THE WISDOM OF THE BODY by Sherwin B. Nuland


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 From the author of the National Book Awardwinning How We Die (1994), another eloquent, thought-provoking dissertation, this time on what we are. Having clarified the mysterious process of dying in his previous, bestselling book, surgeon Nuland now explores the wondrous miracle of living. The essence of human life for Nuland is the human spirit, a quality that is inseparable from the body. To understand the human spirit, one must look at the human body. Nuland does this with style. After opening with a dramatic demonstration of a body responding to a life-threatening event, in this case an aneurysm of the splenic artery, he considers each of the body's diverse processes, explaining their workings in clear and precise language. Each chapter is both a lucid anatomy or physiology lecture and a compelling story of a challenge to the organ or system being described. Thus in the chapter on the lymphatic system, a six-months-pregnant woman learns that her breast cancer has spread to her lymph nodes; ``A Child Is Born'' segues from conception and embryonic development to the very personal story of the birth of Nuland's own son; and elsewhere, a description of the digestive system is followed by a harrowing account of emergency surgery on a young diabetic woman with a near-fatal intestinal infection. He saves the mind for last, describing it as a property of ``unimaginable glory,'' which brings him back to the human spirit, a product of the mind's mutiple levels of awareness. ``There is no need to invoke either a higher power or magic. We need only invoke what is in our human cells--the highest power and the greatest magic that has ever awed a wonder-struck observer of its magnificence.'' To read this book is to share his awe. (8 drawings, not seen) (First printing of 200,000)

Pub Date: May 5th, 1997
ISBN: 0-679-44407-6
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1997


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