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"Where body meets air, we are all cadavers": Fun Facts From Bill Bryson's "The Body"

6 min

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One of the most pleasant surprises I had this year was Bill Bryson's The Body: A Guide For Occupants.

I picked the book up on a whim, mostly because I've enjoyed Bryson's writing in the past. I wasn't particularly interested in learning more about the human body at the time, but as I've said elsewhere, allowing for serendipity to drive some of your learning is important. It allows for the unexpected connections that often (in my experience, anyway) prove to be the most profound.

I ended up tearing through the book in about a week. it's funny, engaging, and fascinating in turn. One of the most important take aways, for me, was that there is simply so much about the body we don't understand. What you might imagine to be basic questions - like "why do we get headaches?" and "what tells a baby it's time to be born?" - remain mysterious.

I found so many delightful facts in this book that it was bothering my wife. I'd keep turning over to her in bed and asking things like: "Did you know that almost three-quarters of the forty million antibiotic prescriptions written each year in the United States are for conditions that cannot be cured with antibiotics?"

At some point I was very politely asked to refrain from sharing surprising medical facts right before bed, so I've gathered some of my favorites here for you. All of these are quotes from the book.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did, and please do check out the book - it's certainly worth a read.

On the likelihood of dying from something nasty

On the brain constructing your reality

On whose planet this really is

On preventing disease

...And on not preventing disease

Just straight-up-interesting-facts

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