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The Body: A Guide for Occupants

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  32,601 ratings  ·  4,404 reviews

_______

'A directory of wonders.' – The Guardian

'Jaw-dropping.' – The Times

'Classic, wry, gleeful Bryson…an entertaining and absolutely fact-rammed book.' – The Sunday Times

'It is a feat of narrative skill to bake so many facts into an entertaining and nutritious book.' – The Daily Telegraph
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‘We spend our whole lives in one body and yet

...more
Kindle Edition, 521 pages
Published October 3rd 2019 by Transworld Digital
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Popular Answered Questions
Avid I would say yes, though guardedly. There’s very little inappropriate language or references, but it very frankly covers things that can and do go wron…moreI would say yes, though guardedly. There’s very little inappropriate language or references, but it very frankly covers things that can and do go wrong with a body - choking, diseases, dementia, birth defects, and many other ailments and conditions that i think could unnecessarily alarm a 7yo. There is also a lot of data that I would imagine a 7yo would find very dry and boring - like the number of people per 100,000 who develop a certain disease each year in each of several named countries, for example. Or the historical prevalence of a certain condition. There is also a chapter on conception and birth. I mean, it’s all factual, but I know my own kids weren’t ready for that at 7. Maybe yours is. I definitely think the intended audience is adults, though. (less)
Amber The published copy has these chapter headings:

How to Build a Human
The Outside: Skin and Hair
Microbial You
The Brain
The Head
Down the Hatch: The Mouth an…more
The published copy has these chapter headings:

How to Build a Human
The Outside: Skin and Hair
Microbial You
The Brain
The Head
Down the Hatch: The Mouth and Throat
The Heart and Blood
The Chemistry Department
In the Dissecting Room: The Skeleton
On the Move: Bipedalism and Exercise
Equilibrium
The Immune System
Deep Breath: The Lungs and Breathing
Food, Glorious Food
The Guts
Sleep
Into the Nether Regions
In the Beginning: Conception and birth
Nerves and Pain
When Things Go Wrong: Diseases
When Things Go Very Wrong: Cancer
Medicine Good and Bad
The End(less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.31  · 
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 ·  32,601 ratings  ·  4,404 reviews


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Emily May
Mar 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, nonfiction
I went into this book with the attitude of "of course, Bill Bryson can make anything interesting", but I was still a little unsure if this was the right book for me. There are definitely interesting aspects of the body, but I'm more of a "fun fact here, quirky tidbit there" kinda person. I wasn't sure I wanted to read a whole book full of words I can't pronounce. But, no, Bill Bryson really can make anything interesting.

His usual charismatic, undemanding style is all over this book. He begins wi
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Theresa Alan
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I learned so much from this book. One of the things I learned was that continuing to learn and keeping my brain active will help me avoid dementia, so you should read this book, too. I highlighted many, many pages, so I’ll just offer a few highlights here.

The most interesting thing was reading about our skin, the tiny tiny layer that we makes us white or black or brown. Bryson watched a surgeon incise and peel back a sliver of skin a millimeter thick from the arm of cadaver. It was so thin it w
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Emily (Books with Emily Fox)
This was actually really good!

Highly recommend it if the topic interested you, the audiobook was also great!
Matthew
Nov 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those with no fear of their own mortality
The definition of a “well” person?
Someone who hasn’t been examined yet

(loosely quoted from the book)

This book is two things:
- Really interesting trivia about the human body
- Terrifying

I love trivia, and this book had tons of it. This was not a deeply scientific analysis of the human body. It is just snippets and brief anecdotes from various regions of the body as Bryson takes you on a journey through our innerspace. If you are not into big fancy words and meandering analysis, then you need not w
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Mario the lone bookwolf (semi reviewing hiatus )
To know that one does not know how not just even a tiny part of the body works is the first step to getting interested in exploring each fascinating, inner landscape.

From up to down, inside to outside, young to old, organ to nerve and so on goes the journey trough our miraculous wonder of nature whose amazing eyes are just sending this information to the brain of the reader.

Many myths about the body are shown and design flaws described, but after billion years of evolution, that´s no wonder. We
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Jenna
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How to make a human body:

Blend together the right amount of each of 59 elements, at a cost of US$151,578.46 according to the Royal Society of Chemistry.  

~Or~

If you don't have that kind of money lying about, you can also do it the old-fashioned way that involves heterosexual sex. I'm not here to judge your methods; make a human whichever way you please.  What I am here to do is tell you that Bill Bryson has done it again!  He has written yet another brilliant and vastly interesting book, thi
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Trevor
Oct 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medicine, history, science
I like Bryson, his books are often amusing and informative. He has a good eye for details that will keep the reader engaged or outraged or just smile. This is a tour of the human body, but it includes stories and asides about people associated with the discovery of various diseases or a cure or a system in the body. Some books on this topic can get a bit carried away with long names for parts that involve endless Latin or Greek. A nice thing he does here when he does give these is to say what th ...more
Diane S ☔
Jun 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nfr-2020
I read this off and on for over a week, I think reading it straight through would not have left me time to ponder the information and possibly would have been a case of too much at one time. Our bodies, many systems and other developments of which I knew little all in one book. I actually own a copy because this is another that I feel deserves more than read. Or at least to have as a reference.

