Summary and book reviews of The Body by Bill Bryson

The Body

A Guide for Occupants

by Bill Bryson

The Body by Bill Bryson X
The Body by Bill Bryson
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  • Published:
    Oct 2019, 464 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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Book Summary

Bill Bryson, bestselling author of A Short History of Nearly Everything, takes us on a head-to-toe tour of the marvel that is the human body. As addictive as it is comprehensive, this is Bryson at his very best, a must-read owner's manual for everybody.

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 Bryson-esque 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.

7. THE HEART AND BLOOD

Stopped.
Last word of British surgeon and anatomist Joseph Henry Green (1791– 1863)
while feeling his own pulse

I

THE HEART IS the most misperceived of our organs. For a start, it looks nothing like the traditional symbol associated with Valentine's Day and lovers' initials carved into tree trunks and the like. (That symbol first appeared, as if from out of nowhere, in paintings from northern Italy in the early fourteenth century, but no one knows what inspired it.) Nor is the heart where we place our right hand during patriotic moments; it is more centrally located in the chest than that. Most curious of all, perhaps, is that we make it the emotional seat of our being, as when we declare that we love someone with all our heart or profess a broken heart when they abandon us. Don't misunderstand me. The heart is a wondrous organ and fully deserving of our praise and gratitude, but it is not invested even slightly in our emotional well-being.

That's a good ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

With his characteristic wit, he takes his readers on a survey of anatomy that successfully outlines what makes us human. The book will certainly appeal to Bryson’s ever-growing fan base and delight anyone who enjoys acquiring new information about a topic they think they already know well. I've read everything he has written and believe it to be far and away his best work to date...continued

Full Review Members Only (674 words).

(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

NPR
The truth is, it's just not clear who The Body is for. Is it the sort of book targeted to the children bored by textbooks, or is it targeted to the casual adult reader? Is it meant for people who care for and know about the human body, or is it for people who know nothing about it? And no matter who the reader is, it is hard to imagine The Body making the kind of incredible impact that A Short History did, especially in a time when so many wonderful books with similar scope exist.

New York Times
Bryson takes us on a body-part-by-body-part tour, with chapters devoted to the brain, the guts and the skin and hair. Each chapter weaves together history, anecdotes, expert interviews and vocabulary lessons...The overall result is informative, entertaining and often gross.

Kirkus Reviews
A pleasing, entertaining sojourn into the realm of what makes us tick.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Bryson's tone is both informative and inviting, encouraging the reader, throughout this exemplary work, to share the sense of wonder he expresses at how the body is constituted and what it is capable of.

Booklist (starred review)
A delightful tour guide...Bryson's stroll through human anatomy, physiology, evolution, and illness (diabetes, cancer, infections) is instructive, accessible, and entertaining.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Trivia about the Human Body

Human AnatomyBill Bryson's The Body: A Guide for Occupants is an engaging exploration of the human body, packed with interesting trivia about human anatomy. Some of the most memorable facts the author presents are:

  • According to calculations by Britain's Royal Society of Chemistry, 59 elements are needed to construct a human being. Just six of these (carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorous) make up 99.1% of our bodies.
  • Every day between one and five of your 37.2 trillion cells turns cancerous, but your immune system almost always captures and kills the malignant cells.
  • Our skin doesn't have receptors for wetness, only thermal sensors, which is why when you sit down on a wet spot you can't tell if it's truly wet or just cold.
  • ...

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