An enjoyable, literate examination of how hypochondriacs come to be, how they maintain their condition, and how they have been viewed over the ages. Baur (The Edge of An Unfamiliar World: A History of Oceanography) has examined the recent literature and has a good grasp of the historical underpinnings; she weaves this together into a tale that is far more entertaining than the standard popular medical primer (although sufferers could find some pointers and resources here). She traces the perception of the condition and how it has evolved. The current picture? ""Now interest in this most ancient and absorbing disorder is reviving, especially among doctors who specialize in problems of aging, social critics who believe our lifestyle is conducive to mental distress, and neurologists who believe biochemical imbalances cause many cases of hypochondria."" How it develops at various ages and how it colors interactions with others is a central part of Baur's interests: examination of hypochondriacs and their doctors is especially engaging. ""The complex interactions whereby two people fit together so as to bring out the worst in each other is a morbidly fascinating topic."" Bauer includes current concerns: of late, AIDS ""has lept into the ranks of the hypochondriac's fear. . .its freight of shame, terror, uncontrollability, and blame make it a perfect focus for hypochondriacs. AIDS centers increasingly receive calls from individuals who had one sexual adventure eight or nine years ago and are now terrified that they have AIDS and have given it to their faithful and probably ambivalently loved and resented spouse."" A neat, entertaining medical essay.