There is a huge amount of research that went into this book. Bryson is good and picking out informatio
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Betsy
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Be a bar trivia champion!
Want to dominate any biology questions at bar trivia?

The Body: A Guide for Occupants has you covered! For those of us who haven't had a biology class since we fulfilled some course requirement ages ago, Bryson gives an excellent overview of what doctors and scientists know about all our different body parts and bodily functions.

This book does for biology what books like Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong or A People's History
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Dr Appu Sasidharan
If you are in quarantine due to Covid-19 and if you want to read just one book this is the one you should pick. Chapter 20 (When things go wrong) in this book is a must-read one as it is perfectly explaining the current scenario we are facing. This book will help us to know more about our body which might enable us to appreciate it's uniqueness even when it's challenged to the extreme by viruses and other microbes.
I read this book amid all the pandemonium I had to face as a Doctor and more impo
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Carole
Apr 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson is a well-researched user’s manual for anyone interested in how our bodies function. And, of course, we also have the opportunity to enjoy the Bryson wit. This is a field trip through the human body and I was astounded at the level of research needed to write such a book. And I admit there was so much I did not know about the body and how it is built to repair itself. This is an informative guide as well as a source of humour, now and again. Read it ...more
carol.
Dec 08, 2019 marked it as don-t-count  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: not-for-me
Well, if the dude can't get the difference between a feeding tube and a breathing tube coming out of someone's nose, I'm not sure how accurate his guide is going to be. Add in problems explaining kidney failure, gram staining and smallpox vaccines, and I think this is a solid 'miss.'

Most telling phrase from the review: "Recommended 'Not for the science, which can be found in a more detailed and accurate form elsewhere, but for the view, a sweep of landscape with endless little tragicomedies pla
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Brandon Forsyth
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I either laughed, shook my head in wonder, or did both on every page. This is Bryson at his best, and it should be handed out at birth.
Trish
Nov 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Until now, I only knew Bill Bryson for his snarky travelogues. My buddy-reader, however, informed me that his non-fiction book was very good indeed. Besides, many biology books suffer from the fact that their authors are great scientists but horrible writers. So I wanted to read something that had the potential to be entertaining as well as educational.

The book is divided into these chapters:


And yes, we did get a little bit of humour, but that wasn't because Bryson made fun of certain things, bu
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Bradley
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For all of you other cyborgs and pure artificial intelligences out there, I should mention that this is a rather interesting primer on regular meat-sacks. It even has the distinction of not being science fiction at all.

But as the title suggests, outright occupancy usually comes with a rental charge. The bill always comes due.


I've read a few Brysons before... and my favorite has got to be A Short History of Nearly Everything. This one, from a regular knowledge-gathering stand, comes in as a tight
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Julie
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A truly amazing compendium on the human body aka "a warm wobble of flesh!" Truly engaging and enlightening. Occasionally I wanted to fast forward to avoid the details, but mainly I was truly engaged, appalled or enthralled!

My personal favorite of Bill Bryson's anecdotal stories:
The emergency appendectomy on a US submarine during WWII. The ship's pharmacist assistant was ordered to operate without any knowledge or equipment, as he as was the senior medical personnel on board. This is a little min
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Riku Sayuj
Feb 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nutrition, humor, biology
Bryson is a wonderful travel guide, and this time around he takes us through an enjoyable tour of the human body. The book is surprisingly detailed, for a popular-science book. Bryson exhibits his usual knack for the extraordinary and unusual, but despite veering close to it at times, he avoids the pitfall of making this book just a tour of the oddities of the human body.

Bryson takes just enough such detours to keep us amused, but just like a good tour guide ensures that we are adequately educa
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Paul
Dec 22, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medicine
3.5 stars
I am joining a book club; unusual for me because I am not a hugely social animal. It is based at the university where I work for one day a week and it meets a lunch time, once every two months. This is the book for January; it’s not something I would have read in normal circumstances.
Bryson employs his usual wry and laconic style and applies it to the human body. This isn’t a medical text book, but it is detailed and covers pretty much what you would expect. Bryson does cover the histo
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Diane Barnes
Apr 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bedtime-books
Exercise regularly.
Eat sensibly.
Die anyway.

This anonymous quote is the heading of the last chapter of this book, "The End". I have to admit I would have been bored if I'd tried to read this straight through but tackling a few pages every night at bedtime turned out to be fascinating and educating. There is a lot of trivia about not just the body itself and how it works, but also about scientists and doctors and their discoveries, sometimes accidental, the sometimes wrong conclusions they came to
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Karen R
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bill Bryson’s trademark humor is evident in this fascinating book that provides detailed descriptions of the body, how things function and history of discovery. A big takeaway is that although there have been great strides in what we know about science and medicine, he makes it clear just how much is still unknown about how and why things work.

