Steve Jones’ Y: The Descent of Men

In Y: The Descent of Men, Jones gives a wide-ranging account of maleness, inlcuding everything from baldness to hormones to erectile dysfunction to basic physiology.

This book is rather well written. It may seem odd to apply a stylistic analysis to a book that is supposed to be scientific, but that is the first thing I noticed. The book is readible, and for non-fiction, that takes some doing. Jones’ style is relaxed, yet informative, and British humor shows throughout the book.

I will admit that this book wasn’t what I was expecting. I read this book for a Gender Issues (Human Sexuality) course, and was expecting it to make an argument for or against something–it doesn’t. The jacket cover calls it an “exploration of maleness”, and that sums it up rather well. Jones looks at maleness in differing levels, varying from the chromosomal to the behavioral to the historical. In all cases, he keeps the reader thinking, and frequently sends them running for a dictionary, all without lapsing into too much jargon. The topics discussed were interesting, and Jones goes into enough detail to satisfy curiousity, but not so much as to endlessly bore the reader. (My perspective on that, however, may be slightly skewed, as the reading was supplimented with many journal articles for the course I took, covering many of the same topics.)

There are several things Jones summarily dismissed in his book without explaining the reasoning (or giving sources) behind the dismissals; I found this particularly frustrating, given my only other perspective on those particular issues, such as the search for a genetic “Adam” that has led geneticists/biologists to Ethiopia, is from journal/scientific articles by those involved. More sources would have been nice, as would more explanation of a dismissal such as “The hint is vague at best.”