Monday, 9 March 2020

Bryson, Bill "The Body. A Guide for Occupants"

Bryson, Bill "The Body. A Guide for Occupants" - 2019

Bill Bryson should have been my biology teacher. Or any science teacher. I might have learned something in that direction in school. Alas, he would have been too young when I visited school and also, he's not a teacher. Or is he?

I've already learned a lot about science in his book "A Short History of Nearly Everything" and this is another example about how you can make a dull subject more interesting for others. Nobody has to convince me to read any of his travel books (see the list in "Bill Bryson - Funniest author ever") or any book by him at all but I was a tad apprehensive about this one since biology was never my "thing".

Bill Bryson said: "We spend our whole lives in one body and yet most of us have practically no idea how it works and what goes on inside it …"

And he is so right. Whilst I knew the basics, there is so much more to learn and to know and with this book, I have learned a lot more than in many years at school. And it was not boring, not a minute of it.

One thing I have to say, whilst I always knew how much could go wrong in your body and that it's more astonishing how little actually does go wrong, this book is more reassuring than troubling. We all die at one point, some sooner, some later. And while it is terrifying to lose a loved one, we do live a lot longer than any people in history did which also causes us to die of illnesses our ancestors wouldn't get because they'd been dead for decades.

I did miss the author's usual humour, but you can't have it all, I guess.

Still, please, carry on writing these kind of informative books as well as your funny ones, Bill Bryson. No matter what subject you choose for your next book, I will definitely read it.

From the back cover:

"In his brilliant, bestselling A Short History of Neary Everything, Bill Bryson set off to explore the universe and the science of everything in it. In The Body, he turns his gaze inwards, to try to understand the extraordinary contraption that is us. As he guides us around the human body to discover how it functions, what can go wrong and its remarkable ability to heal itself, what emerges is that we are infinitely more complex, wondrous and mysterious than any of us might have suspected.
From our genes to our linguistic skills, our big brains to our dextrous fingertips, we are an astonishing story of success. And the history of how we have tried to master our biology and stave off disease is full of forgotten heroes, astounding anecdotes and extraordinary facts. (Your body make a million red blood cells since you started reading this.)

Endlessly fascinating, and as compulsively readable as it is comprehensive, The Body will lead you to a deeper understanding of the miracle that is life in general and you in particular. A must-read owner's manual for everybody, this is Bryson at this best."


  1. I love Bryson as much as you do. I will have to read this one.

    1. I know you love him for the same reasons I do, his knowledge and his wit. Less of the latter but a loooot of the former.

  2. I didn't like this one as much as earlier ones. Cheers

    1. I can see why. It misses the usual Bill Bryson humour. Though that was the same in his other non-fiction books.
      Anyway, I hope he'll write another travel book again one day.

  3. I didn't like his humour in Notes From a Small Island, mostly because he was bagging everyone & everything. I thought he was a bit cringeworthy in the way he supposedly talked to & treated the people of the UK.
    Maybe that's why I liked The Body - he had a sense of wonder throughout the book which was refreshing and his humour fitted when he did include it. :)

    1. As I mentioned on your post, Carol, you are not alone there. I guess you wouldn’t be such a big fan as I am. I have a friend who said something similar. And when I read Notes from a Small Island with my English book club in England, me and another lady who had lived abroad for a while were the only ones who could laugh about it. He has a special sense of humour and many regard him as grumpy for that. Read his other non-fiction books, for example the ones about languages.