Monthly book roundup – 2016 May

Books finished in May:
(Warning: reviews are unpolished and quickly written.)

Adventures in Human Being: A Grand Tour from the Cranium to the Calcaneum (2015) by Gavin Francis. I tend to think of medicine as a depressing subject, since so much of it is concerned with something that is sick or wrong. Gavin Francis offers another perspective: “The practice of medicine is not just a journey though the parts of the body and the stories of others, but an exploration of life’s possibilities: an adventure in human being.” A doctor with wide experience, Francis has many adventures to speak of. This is not a big idea book, but a series of small, interesting stories about how the bodies we all inhabit work. Throughout there are references to history and literature, for instance when we read that the hand is less delicate than is often thought and that the palm can be perforated by a nail without interfering with the rest of the hand’s functioning, we also learn that since the palm is not strong enough to support the body’s weight (a nail would tear through), cruzification could not work by nails alone, and nailing in Roman cruzification probably was probably only through the heel. The most fascinating story, and the one which gives most hope for the future, is the one about how “benign paroxysmal positional vertigo” (BPPV) was cured. This well-known condition gives severe, debilitating nausea, and had been proposed explained in various ways throghout history. It was not until the 1980’s, however, that one John Epley came up with the hypothesis that the cause was tiny, loose particles in the inner ear. Epley’s cure was a series of movements of the head to physically roll these particles away from the problematic areas in which they were perceived as body movements. Medical progress without drugs or any invasive procedure. Unfortunately that may not be representative, though that is not the topic of this book. Recommended.

Ratings and old books are in the library.

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