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Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  440 ratings  ·  69 reviews
Metabolism, behavior, sleep, mood swings, the immune system, fighting, fleeing, puberty, and sex: these are just a few of the things our bodies control with hormones. Armed with a healthy dose of wit and curiosity, medical journalist Randi Hutter Epstein reveals the “invigorating history” (Nature) of hormones and the age-old quest to control them through the back rooms, ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published June 18th 2019 by W. W. Norton Company
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Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Hormone therapy is still nowadays a tricky business, but wait until you see how it was in the beginning…

This is the story of endocrinology birth: a bit gross, a bit shocking, a bit amusing but gripping and really interesting. And no small part is due to the author’ skill of writing – humorous, informal but full of pertinent information and on everyone’s understanding.

I could not put it down and I think it’s one of the best popularizing science books I read so far.
Bon Tom
Oct 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Let me tell you about my General Practitioner.

He's a great guy. We always have a great chat about the latest hot apps, gadgets and cars. By his own admission, he spends more time on Xhamster than on PubMed.

I'm not mad, I understand the sentiment. And this is exactly the kind of guy you want to drink beer with.

But when it comes to medicine, he's a mother fucking troglodyte. He's good if you self-diagnose and need his bureaucratic service of giving you prescription. He's great and cooperative
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
"Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything" is a wonderful read. Randi Hutter Epstein employs her unique wit, and her gifted ability to make her writing relevant and familiar, to present a history of hormones that reads more like a novel than a history or medical account.

Epstein begins talking about sunbathing with Johnson's baby oil and an album cover wrapped in aluminum foil—something to which all us 1970s kids can relate. And before it hits you that the
Tanja Berg
Despite the titillating title, this book says very little about how hormones fuel attraction. Rather, it is a rather dry history of endocrinology. From the coining of the term, to how to measure and to prevent disease and pregnancies. Dispersed between the facts are stories and anectodes which makes this a worthwhile read. It's definitely "popular science" category, written at a level that any lay person can grasp. Informative and interesting, but not sexy and fun.
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very fun read and quick one at that taking us through the history of hormones and discoveries that continue to be made.

And although the title sounds sexual in presentation, it's really not a book about those subjects. Moreso, it talked about obesity, gender, adolescence, etc.
Read thru this one quickly today. It was enough to make me throughly fascinated with the study of hormones, and also enough to assure me that, although the author admits there is a great deal they don’t know and merely guess at, the intellectual elite will take this opportunity to blame the mysterious “magical” hormones for every sin you can think of and some you can’t.
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
TW: lab animal and human abuse. Science has an ugly history. Still: I found this book fascinating and extremely accessible. If you’re a fan of Carl Zimmer or Mary Roach, you will enjoy digging into this as much as I did. The chapters on menopause, oxytocin, and transitioning were particularly interesting to me but I found the whole book insightful, educational, full of healthy skepticism.
Oct 29, 2018 added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
Dnf at page 138. Well researched and written, just lost interest in the subject matter.
Ben Zimmerman
Sep 09, 2019 rated it liked it
I thought that “Aroused” was a very nicely executed popular science book. It manages to balance interesting case narratives, science history and historical context, the actual science of hormones, and general issues in science. The basic structure of the book is that a hormone is chosen, then a narrative is told that exemplifies the importance and control of the particular hormone is told. Often this narrative contains frequent detours into the story of the scientific experiments that led to the ...more
Payel Kundu
Sep 10, 2019 rated it liked it
I read this book for my neuroscience book club, and overall thought it was a good read. It’s written and organized well. It’s accessible, and sometimes funny. It also does a good job focusing on key scientific studies and findings in endocrinology while also providing a broad picture of scientific attitudes at the time. For example, through the book, you can see the evolution of concepts like clinical trials, control groups, a concerted effort to reduce bias in science, the progression away from ...more
Cecily Kyle
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wheel-a-thon-iv
As someone who has some hormone issues it was a really interesting read. I wish it had a little bit more answers but reading some of the science behind it and how the discoveries came about were definitely intriguing. Definitely a subject I want to explore further, but this was a good start.
Great Read!
Ursula Villarreal-Moura
Jul 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Aroused isn't as sexy at the title suggests. Instead Epstein gives a crash course on endocrinology, a fascinating subject. Her writing style is easy to understand for nonscientists, so this book qualifies as a decent popular science read.
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, neuroscience
Epstein recounted the history of scientists who spent their careers researching how hormones affect the body. In doing so, she highlighted the discoveries and careers of a few women I had not heard about before. Light on the science, this book is an easy and fun read for anyone, no matter how familiar or unfamiliar they are with neuroscience.
Christina Dudley
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fast, fascinating history of the discovery of hormones, the quack fads they set off (e.g, vasectomies to increase virility --both Freud and Yeats had one ), what the various hormones do, and continued learnings.

