January 1, 2020

Review: The Body: A Guide for Occupants

The Body: A Guide for Occupants The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I came to Bill Bryson via his travel books, which are absorbing and hilarious. I think my favorite is In a Sunburned Country. It reinforced my determination to never, ever live in Australia, but I thoroughly enjoyed his travels through it. This book, unfortunately, is lacking that trademark humor and whimsy--there's flashes of it here and there, but since he's figuratively dissecting the human body from head to toe, turning us inside out, and showing what makes us tick (at least as much as can be known), he simply hasn't got room for it. With that breadth of subject matter, this is of necessity a very thick book.

(That said, I do have one nit to pick. In chapter 18, "In the Beginning: Conception and Birth," on page 294, in describing the embryo's growth, he states this: "Now things speed up considerably. After three weeks, the budding embryo has a beating heart." This is not true. See here, here, and also here. This so-called "heartbeat" is just a flutter, and there is no proper heart as yet. I point this out because stuff like this is used to prop up "heartbeat" abortion bills, and as much as I like Bill Bryson, inaccuracies that support unconstitutional laws passed to punish women must be called out.)

I do wish he could have narrowed his focus a bit, as I think that would have made for a better book. Still, this is readable and entertaining, and I appreciate his effort and research.

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