An eye-opening, spine-tingling, heartwarming tour through the extraordinary history and secrets of the human body.
The human body is the most fraught and fascinating, talked-about and taboo, unique yet universal fact of our lives. It is the inspiration for art, the subject of science, and the source of some of the greatest stories ever told. In Anatomies, acclaimed author of Periodic Tales Hugh Aldersey-Williams brings his entertaining blend of science, history, and culture to bear on this richest of subjects.
In an engaging narrative that ranges from ancient body art to plastic surgery today and from head to toe, Aldersey-Williams explores the corporeal mysteries that make us human: Why are some people left-handed and some blue-eyed? What is the funny bone, anyway? Why do some cultures think of the heart as the seat of our souls and passions, while others place it in the liver?
A journalist with a knack for telling a story, Aldersey-Williams takes part in a drawing class, attends the dissection of a human body, and visits the doctor's office and the morgue. But Anatomies draws not just on medical science and Aldersey-Williams's reporting. It draws also on the works of philosophers, writers, and artists from throughout history. Aldersey-Williams delves into our shared cultural heritage - Shakespeare to Frankenstein, Rembrandt to 2001: A Space Odyssey - to reveal how attitudes toward the human body are as varied as human history, as he explains the origins and legacy of tattooing, shrunken heads, bloodletting, fingerprinting, X-rays, and more.
From Adam's rib to van Gogh's ear to Einstein's brain, Anatomies is a treasure trove of surprising facts and stories and a wonderful embodiment of what Aristotle wrote more than two millennia ago: "The human body is more than the sum of its parts."
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Human body as vessel, creature, landscape
3.5 stars. Entertaining tour of the human body, managing to expertly blend medicine, science, history, culture, and philosophy. The author structures the book around the body's landscape -- from individual organs (with the heart and liver getting thorough treatment), to blood and skin, to the hand and the foot and other **ahem** appendages. But beyond this, he talks about how these various parts were thought of, how they work, their changing status over time, as well as how we think of our own bodies, gender identity, and aging/immortality. A book that is both fanciful and factual. Nicely done.
- S. Yates
I totally enjoyed Anatomies: a Cultural History of the Body by Hugh Aldersey-Williams. The narration by Philip Hoffman was great. The cultural tie-in to the various parts of the body was well done and very interesting. The audio book went too quickly and was a good listen.