Popular Mechanics (South Africa)

Your body is a wonderland


THERE’S A good chance you’ve already read a Bill Bryson book. His 2003 hit A Short History of Nearly Everything remains the biggest-selling popular-science book of the 21st century. The Body: A Guide for Occupants is his latest compendium, full of fun facts that are both useful and interestin­g and, because it’s Bill Bryson, very funny too. Bryson is one of the best literary travel guides around, and on this tour he’s taking you through you – the human body.

In just more than 450 pages, you’ll learn why you should not take the human body for granted, and you’ll hear about some of the most extraordin­ary medical discoverie­s. The Body is divided into different chapters, ranging from the brain to the guts, the immune system, heart and even the ‘nether regions’. It also looks at diseases and cancer … which may make it sound like a daunting read – and yes, it is really comprehens­ive – but it’s also completely accessible and enjoyable.

Our body is a wonderland and Bryson’s factual snippets will change the way you think about existence. Did you know, for example, that babies yawn in the womb, and so do adults in comas? Or, that crying when you’re sad has no physiologi­cal benefit? How about that if you unravelled all of the DNA in your body from end to end, it would reach beyond Pluto’s orbit? Bryson is also not afraid to bust food myths. In The Body he says that there is no scientific evidence that MSG causes headaches. And antioxidan­ts? There’s no palpable research that they’ll increase your lifespan – sorry. This book is both an anatomy class for the layperson and the owner’s manual that you didn’t know you needed. But yes, you really do.

The Body: A Guide for Occupants (Penguin) by Bill Bryson is now available in-store and online.

It’s more than just a machine and, according to Bill Bryson, it’s time to become captivated, enchanted even, by your own body.

Did you know that over a lifetime we eat about 60 tons of food, which is more or less equivalent to eating 60 small cars.

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