The human body is an exquisitely complex and complicated system. I have known this for some time – make that over twenty years. Yet even having studied biology through university I still have much to learn. And that fact was gently pointed out throughout the pages of Bill Bryson’s book The Body. With a lovely subtitle: A Guide for Occupants.

Personally, I am a fan of Bryson’s writing style. I enjoy his seemingly random tangents and return to content as though I were sitting having a pleasant conversation with him. Perhaps this is in part because my brain works much the same way – I tend to be a little scattered with random sidebars. However, I will say I’m not a historian so some of his historical references were still interesting but not as delightful as I found other passages.

A colleague did point out the inescapable repetition of the bad process of ‘doctoring’ that happened historically. So, for a non-biological person, some of the stories may be hard to read – especially if you are one to imagine as you read.

Personally, I’m glad I decided early on to underline passages for use in my anatomy class. There is so much detail that even as I write this I find it difficult to remember some of the interesting facts I learned. Recently, I was asked to recall myths that were debunked by the writing. On the spot, I couldn’t think of any but knew that they existed within the pages.

Interestingly, as difficult as it is to independently recall small details. I know I enjoyed the book – even though I read chapters out of sequence. I know I was greatly fascinated by many of the details. And I know I would like to continue to use it in my class as a basis for learning, discussion, and further exploration. Even though I will need to reread my notes and revisit some of the passages.

It will be worth the time to remind myself of the marvelous workings of this apparatus I inhabit.

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Winter Reading Review: The Body

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