Today’s book is in a completely different track from books we’ve reviewed in the past. Today’s book is called “The Body: A Guide For Occupants”. By Bill Bryson. Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa. For twenty years he lived in England, where he worked for the Times and the Independent, and wrote for most major British and American publications.
Bill Bryson has written more than 20 books and his works have been published in multiple languages. His latest book has achieved New York Times BestSeller status. On this day, I made the decision to fall prey to the marketing and choose a book off the New York Times Best Seller list. Had the book not achieved best-seller status, I probably would not have chosen to read it.
The Body is truly a book about how to take care of this vessel that we use and abuse on a daily basis, expecting so much from it. It rarely breaks, requires surprisingly little in the way of maintenance or spare parts. You never have to change the oil or the spark plugs.
This mushy miracle we call our body is pretty much taken for granted on a daily basis. The makeup of the body is billions of cells, bacteria and elements. If you were to purchase the individual components it would cost under $20 to make a human out of raw elements. The books is written like a user’s guide, much like you might get when you purchase a new barbecue or a new car. It shows you all the different systems, how to interpret the different warning signals on the dash board, and how to check your tire pressure. Some drivers know how to use the windshield wipers, but they don’t know how to refill the washer fluid. This book goes into all the different parts of the body and give you a tour of the various systems.
The books is organized into 23 chapters with each section dealing with different part of the system. There is an entire chapter devoted to bacteria and microbes. There is an entire chapter devoted to sleep. There is a chapter devoted to nerves and pain. There is an entire chapter dedicated to the alimentary system. We swallow nearly 2,000 times a day, about once every thirty seconds, fully unaware of the 50 muscles involved in the intricate dance required to force food or drink from your throat down into the stomach.
Why do we choose to chew some foods for a long time, and yet allow others to slide down our throat with hardly any grinding contact with our teeth?
Why do some parts of our body itch, and others not? Why do you scratch your head, but not your spleen?
Even in the late 19th century, it was thought that the male or female decision was not the result of chemistry, but by external factors like diet or temperature, perhaps a woman’s mood during the first trimester of pregnancy. For a little over a century it was believed that the X and Y chromosome were responsible for choosing sex during the gestation process. In fact, it was not until 1990 that two teams in London identified the sex determining region of the Y chromosome. We had sent men to the moon and back, but still didn’t know where boys and girls came from.
How many of you know the difference between a tendon and a ligament? Do you know that the human body is made up of a roughly equal number of body cells and bacteria?
Apart from the dozens of trivia like facts about the body, perhaps useful for a party trick, I found myself appreciating the various systems hard at work, mindful of what they do because of what I do on a daily basis and despite what I do on a daily basis.
If you want to learn more about this thing we live in called a human body that we take for granted, check out The Body: “A Guide For Occupants”. By Bill Bryson.