In this article I discuss studies towards understanding the structure and function of DNA in the context of genomes from the perspective of a chemist. The first area I describe concerns the studies that led to the invention and subsequent development of a method for sequencing DNA on a genome scale at high speed and low cost, now known as Solexa/Illumina sequencing. The second theme will feature the four-stranded DNA structure known as a G-quadruplex with a focus on its fundamental properties, its presence in cellular genomic DNA and the prospects for targeting such a structure in cels with small molecules. The final topic for discussion is naturally occurring chemically modified DNA bases with an emphasis on chemistry for decoding (or sequencing) such modifications in genomic DNA. The genome is a fruitful topic to be further elucidated by the creation and application of chemical approaches.