It's a bit repetitive in places but generally a great read.
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nf
This text is written for all audiences. While many of the topics covered are complex and scientific, Epstein has written about them in an approachable way, even for someone with little or no scientific background knowledge. By choosing interesting individual anecdotes to focus on, she draws the reader into each of the hormonal topics. Chapters are of reasonable length, making the book easy to pick up and put down. The reader is sure to gain new knowledge, while also finding herself laughing ...more
Viviana Popa
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
People usually advise against judging a book by its cover - in this case, however, I'd highly recommend it. The book is well researched and has plenty of stories from different periods in the history of endocrinology - some of whom might make you a lot more fun at parties (in the right social circle). It's a balanced trip down memory lane, full of tidbits that might make you want to go through the references and dig up a few articles for further reading. And all throughout reading it, you can ...more
Laura Cobrinik
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Randi Hutter Epstein's book, "Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything," was a fantastic book which explains a medical subject with humor and seriousness. I both laughed and cried when reading this book.

Hutter described, people with extreme obesity, children who were way below average and whether they need growth hormones...She related hormones to the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, when discussing Estrogen. On the flip side she discussed Testosterone when
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Why is this author not as popular as Mary Roach or Malcolm Gladwell? Could it be that her name just isn’t as catchy? This is a fantastic book, about stuff you should know, and I know you don’t, and it’s as interesting as it can be.

Understand that I am a fan of popular science and history, although medical stuff usually gets me down. I happily devour Gladwell, Klosterman, Roach, Puchner, Bryson, S. Johnson, and so many others. My real TBR list isn't all on this site, but at my library's. They
Sean Goh
Jan 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Lightheaded romp through the history of hormones, featuring circus freakshows, hucksters, and theories proven and disproven. Also stories of women being told "you should go learn to write shorthand so you can be secretary" and replying in the "IDGAF".
Back then, hormones were boobs and periods and sex. But hormones are so much more. They are the potent chemicals that control metabolism, behaviour, sleep, mood swings, the immune system, fighting, fleeing - not just puberty and sex.

Alan Kolok
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Looking at the other reviews of this book, well, they have it just about right.

If you are interested in reading a book about the history of hormones (which after all is the title of the book!) then you have come to the right place. It is intriguing to think that less than a century ago the role that hormones played in our lives was in its infancy. There are interesting stories in the book about the characters (scientists that are just humans like the rest of us) that were involved in
Cyrenius H. Booth Library
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: doug
Who knew endocrinology could be so much fun? Randi Hutter Epstein, that’s who. The endocrine system, like its more famous cousins the circulatory and the digestive, has all sorts of goo and guts and stuff, but probably the most important bits are the various glands and hormones. The way Epstein describes these is absolutely wild, like, they control pretty much everything (although, honestly, when I read Sylvia Tara PhD’s The Secret Life of Fat I thought that fat controlled everything).
The real
Elaine Ruth Boe
I love a good pop science book every now and then. This was a pretty good balance of human interest (doctors and patients who were involved) and science (some hormone stuff I really didn't follow). I learned stuff (my favorite thing to do!) about how hormones affect body size, gender expression, and height. I especially enjoyed the section about hormones and transgender people. Science's relationship to individuals with ambiguous sex organs has sometimes been pretty horrible and paternalistic. ...more
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not the book I was hoping for, which would have focused on the findings of hormone research rather than the biographies of the researchers. Science teachers at my high school drill into students that they must write lab reports in the passive voice because no one cares about who did the experiments, just what the experiments found (we history teachers stress the opposite, interested in human agency). This book demonstrates the reason for the science teachers' dictum: The biographical details ...more
Dec 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's fantastic, interesting. Recommend to everyone.

