In his autobiography, A Life Decoded: My Genome: My Life, J. Craig Venter doesn’t just tell the story of how Celera, his private research company, beat the National Institutes of Health’s Genome Project in the race to sequence the human genome. The tale goes back earlier, when he was a soldier in Vietnam, and earlier, when he was a screwed-up kid, and earlier still, back at conception. Venter uses his genome map to explain everything from why he’s a good swimmer to why he’s not an addict to why, as a teen, he sneaked out at night to rendezvous with his first sure thing. Venter’s is the story of a child and young man with dim hopes who later battles with big science and wins—and in the process redefines what it means to be human. Venter discusses and signs copies of his work at 5 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919.