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The Body
Cover of The Body
The Body
A Guide for Occupants
Borrow Borrow
AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST • LONGLISTED FOR THE PEN E.O. WILSON LITERARY SCIENCE WRITING AWARD

"Glorious. . .You will marvel at the brilliance and vast weirdness of your design." The Washington Post
Bill Bryson, bestselling author of A Short History of Nearly Everything, takes us on a head-to-toe tour of the marvel that is the human body. As addictive as it is comprehensive, this is Bryson at his very best, a must-read owner's manual for everybody.

Bill Bryson once again proves himself to be an incomparable companion as he guides us through the human body—how it functions, its remarkable ability to heal itself, and (unfortunately) the ways it can fail. Full of extraordinary facts (your body made a million red blood cells since you started reading this) and irresistible Bryson-esque anecdotes, The Body will lead you to a deeper understanding of the miracle that is life in general and you in particular. As Bill Bryson writes, "We pass our existence within this wobble of flesh and yet take it almost entirely for granted." The Body will cure that indifference with generous doses of wondrous, compulsively readable facts and information.
AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST • LONGLISTED FOR THE PEN E.O. WILSON LITERARY SCIENCE WRITING AWARD

"Glorious. . .You will marvel at the brilliance and vast weirdness of your design." The Washington Post
Bill Bryson, bestselling author of A Short History of Nearly Everything, takes us on a head-to-toe tour of the marvel that is the human body. As addictive as it is comprehensive, this is Bryson at his very best, a must-read owner's manual for everybody.

Bill Bryson once again proves himself to be an incomparable companion as he guides us through the human body—how it functions, its remarkable ability to heal itself, and (unfortunately) the ways it can fail. Full of extraordinary facts (your body made a million red blood cells since you started reading this) and irresistible Bryson-esque anecdotes, The Body will lead you to a deeper understanding of the miracle that is life in general and you in particular. As Bill Bryson writes, "We pass our existence within this wobble of flesh and yet take it almost entirely for granted." The Body will cure that indifference with generous doses of wondrous, compulsively readable facts and information.
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  • From the cover 7. THE HEART AND BLOOD 

    Stopped.
    — LAST WORD OF THE BR ITISH SURGEON AND ANATOMIST JOSEPH HENRY GREEN (1791– 1863) 
    WHILE FEELING HIS OWN PULSE 


    I


    THE HEART IS the most misperceived of our organs. For a start, it looks nothing like the traditional symbol associated with Valentine’s Day and lovers’ initials carved into tree trunks and the like. (That symbol first appeared, as if from out of nowhere, in paintings from northern Italy in the early fourteenth century, but no one knows what inspired it.) Nor is the heart where we place our right hand during patriotic moments; it is more centrally located in the chest than that. Most curious of all, perhaps, is that we make it the emotional seat of our being, as when we declare that we love someone with all our heart or profess a broken heart when they abandon us. Don’t misunderstand me. The heart is a wondrous organ and fully deserving of our praise and gratitude, but it is not invested even slightly in our emotional well-being.

    That’s a good thing. The heart has no time for distractions. It is the most single-minded thing within you. It has just one job to do, and it does it supremely well: it beats. Slightly more than once every second, about 100,000 times a day, as many as 3.5 billion times in a lifetime, it rhythmically pulses to push blood through your body—and these aren’t gentle thrusts. They are jolts powerful enough to send blood spurting up to three meters if the aorta is severed.

    With such an unrelenting work rate, it is a miracle that most hearts last as long as they do. Every hour your heart dispenses around 70 gallons of blood. That’s 1,680 gallons in a day—more gallons pushed through you in a day than you are likely to put in your car in a year. The heart must pump with enough force not merely to send blood to your outermost extremities but to help bring it all the way back again. If you are standing, your heart is roughly four feet above your feet, so there’s a lot of gravity to overcome on the return trip. Imagine squeezing a pump the size of a grapefruit with enough force to move a fluid four feet up a tube. Now do that again once every second or so, around the clock, unceasingly, for decades, and see if you don’t feel a bit tired. It has been calculated (and goodness knows how, it must be said) that during the course of a lifetime the heart does an amount of work sufficient to lift a one-ton object 150 miles into the air. It is a truly remarkable implement. It just doesn’t care about your love life.

    For all it does, the heart is a surprisingly modest thing. It weighs less than a pound and is divided into four simple chambers: two atria and two ventricles. Blood enters through the atria (Latin for “entry rooms”) and exits via the ventricles (from another Latin word for “chambers”). The heart is not really one pump but two: one that sends blood to the lungs and one that sends it around the body. The output of the two must be in balance, every single time, for it all to work correctly. Of all the blood pumped out of your heart, the brain takes 15 percent, but actually the greatest amount, 20 percent, goes to the kidneys. The journey of blood around your body takes about fifty seconds to complete. Curiously, the blood passing through the chambers of the heart does nothing for the heart itself. The oxygen that nourishes it arrives via the coronary arteries, in exactly the way oxygen reaches other organs.

    The two phases of a heartbeat are known as the systole (when the heart contracts and pushes blood out...
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine The author narrates this travelogue, which takes listeners on a grand tour of the human body, visiting--as it were--the various organs and systems that make us who we are. As narrator, Bryson takes a studied approach, serious but short of clinical. This fits the detailed and sometimes complicated material. But he keeps it light by offering anecdotes and bits of trivia, such as how the phrase "lily-livered" came to mean cowardly. He pauses after most sentences, allowing listeners to digest what he has said, and varies his tone to suit the material, adding just a touch of a lilt to humorous passages. The book's structure makes the subject easy to follow, and Bryson's narration makes it easy on the ears. R.C.G. � AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine
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    All copies of this title, including those transferred to portable devices and other media, must be deleted/destroyed at the end of the lending period.

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A Guide for Occupants
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