genes and environment—nature and nurture—in the building of a professional athlete ... bound to put the cat among the pigeons”

Wall Street Journal

“Captivating...fascinating...His answer to the questions “Nature or nurture?” is both. If that sounds like a hedge, it isn’t: instead, it’s a testament to the author’s close attention to nuance.”

New York Times

“Intelligently, rigorously and politely debunks the "10,000 hours" myth”

Ed Smith, New Statesman

“Perhaps the most fascinating book of the year... Absorbing and full of fascinating detail”

Chris Maume, Independent

“This subtle, enthralling study by the Sports Illustrated writer avoids making excessive claims for genetics”

Financial Times

“David Epstein's The Sports Gene has a discussion that badly needs to happen at all levels in sport; about the relationships between talent, genetics, practice and success in sport”

Dave MacLeod, Scotsman

“Respect is due to Epstein…for injecting some objectivity into the debate with his gripping new tome”

David Bradford, Cycling Active

“The Sports Gene offers a fascinating insight into the topic of nature v nurture…a great read”

Jason Henderson, Athletics Weekly

“A welcome corrective to those who have deliberately underplayed the notion that genetic makeup is relevant”


“An illuminating read”



Rick Broadbent, The Times

“Well written and contains important research, and has some wonderful anecdotes”

Matthew Syed, The Times

“The most intriguing sports books of the year, and possibly the best-researched”

Irish Examiner

“An enjoyable mixture of easily digestible science, anecdote and argument”

Michael Beloff, Times Literary Supplement

“This is a book to counter the 10,000-hour rule popularised by Malcolm Gladwell”

Mark Gallagher, Daily Mail

“In a book packed with fascinating anecdotes, it’s hard to pick out highlights … If sport is a passion, The Sports Gene is required reading”

The Score

“Highly entertaining and enlightening”

Brandon Robshaw, Independent on Sunday

“The Sports Gene does not try to simplify the nature vs nurture argument, but it does provide a welcome corrective to those who have underplayed the notion that genetic make-up is relevant”

The Times

“Epstein explores this territory with canny verve”

William Leith, Evening Standard

“Interesting reading”

Alastair Mabbott, Herald

“Dazzling and illuminating”

Richard Moore, Guardian

“Epstein is too respectful of the complexity of his subject matter to leap to any grand conclusions. The book was conceived partially as a rebuttal to glib theorising, and it is all the more fascinating as a result”

Ken Early, Irish Times

“Fascinating from start to finish”

Amanda Khouv, Women's Fitness

“Epstein forces us to rethink the very nature of athleticism”

GrrlScientist, Guardian

“Looks at the science of extraordinary athletic performance.”

Adam Whitehead, Daily Telegraph

“Captivating… Dazzling and illuminating”

Richard Moore, Guardian

“Epstein is not afraid to follow science in “trekking deep into the bramble patches of sensitive topics like gender and race"”


“Captivating… In a particularly fascinating chapter, Epstein investigates an old theory that purports to explain why Jamaica produces so many Olympic sprinters”

Christie Ashwanden, Scotsman

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