#StevesLibrary: The Body
Bill Bryson is one of those authors that I respect for taking on the challenge of writing books on the most impossible topics. The Body: A Guide for Occupants is no exception. How on Earth do you go about summarising everything we know about the human body in a single book? If you’ve ever seen a copy of The Body, then you know that it is quite a hefty tome. At almost 400 pages in length, it’s not something you can digest quickly, especially seeing as the information contained within is quite dense. Bryson has done a fantastic job of trying to ensure that only the relevant information to the general reader is included. If I’d have attempted a similar book, it would be 100 times a long, and full of so much superfluous information that people wouldn’t get past the first chapter!
Our bodies are something that a lot of us take for granted, until they go wrong. For most of human history, we had no idea how they worked, or how to go about trying to remedy the issues with them. That all changed during the Enlightenment (and subsequent periods of time), with the basics of human biology only being established in the 16th and 17th centuries. We’ve come a long way since, and Bryson takes us on a tour of both historical and contemporary science which explains our understanding of the human body. I’m sure that some of the facts contained within will make some people think about their body differently. How many times a day do you actively think about your skeleton, and what is going to happen to it from one week to the next?
Given its size and dense nature, I certainly recommend this as a slower read to most. I do not recommend trying to speed through it, you can’t absorb the information and the prose will trip you up. In my mind, Bryson wrote The Body to be savoured, like a fine wine. That said, it is rammed full of interesting facts and a must-read for anyone with a fascination for biology/anatomy.
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