M.A. Psychology, Oxford. McKinsey Alum. Founder & Editor at TAoL.
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The Body Review
The Body is a wonderfully written, awe-inspiring book.
And I mean that literally. It will genuinely inspire the kind of awe in you, for every part of you, that your body deserves, and yet rarely receive.
Is it practical? Not really.
Will it change your life? Probably not.
But if you’re looking for a great audiobook, or something to refill you with the kind of wonder for everyday life that usually only belongs to young children, then The Body is a great book to read.
The Body Summary
This publisher’s blurb comes from the Penguin hard cover edition of The Body…
“Bill Bryson takes us on a head-to-toe tour of the marvel that is the human body—with a new afterword for this edition.
Bill Bryson once again proves himself to be an incomparable companion as he guides us through the human body—how it functions, its remarkable ability to heal itself, and (unfortunately) the ways it can fail. Full of extraordinary facts (your body made a million red blood cells since you started reading this) and irresistible Brysonesque anecdotes, The Body will lead you to a deeper understanding of the miracle that is life in general and you in particular.
As Bill Bryson writes, “We pass our existence within this wobble of flesh and yet take it almost entirely for granted.” The Body will cure that indifference with generous doses of wondrous, compulsively readable facts and information. As addictive as it is comprehensive, this is Bryson at his very best, a must-read owner’s manual for every body.”
NOTE: This is basically an engagingly written, unillustrated biology textbook (and not the kind of book that gets summarised). Result: I won’t be coming back for it anytime soon. Check out the publisher’s blurb and the contents sections below to get a feel for the scope of the book.
The Body Contents
The Body has 23 main chapters…
- How to Build a Human
- The Outside: Skin and Hair
- Microbial You
- The Brain
- The Head
- Down the Hatch: The Mouth and Throat
- The Heart and Blood
- The Chemistry Department
- In the Dissecting Room: The Skeleton
- On the Move: Bipedalism and Exercise
- The Immune System
- Deep Breath: The Lungs and Breathing
- Food, Glorious Food
- The Guts
- Into the Nether Regions
- In the Beginning: Conception and Birth
- Nerves and Pain
- When Things Go Wrong: Diseases
- When Things Go Very Wrong: Cancer
- Medicine Good and Bad
- The End
Best The Body Quotes
These The Body quotes come from The Art of Living's ever-growing central library of thoughts, anecdotes, notes, and inspirational quotes.
"The most remarkable part of all is your DNA. You have a metre of it packed into every cell, and so many cells that if you formed all the DNA in your body into a single fine strand it would stretch ten billion miles, to beyond Pluto. Think of it: there is enough of you to leave the solar system. You are in the most literal sense cosmic."- Bill Bryson, The Body
"Just sitting quietly, doing nothing at all, your brain churns through more information in thirty seconds than the Hubble Space Telescope has processed in thirty years. A morsel of cortex one cubic millimeter in size—about the size of a grain of sand—could hold two thousand terabytes of information, enough to store all the movies ever made, trailers included, or about 1.2 billion copies of this book."- Bill Bryson, The Body
"There are thousands of things that can kill us—slightly more than eight thousand, according to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems compiled by the World Health Organization—and we escape every one of them but one. For most of us, that’s not a bad deal."- Bill Bryson, The Body
"For each visual input, it takes a tiny but perceptible amount of time—about two hundred milliseconds, one-fifth of a second — for the information to travel along the optic nerves and into the brain to be processed and interpreted. One-fifth of a second is not a trivial span of time when a rapid response is required—to step back from an oncoming car, say, or to avoid a blow to the head. To help us deal better with this fractional lag, the brain does a truly extraordinary thing: it continuously forecasts what the world will be like a fifth of a second from now, and that is what it gives us as the present. That means that we never see the world as it is at this very instant, but rather as it will be a fraction of a moment in the future. We spend our whole lives, in other words, living in a world that doesn’t quite exist yet."- Bill Bryson, The Body
"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. And yet look how many people have been enslaved or hated or lynched or deprived of fundamental rights through history because of the color of their skin."- Bill Bryson, The Body
"All that is really going in your mouth is texture and chemicals. It is your brain that reads these scentless, flavorless molecules and vivifies them for your pleasure. Your brownie is sheet music. It is your brain that makes it a symphony."- Bill Bryson, The Body
"In breathing, as in everything in life, the numbers are staggering – indeed fantastical. Every time you breathe, you exhale some 25 sextillion (that’s 2.5 × 1022) molecules of oxygen – so many that with a day’s breathing you will in all likelihood inhale at least one molecule from the breaths of every person who has ever lived.1 And every person who lives from now until the sun burns out will from time to time breathe in a bit of you. At the atomic level, we are in a sense eternal."- Bill Bryson, The Body
"An interesting thing about touch is that the brain doesn’t just tell you how something feels, but how it ought to feel. That’s why the caress of a lover feels wonderful, but the same touch by a stranger would feel creepy or horrible. It’s also why it is so hard to tickle yourself."- Bill Bryson, The Body
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