Some excerpts:
"'By gender role,' Money explained, 'we mean all those things a person says or does to disclose himself or herself as having the status of boy or man, girl or woman respectively.'" p 115 (I just really love the use of the word disclose here.)

"'... If you take a lot of dots, you can always draw line and tell a good story, even if it's just your imagination.'" p 226. [Said by Gideon Nave, statistician.]

"Even so, changing the
Feb 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Full confession: I absolutely picked up this book because of the title. And while it does touch on how hormones affect physical and sexual development, it also covers their role in how the immune system, sleep cycles, and metabolism (to name a few) function. Hormones really do run just about everything!

The author writes this book in a way that is accessible to most adult readers. Obviously a little medical background wouldn’t hurt, but it’s not necessary to follow along. I did enjoy the
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very engaging read about the history of endocrinology (the study of hormones) or as the author notes, a story of what "makes us human, from the inside out." I consider this book a form of science writing, and a few parts get a little technical, but it's written for a lay audience and the author uses several clever analogies to explain the science. Most fascinating to me was the historical bits and patient stories she included in each chapter. A wonderful read for anyone interested in medical ...more
Aug 30, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medicine
This is a quick read giving an overview of the history of medical research on hormones and the current state of affairs. What I took away is that we do not know much but suspect there is much, much more to learn. Epstein covers the scandals of hormone therapy (transplantation of goat testicles, for example) and other oddities of medical science of "the day" and the lack of openness of medical experts to patients of what they did and did not know. I grew up in the time when doctors were "gods" ...more
Jul 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Will we ever understand our bodies? If we ever do understand our bodies (or more specifically, our own personal body), will we be able to manage it in a healthy, intelligent way? If we are destined to trust care givers for our personal care, what will the outcome be? This read of the current knowledge of our endocrinology was very interesting to me. It is so good to have a bit more knowledge about just how different individual glands are composed.
David Monreal
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It’s not what you think! This is a history of scientific research into the endocrine system and how hormones or the lack of them affect us. It shows the pseudo-science of different generations seeing hormone therapy as the cure for many ailments. It starts a little slow but builds. Sadly, she is very objective until she deals with the orthodox position on transgender where she abandons hard science and explains things subjectively. In spite of that, a great book.
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book starts with some tabloid fare--a side show fat woman, jars of brains in the basement of a college dorm and an effort to tie the Leopold & Loeb murder sentencing to hormones. Then it gets a lot better. Epstein moves into real science including the history of how a number of different hormones were discovered and descriptions of what some buzz word hormones (estrogen, testosterone, oxytocin, leptin) really actually do.
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Randi Hutter Epstein, MD is a medical writer and adjunct professor at The Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University. She is also the managing editor of the Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine. She earned a BS from The University of Pennsylvania, MS from the Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University; and an MD from Yale University School of Medicine. Randi worked as a medical ...more
“It’s been said that from the moment of the Stockholm awards ceremony, she wore a Nobel Prize charm around her neck (given to her by her husband) and signed every piece of correspondence “Rosalyn Yalow, PhD, Nobel Laureate.” It’s also been said that Yalow tacked a sign on the bulletin board in her laboratory saying, “To be considered half as good as a man, a woman must work twice as hard and be twice as good.” That’s a common feminist maxim. But Yalow added the punch line: “Fortunately, that is not difficult.” Her children dismissed the jewelry/signature talk as the typical bluster of male colleagues. But they remember the sign well.” 0 likes
“Beginning in the 1920s, and for nearly twenty years, Steinach pioneered one of the most popular and controversial rejuvenation treatments. He claimed that vasectomies boosted sex drive, intellect, energy, and just about anything else that withered with age. Steinach believed that blocking the exit of manly juices (which is what a vasectomy does) prompted a congestion of them, much the way a traffic jam causes a pile-up of cars.” 0 likes
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