Author: James Hamblin, Hallie Bateman
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Summary: This book was funny and full of fun facts, but I didn’t love that it read like a collection of very short essays.
I’ve enjoyed Dr. James Hamblin’s writing at The Atlantic this year and was excited to see that he had a book coming out. I didn’t quickly get a library copy of his latest, Clean, so I turned to his backlist instead. In If Our Bodies Could Talk, he addresses health questions that have regularly gotten press attention (eg, do cell phones cause cancer?) and questions commonly asked on the internet (eg, can a contact lens stuck behind my eye enter my brain?). The book is structured in a question and answer format.
The organization of this book was quite good. The questions are broken into sections by theme and often flow naturally. My only complaint about the book is that this format made it feel like a collection of short essays. I didn’t feel like I was in the middle of a book while I was reading it. It was a better substitute for the enjoyment I get reading The Atlantic, then for reading another book.
The content the author selected was fantastic. Through apparently simple questions, he addresses an impressive range of social issues and shares a wealth of biology knowledge. He brings a lot of nuance to every answer, clarifying topics that often get simplistic media coverage. He also took every question seriously. It felt like talking to a particularly kind, if sometimes sarcastic, doctor who recognizes that everyone’s health concerns deserve a response. The book was also rich in fun facts that I constantly wanted to share. The tone, while compassionate, was also light and often made me laugh. It wasn’t quite as laugh-out-loud funny as Mary Roach’s books, but with the eclectic collection of topics and serious approach to quirky questions, I think this book will particularly appeal to fans of her work.