Good science in service of a convincing case that vast life extension is inevitable.



An optimistic exploration of aging.

“No matter where you live in the world,” writes British science writer Steele, “you’re very likely to live long enough to experience the frailty, loss of independence and diseases associated with getting old.” The astounding doubling of life expectancy since 1800 (from 40 years to 80) has occurred without any treatment for aging. All advances, including sanitation, better diet, and vaccines, have focused on preventing premature death. Yet tortoises and many other coldblooded animals display “negligible senescence”: Their bodies don’t seem to deteriorate with age. Amazingly, a few life forms possess “negative senescence.” Long regarded as an inherent feature of life, aging did not capture the interest of scientists until the 1990s, but then matters moved quickly. Readers searching for secrets of long life must absorb Steele’s explanations of the hallmarks of aging, but it’s worth the wait to understand the sad litany: DNA damage, malfunctioning mitochondria, deterioration of our bacterial microbiome, declining immunity, disappearing telomeres, etc. In a long section on preventing or reversing aging with drugs, transplants, procedures, and genetic manipulations, the author shows how many succeed—in the lab and small human studies. Dietary restriction, currently popular, works less well in large animals than in organisms like worms, but drugs that mimic the effect are in development. A diligent scientist, Steele does not ignore flops and fads; antioxidants flopped, but health food enthusiasts have not lost faith. The author concludes with a list of proven life-extenders, few of which will surprise readers—e.g., don’t smoke, exercise, get vaccinated, take care of your teeth. Furthermore, “don’t bother with supplements,” and “don’t bother with longevity drugs—yet.” Science will eventually explain any phenomenon that obeys natural laws. The mechanism of aging obeys, so scientists will get there eventually. Once that happens, achieving a much longer life will be a matter of technology.

Good science in service of a convincing case that vast life extension is inevitable.

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54492-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

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The Bloggess is back to survey the hazards and hilarity of imperfection.

Lawson is a wanderer. Whether on her award-winning blog or in the pages of her bestselling books, she reliably takes readers to places they weren’t even aware they wanted to go—e.g., shopping for dog condoms or witnessing what appears to be a satanic ritual. Longtime fans of the author’s prose know that the destinations really aren’t the point; it’s the laugh-out-loud, tears-streaming-down-your-face journeys that make her writing so irresistible. This book is another solid collection of humorous musings on everyday life, or at least the life of a self-described “super introvert” who has a fantastic imagination and dozens of chosen spirit animals. While Furiously Happy centered on the idea of making good mental health days exceptionally good, her latest celebrates the notion that being broken is beautiful—or at least nothing to be ashamed of. “I have managed to fuck shit up in shockingly impressive ways and still be considered a fairly acceptable person,” writes Lawson, who has made something of an art form out of awkward confessionals. For example, she chronicles a mix-up at the post office that left her with a “big ol’ sack filled with a dozen small squishy penises [with] smiley faces painted on them.” It’s not all laughs, though, as the author addresses her ongoing battle with both physical and mental illness, including a trial of transcranial magnetic stimulation, a relatively new therapy for people who suffer from treatment-resistant depression. The author’s colloquial narrative style may not suit the linear-narrative crowd, but this isn’t for them. “What we really want,” she writes, “is to know we’re not alone in our terribleness….Human foibles are what make us us, and the art of mortification is what brings us all together.” The material is fresh, but the scaffolding is the same.

Fans will find comfort in Lawson’s dependably winning mix of shameless irreverence, wicked humor, and vulnerability.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-07703-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...


A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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