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BOOK REVIEW: Hormones: A Very Short Introduction by Martin Luck

Hormones: A Very Short IntroductionHormones: A Very Short Introduction by Martin Luck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon page

Let’s face it; the word “hormone” is usually reserved for questions of why a male is so horny (e.g. “His hormones were raging.”) or why a female is so moody (e.g. “She’s hormonal.”) Yet, the endocrine system is about much more than horniness and moodiness. It’s the body’s lesser known communication system, transmitting signals more slowly than the nervous system, but over a broader area and with longer-lasting results. Yes, it’s instrumental in sex, but it’s also involved in regulation of almost everything else the body does. Though we associate hormones with sex, when it comes to mass appeal it’s clearly not the sexiest of systems.

Dr. Luck’s book allows one to rectify one’s ignorance of hormones without a major investment of time or money. This is one volume in a series put out by Oxford University Press that’s designed to convey the fundamentals of a subject in about 100 pages or so (in this case it’s more like 130pgs.) I’ve done several reviews of books in this series, and will likely do more. These “Very Short Introductions” are a good way to get the gist of a topic quickly and painlessly, and they are reasonably priced on Amazon Kindle and in hard-copy at my local discount bookseller. (FYI: Your results may vary. i.e. Hard-copies at some bookstores may be pricey for what these books are—i.e. subject summaries that are optimized for concision and not for entertaining reading.)

The book has nine chapters. The first is a history of the science related to hormones and the endocrine system. (It took a while to figure out that there even was a system because of the nature of hormonal action.) The second chapter hits the basics, such as what hormones are and how they work. Chapter three tells us about the role hormones play in reproduction. The next chapter is about how hormones regulate the body’s levels of water and salt (and the effects on blood pressure.) Next, there is a discussion of the calcium cycle and how calcium is banked in bone and borrowed for the purposes of other cells. There’s a chapter that educates one about diabetes and how hormones (notably insulin) regulate blood sugar. Chapter seven is devoted to the thyroid. Chapter eight describes the role of hormones in circadian rhythms and the cycles of the body. The final chapter is about where science is going with its knowledge of hormones and the advances that are being pursued.

There are few graphics in this book. Most of them are chemical diagrams in dialogue boxes that many readers will skip because of their ominous appearance. The lack of graphics isn’t a problem. Luck does use a narrative approach on occasion (such as his telling of the story of the giant William Rice of Sutton Bonington.) This enhances the book’s readability, and is noteworthy because it’s a rarity among books in this series, which—again—are written to shotgun information and not to be entertaining reads.

I’d recommend this book for those who want to learn (or brush up on) the basics of the endocrine system. It does what it’s supposed to do, and does it quickly.

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