The Body: A Guide for Occupants - THE SUNDAY TIMES NO.1 BESTSELLER
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This book was given to me as a Christmas present, and it was a great gift. As a fan of Bryson, I was surprised that I had not even heard of his new work of popular science. I am glad that it came to my attention, then, since this was my favorite Bryson book since A Short History of Nearly Everything. Structured as a tour of the human body, the book made me feel right at home.
Do I recommend reading this? Absolutely. Everyone ought to have a primer on themselves. The benefit here is much more than meets the eye, though. So many new discoveries and outright debunking of myths have made it in this text. Recent ones, too. People act as if skin color is a determinant of character when all it is is a reaction to sunlight. Biologically, there is actually no such thing as race - nothing in terms of skin color, facial features, hair type, bone structure or anything else that is a defining quality among peoples." - Nina Jablonski My one big takeaway from The Body is that we know almost nothing about the body. We know so much more than we did a hundred years ago, and yet we still know almost nothing. I swear that about ten times in every chapter, there's a comment like "these cells do this, but nobody knows why" or "women are 10x more likely to get this disease than men, but why is anybody's guess". I mean, we spend a third of our lives asleep and no one even knows why we do that.
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With these two things in mind, proceed at your own risk! If you love trivia and don’t mind dumbed down science, this should be perfect for you. If you are a doctor, it may be too simple of an explanation to satisfy – or, maybe not??? If you are easily queasy when it comes to blood, vomit, and other bodily fluids and functions, I would suggest passing on this one. When the book’s not enraging, it’s just dull. Bryson mostly elides his own narrative voice, which is his main strength as a writer, in favor of pretending to be an authority, so we get an endless dull recitation of facts that many readers already know. (And many of which we learned from more engaging books than this one.) I didn't realise that the X-chromosome was called that because the person who discovered it didn’t know what it did – and so, like ‘planet X’, the letter was chosen due to this mystery rather than for the chromosome’s shape. And the Y-chromosome was likewise named following on from X in the alphabet. A directory of wonders. Extraordinary stories about the heart, lungs, genitals ... plus some anger and life advice - all delivered in the inimitable Bryson style Gavin Francis, Guardian
It's clear that The Body is aimed at a general audience. (Readers who specialize in the biological sciences might want more detail than this book provides.) Bryson employs his usual wry and laconic style and applies it to the human body. This isn’t a medical text book, but it is detailed and covers pretty much what you would expect. Bryson does cover the history and development of medicines, surgery and approaches to the body. He also uncovers some of the lesser known pioneers of medicine, those history has forgotten. Bryson tells their stories and uncovers their foibles in an entertaining way.Skin gets its color from a variety of pigments, the best known is a molecule we know as melanin. It’s also responsible for the color of birds’ feathers and gives fish the texture and luminescence of the their scales. Our skin evolved based on our geography. All the richness of life is created inside your head. What you see is not what is but what your brain tells you it is, and that's not the same thing at all. The most fascinating chapter to me was about the brain. Humans can truly be idiosyncratic as we don't all see or smell the world the same way. How can we when our individual collection of odorant receptors will lead to differing experiences of smell. And then because of the distance between our optic nerves and brains, the brain forecasts 1/5th of a second in advance. ... photons of light have no color, sound waves no sound, olfactory molecules no odors. ... Smell is said to account for at least 70 per cent of flavour and maybe even as much as 90 per cent.