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The Pain Chronicles: Book summary and reviews of The Pain Chronicles by Melanie Thernstrom

The Pain Chronicles

Cures, Myths, Mysteries, Prayers, Diaries, Brain Scans, Healing, and the Science of Suffering

by Melanie Thernstrom

The Pain Chronicles by Melanie Thernstrom X
The Pain Chronicles by Melanie Thernstrom
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About this book

Book Summary

Each of us will know physical pain in our lives, but none of us knows when it will come or how long it will stay. Today as much as 10 percent of the population of the United States suffers from chronic pain. It is more widespread, misdiagnosed, and under-treated than any major disease. While recent research has shown that pain produces pathological changes to the brain and spinal cord, many doctors and patients still labor under misguided cultural notions and outdated scientific dogmas that prevent proper treatment, to devastating effect.

In The Pain Chronicles, a singular and deeply humane work, Melanie Thernstrom traces conceptions of pain throughout the ages—from ancient Babylonian pain-banishing spells to modern brain imaging—to reveal the elusive, mysterious nature of pain itself. Interweaving first-person reflections on her own battle with chronic pain, incisive reportage from leading-edge pain clinics and medical research, and insights from a wide range of disciplines—science, history, religion, philosophy, anthropology, literature, and art—Thernstrom shows that when dealing with pain we are neither as advanced as we imagine nor as helpless as we may fear.

Both a personal meditation and an intellectual exploration, The Pain Chronicles illuminates and makes sense of the all-too-human experience of pain—and confronts with extraordinary grace and empathy its peculiar traits, its harrowing effects, and its various antidotes.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. An exquisite, meticulous history of medicine’s quest to alleviate pain ... In these stories, there is a wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and hope for the rest of us." - Publishers Weekly

"An intriguing investigation of chronic pain that combines expert opinion, philosophy and history with the author's personal struggle ... A rich melange of ideas and journalism." - Kirkus Reviews

"A book about pain has no right to be so pleasurable to read, but such is the depth of Melanie Thernstrom’s intellect, curiosity, and compassion that The Pain Chronicles is indeed a joy. It’s also a revelation, a fascinating guide through a subject we all know so well but, until now, didn’t know quite how to think about." - Stephen J. Dubner, coauthor of Freakonomics

"In this elegant, beautifully written book, Melanie Thernstrom trains her prodigious intellect on a subject at once utterly universal and deeply, poignantly personal. The Pain Chronicles is that rare hybrid: a meticulously researched and important work that is also a riveting page-turner. This is required reading for anyone who wants to understand an essential aspect of our humanity." - Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion: A Memoir

"The Pain Chronicles is scholarly, lyrical, and humane, and will give tremendous comfort to those who are in pain and those who hope to understand them." - Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon

This information about The Pain Chronicles was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Melanie Thernstrom

Melanie Thernstrom is a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine and the author of The Dead Girl and Halfway Heaven: Diary of a Harvard Murder.

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