I’ve read one of Sue Armstrong’s books before, on the role of the p53 gene in cancer, so despite aging and the science thereof not really being my thing, I thought I’d give it a try. And it was, in fact, riveting. I knew a little about some of the experiments — I read a paper on sirtuins and resveratrol for my final exam of my BSc, so that gave me some extra context — but much of the detail was new to me, and Armstrong explains things beautifully and keeps things very clear.
The answer to the question of how and why we age is, of course, “lots of ways and lots of reasons”, and the science isn’t all the way yet on understanding exact mechanisms and unpicking the many small effects that can add up over a lifetime. Armstrong avoids giving any false certainty, but makes it clear how people in the know expect things to go, and what they’re cautious about. Unlike some writers, she doesn’t intrude a lot into the narrative (we don’t have to hear stories about her neighbour’s sister’s dog’s brother, which some science writers lean on a bit too heavily), or when she does it feels relevant and useful to understand where she stands.
For a field with so many different puzzle-pieces, Armstrong really brings it together well, and I actually found myself reading this all in one day, in great big chunks. Now that’s good science writing!