The Body by Bill Bryson : A quick summary and review. This is a fantastic book (and Audiobook), even if Science isn’t normally one of your reading interests.
I’m on a quest this year to read more non-fiction (that isn’t memoir or biography) and I’m determined to read at least 24 non-fiction books by year’s end.
The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson, was the perfect book to begin my quest with. It’s a real page turner!
I’ve long been a big fan of Bill Bryson. I first read A Walk in the Woods in college and was so smitten by his account of traveling the Appalachian trail that I proceeded to read every book he’d written and was always first in line for his new books when they came out. A few more of my favorites have been:
- A Short History of Nearly Everything – An absolutely fascinating account of the universe. I’m amazed how he can take so much math, physics, and science and make it into something totally entertaining for someone who knows (and cares) so little about math, physics, and science.
- In A Sunburned Country – All about his travels through Australia with some of the most memorable anecdotes I’ve ever read. Most of my ideas of what Australia is like come from this book.
- Shakespeare: The World as Stage – I’ve read quite a bit about Shakespeare, but so much of what I remember about him is from this book.
Now, in his latest book, Bill Bryson is tackling all the mysteries (and there are many) of the human body. I listened to this one on Audio (read by the author himself) and loved every minute of it!
The Body: A Guide for Occupants Summary
This book is equal parts fascinating and terrifying.
The book is structured as a tour through the body, body-part by body-part, with chapters devoted to the Brain, the Head, the Heart and Blood, the Guts and more. There are also chapters tackling Sleep, the Immune System, Nerves and Pain, and our Skin and Hair. Additionally, Bryson also covers the history and development of medicines and surgery, and spotlights some lesser known pioneers in medicine.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Bryson really covers just about everything.
But what makes The Body a brilliant book is that it doesn’t read like a medical textbook and it’s definitely not boring! With the wry humor that made him famous, Bryson tells the story of the human body in the most entertaining way possible.
Bryson shares compelling anecdotes (like how Marcel Proust treated his asthma condition), fascinating facts (did you know that kissing transfers up to one billion bacteria from mouth to mouth, along with .2 micrograms of food bits?), and trustworthy science (there is absolutely no science indicating that there are any negative effects from consuming normal amounts of MSG, nor is there any science that says that coconut oil is healthier than any other oil). The combination is a fantastic page turning book that is both informative and fun.
But the book has a dark side too. There are a lot of things that can go wrong in the body and Bryson doesn’t leave any of them out. Some sections are nothing less than terrifying.
Not only does he tackle Cancer and Diseases, but he also takes a good look at the global battle with infectious diseases and overuse of antibiotics. The section on antibiotic resistant superbugs and the dystopian future they could easily make come to pass is a chapter that’s going to keep me up at night for some time yet.
The Body by Bill Bryson is a fantastic popular book about the human body! I highly recommend this one, even if science isn’t normally one of your reading interests.
It could also be an excellent entry point for further study of anatomy, physiology, and medicine. I could see this book getting even teens more interested in the subject. High-school science teachers should take notes!
I also really enjoyed this one as an Audiobook. It is read by the author himself and I sped through all 14 hours of it! Aside from giving me some nightmares, it was a delightful read.