THE REMARKABLE LIFE OF THE SKIN

AN INTIMATE JOURNEY ACROSS OUR LARGEST ORGAN

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. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A quirky wonder of a book.

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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SEVEN BRIEF LESSONS ON PHYSICS

An intriguing meditation on the nature of the universe and our attempts to understand it that should appeal to both...

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016


  • New York Times Bestseller

Italian theoretical physicist Rovelli (General Relativity: The Most Beautiful of Theories, 2015, etc.) shares his thoughts on the broader scientific and philosophical implications of the great revolution that has taken place over the past century.

These seven lessons, which first appeared as articles in the Sunday supplement of the Italian newspaper Sole 24 Ore, are addressed to readers with little knowledge of physics. In less than 100 pages, the author, who teaches physics in both France and the United States, cogently covers the great accomplishments of the past and the open questions still baffling physicists today. In the first lesson, he focuses on Einstein's theory of general relativity. He describes Einstein's recognition that gravity "is not diffused through space [but] is that space itself" as "a stroke of pure genius." In the second lesson, Rovelli deals with the puzzling features of quantum physics that challenge our picture of reality. In the remaining sections, the author introduces the constant fluctuations of atoms, the granular nature of space, and more. "It is hardly surprising that there are more things in heaven and earth, dear reader, than have been dreamed of in our philosophy—or in our physics,” he writes. Rovelli also discusses the issues raised in loop quantum gravity, a theory that he co-developed. These issues lead to his extraordinary claim that the passage of time is not fundamental but rather derived from the granular nature of space. The author suggests that there have been two separate pathways throughout human history: mythology and the accumulation of knowledge through observation. He believes that scientists today share the same curiosity about nature exhibited by early man.

An intriguing meditation on the nature of the universe and our attempts to understand it that should appeal to both scientists and general readers.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-18441-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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