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In "The Body," Bill Bryson offers a captivating guide to the extraordinary occupants of our human body.

The Body: A Guide for Occupants – by Bill Bryson

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Better known for his writings on geography and history, here Bryson puts his mind to anatomy and physiology. How well does he do?

Very well, actually—thanks no doubt to the oversight of the veritable flock of consulting scientists mentioned in the acknowledgements. To this reviewer’s knowledge, no mistakes made it through into publication.

That said, Bryson’s love of history does shine through, and in this case, the book is as much a telling of medical history, as it is of the human body. That’s a feature not a bug, though, as not only is it fascinating in and of itself, but also, it’d be difficult to fully understand where we’re at in science, without understanding how we got here.

The style of the book is easy-reading narrative prose, but packed with lots of quirky facts, captivating anecdotes, and thought-provoking statistics. For example:

  • The least effective way to spread germs is kissing. It proved ineffective among volunteers (in what sounds like a fun study) who had been successfully infected with the cold virus. Sneezes and coughs weren’t much better. The only really reliable way to transfer cold germs was physically by touch.
  • The United States has 4% of the world’s population but consumes 80% of its opiates.
  • Allowing a fever to run its course (within limits) could be the wisest thing. An increase of only a degree or so in body temperature slows the replication rate of viruses by a factor of 200.

Still, these kinds of things are woven together so well, that it doesn’t feel at all like reading a trivia list!

Bottom line: if you’d like to know a lot more about anatomy and physiology, but prefer a very casual style rather than sitting down with a stack of textbooks, this book is a great option.

Click here to check out The Body, and learn more about yours!

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