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BOOK REVIEW: Adventures in Human Being by Gavin Francis

Adventures in Human Being: A Grand Tour from the Cranium to the CalcaneumAdventures in Human Being: A Grand Tour from the Cranium to the Calcaneum by Gavin Francis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazon page

Dr. Francis’s book of essays takes one on a fascinating anatomical cook’s tour—literally from head to toe. The book uses patient case histories, tales from med school, great moments in medical history, and even references to art and pop culture to intrigue the reader with the awesome nature of the human body. This isn’t the kind of book that tries to tell one everything there is to know on a subject. Rather it drills deep on specific subjects, but with humor and readability. While the book examines specific issues pertaining to the body part under consideration, it gives the layman reader the necessary background to comprehend even the most complex topics, often through interesting factoids.

In 18 chapters divided into seven parts by regions of the body, one will learn about topics such as: electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), the almost ancient art of cataract surgery, botoxing of Bell’s Palsy patients, how the Epley manoeuver is used to seemingly miraculously cure vertigo through snappy head movements, why Renaissance thinkers thought the soul resided in the lips, why having one’s blood circulated pulselessly causes problems, how a “Brachial stun” immobilizes an arm, why suicidal wrist slashers rarely succeed, where the nail goes in a proper crucifixion, how kidneys became the gift that keeps giving, how a scratch on the hand almost cost a gardener her life and what her liver did to save her, why your bowel movements matter, how fetoliths (i.e. “stone babies”) come to reside in the abdomens of older women, why–in some cultures–it’s necessary to eat the afterbirth while others insist on burying it under the house, why the hip’s blood supply is lacking, and how the foot is really more specialized and consequential to human existence than our hands and their well-publicized opposable thumbs.

My wife got me this book after seeing it on the list of the best books of 2015 put out by “The Economist” magazine. It was an excellent choice and it moved it quickly to the front of my reading list. I’d highly recommend it for anyone interested in science, medicine, anatomy, physiology, or the human body.

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