BOOK CLUB

Connect and read with fellow alumni

Join in with thought provoking discussions as we discover the set texts together, moderated by a dedicated group leader who will encourage debate and suggest critical points for analysis.

 

JOIN THE CLUB

 

'The Code Breaker' by Walter Isaacson book cover

The book we are currently reading, as voted for by our book club members is: The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson (Pembroke, 1984).

Goodreads says: 

'The Code Breaker is an examination of how life as we know it is about to change – and a brilliant portrayal of the woman leading the way.

When Jennifer Doudna was in sixth grade, she came home one day to find that her dad had left a paperback titled The Double Helix on her bed. As she sped through the pages, she became enthralled by the intense drama behind the competition to discover the code of life. Even though her high school counselor told her girls didn’t become scientists, she decided she would.

Driven by a passion to understand how nature works and to turn discoveries into inventions, she would help to make what the book’s author, James Watson, told her was the most important biological advance since his co-discovery of the structure of DNA. She and her collaborators turned ​a curiosity ​of nature into an invention that will transform the human race: an easy-to-use tool that can edit DNA. Known as CRISPR, it opened a brave new world of medical miracles and moral questions.

The development of CRISPR and the race to create vaccines for coronavirus will hasten our transition to the next great innovation revolution. The past half-century has been a digital age, based on the microchip, computer, and internet. Now we are entering a life-science revolution. Children who study digital coding will be joined by those who study genetic code.

Should we use our new evolution-hacking powers to make us less susceptible to viruses? What a wonderful boon that would be! And what about preventing depression? Hmmm…Should we allow parents, if they can afford it, to enhance the height or muscles or IQ of their kids?

After helping to discover CRISPR, Doudna became a leader in wrestling with these moral issues and, with her collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier, won the Nobel Prize in 2020.'

You can also subscribe to the Books & Learning mailing list to stay up to date on future books and activities.

Are you an alumni author?

If you have written a book which has been published in the last 12 months or is about to be released, and it is available to purchase from Blackwell's bookshop, you can email the editor of QUAD news to consider it for review on our QUAD website, please email Richard Lofthouse with the following information:

  • Your full name
  • Oxford Number (or college/year of matriculation)
  • Title and description of book
  • Date of publication
  • ISBN
  • Link to book on Blackwell's website

Book Club FAQs

Book one is pre-selected to get things going, and afterwards, we’ll vote between several options each period and select each book based on participants’ interests.

You will need either to buy, borrow or download a copy of the texts we select as a group. Readers are responsible for sourcing the texts themselves.

We’ll read a book every two months. If you have on average 30 minutes a week to read you should be fine. There is no required level of participation in group discussions; if don’t have time to read one of the books that's okay. The goal of the club is to make connections with other alumni through reading, so please take it at your own pace.

No, the book club will be entirely online. The advantage of this is that alumni living all over the world can participate, meaning we will get diverse perspectives on the texts we read.

There is no limit to the number of people who can join the book club; the more the merrier!

Participation is free for Oxford alumni. Readers are responsible for buying, borrowing or downloading the texts we read.

Our book club will have a dedicated moderator who manages the forum where discussions occur online. The moderator will pose questions to the group, share relevant articles, and facilitate conversation about topics in the book. Members will be encouraged to post and share as well. This format allows for ongoing conversation and makes it easy for alumni to connect with each other.

Feel free to send an email to enquiries@alumni.ox.ac.uk and we'd be happy to help.