This book would be perfect to serve as a primer for a high school health and wellness course. Thanks to Doubleday Books for the ARC in exchange for my ho
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Rebecca
Shelve this next to Being Mortal by Atul Gawande in a collection of books that everyone should read – even if you’re a squeamish hypochondriac or you don’t normally choose nonfiction. Bryson is back on form with his latest, indulging his layman’s curiosity about how the body works. Now, I read a LOT of medical memoirs and popular science. I’ve read entire books about organ transplantation, sleep, dementia, the blood, the heart, evolutionary defects, surgery and so on, but in many cases these go ...more
Roy Lotz
This book was given to me as a Christmas present, and it was a great gift. As a fan of Bryson, I was surprised that I had not even heard of his new work of popular science. I am glad that it came to my attention, then, since this was my favorite Bryson book since A Short History of Nearly Everything. Structured as a tour of the human body, the book made me feel right at home.

No matter what the subject, Bryson’s style is consistent: snappy prose, engaging anecdotes, and fun facts, all tied toget
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Sara
Bill Bryson, as usual, manages to make a difficult and complex topic completely accessible and enjoyable in The Body. Taking the reader on journey from the brain (my favourite chapter), endocrine system down to the lungs and beyond, every chapter is full of interesting facts that will entertain as well as inform.

Bryson just seems to have this ability in his writing to make the reader feel as though they're chatting with a friend about a subject that he's so clearly passionate about. It manages t
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Candie
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book; it is very entertaining. There are so many interesting facts about every single part of the body in here. There are just enough stories and humor added in that it makes the book very readable; it never seems like it is too technical or dry, but keep in mind that it is still a book about body facts. It was very fascinating to learn just how much we don't know about the body and how or why it does what it does. I also found that there were quite a few things that I thou ...more
Emma Donoghue
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Typical Bryson: erudite, compassionate, hilarious.
David
What a marvelous book! Bill Bryson is one of my favorite authors. His dry wit shines in all of his books. Before reading this book, it was hard for me to imagine what the book would be like. I've read some of Bryson's travel books--all delightful--but I couldn't image what a book about the body would be like. As it turns out, it is a tour book, written in the same style, as a metaphorical tour of the body.

Bryson interleaves talking about a lot of facts with interesting and often humorous anecdot
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Snooty1
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even for someone with a science/ medical background this was PHENOMENAL!
What an absolutely interesting and eye opening adventure into our bodies; and told in such a entertaining way!!!
Recommend for ANYONE and EVERYONE

Thanks to netgalley and Doubleday books for providing me with a copy of this book for my honest review.
Sonja Arlow
3.5 stars

This is like A Short History of Nearly Everything but for the body.

Had I not read so many medical books and watched endless hours of QI I would have given this a MUCH higher rating but because of this prior knowledge some sections felt like deja vu.

The scope of the book is impressive, Bill does not leave any stone (or rather muscle, cell, bacteria or organ) unexplored.

I also learned enough fascinating trivia which I plan to spring on unsuspecting friends at inappropriate times for my o
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Kathleen
Bryson has supplied the reader with an anatomy class for the layman. He provides an excellent overview of what scientists know about the body from skin to bones, what is essential to keep it healthy, and a plethora of diseases that can attack it. However, missing is Bryson’s signature wit and his unique way of looking at the mundane.
thefourthvine
Jun 07, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, biology
People who should read this: those who really, really enjoy book reports. People who should absolutely not read this: trans people, people with chronic pain, fat people, anyone with a degree in any aspect of biology, anyone who reads more than one popular science book a year.

The thing is, there are basically three ways you can go with a book like this. There’s the complete and in-depth approach, which is absolutey ruled out here; you can’t cover the human body completely in four years of medica
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William McGuire "Bill" Bryson, OBE, FRS was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. He settled in England in 1977, and worked in journalism until he became a full time writer. He lived for many years with his English wife and four children in North Yorkshire. He and his family then moved to New Hampshire in America for a few years, but they have now returned to live in the UK.

In The Lost Continent, Bil
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Articles featuring this book

Well, here we all are, sheltering in place, buying canned beans, and generally trying to figure out how to stay inside and keep our minds busy....
92 likes · 67 comments
“The most remarkable part of all is your DNA. You have a metre of it packed into every cell, and so many cells that if you formed all the DNA in your body into a single fine strand it would stretch ten billion miles, to beyond Pluto. Think of it: there is enough of you to leave the solar system. You are in the most literal sense cosmic.” 27 likes
“Just sitting quietly, doing nothing at all, your brain churns through more information in thirty seconds than the Hubble Space Telescope has processed in thirty years. A morsel of cortex one cubic millimeter in size—about the size of a grain of sand—could hold two thousand terabytes of information, enough to store all the movies ever made, trailers included, or about 1.2 billion copies of this book.” 20 likes
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