Illuminating and thought-provoking, this book elicits a new awareness of and appreciation for the skin.




A leading expert in dermatology surveys the body’s largest organ, “a beautiful mystery, cloaked in feelings, opinions and questions.”

Although it is a conduit to our exquisite sense of touch and the ability to convey emotion (among a bevy of other useful and life-sustaining functions), the skin is often overlooked. “Skin is the Swiss Army knife of the organs,” writes Lyman, a doctor and a recipient of the 2017 Wilfred Thesiger Travel Writing Award, “possessing a variety of functions unmatched by any other, from survival to social communication.” To research this intimate story, the author journeyed across the globe and through history. More than just a collection of interesting case studies and fun facts—though it is that, too—this book spans a range of fields in basic science and social science in its depiction of the skin’s many roles. Drawing on his extensive clinical experience, Lyman explains the critical functions of the skin as a barrier and protector, a host for the microbiome, and a signaler of disease. He also broaches subjects as diverse as psoriasis, aging, race, and tattoos in his nuanced exploration of the profound interconnectedness of skin and self. These discussions of the mind-body connection are some of the most insightful elements of the narrative. Looking ahead, Lyman describes some of the skin’s potential for life-altering therapies as researchers manipulate stem cells and genes to treat injury and disease with more effectiveness than ever before. Throughout this wide-ranging narrative, the author’s writing is clear and not overly technical, and he excels in relating even the most esoteric subjects to a shared human experience. The 17-page glossary at the end is particularly helpful for readers not well versed in biology and other sciences.

Illuminating and thought-provoking, this book elicits a new awareness of and appreciation for the skin.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2940-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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As much a work of philosophy as of physics and full of insights for readers willing to work hard.


Undeterred by a subject difficult to pin down, Italian theoretical physicist Rovelli (Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity, 2017, etc.) explains his thoughts on time.

Other scientists have written primers on the concept of time for a general audience, but Rovelli, who also wrote the bestseller Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, adds his personal musings, which are astute and rewarding but do not make for an easy read. “We conventionally think of time,” he writes, “as something simple and fundamental that flows uniformly, independently from everything else, uniformly from the past to the future, measured by clocks and watches. In the course of time, the events of the universe succeed each other in an orderly way: pasts, presents, futures. The past is fixed, the future open….And yet all of this has turned out to be false.” Rovelli returns again and again to the ideas of three legendary men. Aristotle wrote that things change continually. What we call “time” is the measurement of that change. If nothing changed, time would not exist. Newton disagreed. While admitting the existence of a time that measures events, he insisted that there is an absolute “true time” that passes relentlessly. If the universe froze, time would roll on. To laymen, this may seem like common sense, but most philosophers are not convinced. Einstein asserted that both are right. Aristotle correctly explained that time flows in relation to something else. Educated laymen know that clocks register different times when they move or experience gravity. Newton’s absolute exists, but as a special case in Einstein’s curved space-time. According to Rovelli, our notion of time dissolves as our knowledge grows; complex features swell and then retreat and perhaps vanish entirely. Furthermore, equations describing many fundamental physical phenomena don’t require time.

As much a work of philosophy as of physics and full of insights for readers willing to work hard.

Pub Date: May 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1610-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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