The Body by Bill Bryson

Rate: 5/5

Medium: Audiobook

Overview (Spoilers Abound):

It has been years since I’ve read Bryson’s, A Short History of Nearly Everything, but I still routinely give this title as a nonfiction book recommendation. I’m sure my Mom, who is a high school science teacher is tired of me bringing up every summer that she should require all her students to read this overview during their class. What had impressed me with A Short History of Nearly Everything was not only the way in which complex topics were conveyed in an understandable, logical story but the effort Bryson went in order to talk about the scientists/researchers behind the discoveries. In The Body, Bryson took the same formula and applied it to the human body, taking the reader on a fascinating, in depth, but comprehensible journey from our head to our toes and everything in between. Halfway through this read I had the thought that I didn’t want this book to end, which is an easy telltale marker of a great book. Bryson continued to highlight the scientists behind the discoveries, bringing to life the science in a way that rarely is captured in often dry textbooks. There were some parts of the body that I was looking forward to learning about that I was sure he would cover, that were glossed over. To be fair, I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been to decide which facts made the final manuscript and what anecdotes pushed the topic too far in depth. I can’t help but be curious as to what subjects or chapters were left abandoned on the editing board, let alone the effort that was employed to organize this book into something resembling a flowing story to keep the reader engaged. So many facts were conveyed that I foresee a reread soon in my future because I likely only soaked in a fraction that The Body had to offer. In many ways this was a trip down my literary past as this review touched topics covered in many of my previous, highly enjoyed reads, e.g., The Gene, The Emperor of all Maladies, The Radium Girls, Invisible Women, The Death of Expertise, Salt, Patient H.M., Bottle of Lies, and Rosemary, ultimately triggering nostalgia. As much as I loved A Short History of Nearly Everything and The Body, its surprising how much I disliked one of Bryson’s travel books when I attempted it. I was maybe an hour or two into the read before I finally gave up, which is a rare event in my reading life. Overall, I can’t recommend enough how entertaining Bryson made such an unwieldy topic such as the human body by interweaving scientific discoveries with the very human element of the very researchers behind the important finds.



  1. Enjoyed your critique, but then I absolutely LOVE Bill Bryson. His unique humor and in-depth research makes his every book a wonder. Although you and I seem to have very different tastes in fiction, we read much of the same non-fiction, which causes me to wonder if you’ve read “Invisible Women” by Criado Perez. You might enjoy it – all about the under-representation of women in data and how it harms us in ways we may not even realize.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello and Happy New Years! We do have similar tastes in nonfiction. I actually just read Invisible Women in November. Such a though provoking read. What is your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Mine has to be Bottle of Lies.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I haven’t read that one yet, but will look it up. And I can’t really pick a favorite, though at the moment I’m still recommending “Invisible Women” to people. I also liked “The Glass Castle,” which I only read recently, and of course, “Educated.” I just placed a request on “Hill Women,” which sounded interesting. Have also been reading a lot of historical fiction and non-fiction about women in WWII: “The Women Who Flew for Hitler,” “Ravensbruck: Life and Death in Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women,” “A Woman of No Importance,” and others.
        Just finished “Know My Name.” Didn’t love the writing style, but a book I think everyone should read. The fact that the judge in the case was surprised at the fallout only confirms the idea behind “Invisible Women.” To have such a blinkered outlook makes it clear our legal system was designed by men. Chanel’s experiences in bringing her case to trial also exemplify this – basically having to put your life on hold in order to be available at almost a moment’s notice. How many people can do that? And that’s not even taking into consideration the way her actions, dress, and everything else about her was put on trial, while Brock Turner was presented as an angel who just drank a little too much one night.

        Made my stomach turn, but off my soapbox.

        You’re probably sorry you asked.

        Excuse me while I go request the book you recommended. 🙂

        Wishing you great reading in 2020.


      • I’m not sorry at all I asked! 🙂 I haven’t read The Glass Castle yet but I will add it to my list right now! I’ve found recently I have a hard time enjoying historical fiction because spend the whole time wondering about what actually happened and wanting the nonfiction account. That’s purely personal preference though. 🙂 I will need to look up the Know My Name. “Missoula” was another similar read that forever changed the way I thought about those trails. Thank you for the recommendations! And I’m thankful to have you as a reading buddy! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • I didn’t read that one, though I’ve read several of Krakauer’s books. “Under the Banner of Heaven” was probably the most recent one I’ve read of his. I get your perspective on historical fiction. I think I like non-fiction that reads like fiction and fiction that reads like non-fiction. Geraldine Brooks is an author that falls under the latter. I have “Bottle of Lies” upstairs in my pile, but that pile is getting a little out of control! 😌

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m so happy you read this book!!! Isn’t it crazy! Totally changed my perspective when politicians call for cheaper drugs by using genetics. I hope you enjoyed it despite the scary material.


      • Walk in the Woods was an extremely humorous account of his adventures hiking the Appalachian Trail. It was funny and informative (not to mention highly relatable), though I imagine a lot may have changed since it was published back in 1998. It did help inspire me to hike more though! I’ve also read In a Sunburned Country about a trip he took to Australia which was also quite fun. Happy New Year!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so glad to hear you liked this one so much! Not wanting a book to end is definitely the highest praise I can imagine! I’m also glad you mentioned that you’re not a diehard fan of his travel books because I’ve read a couple of his titles (not A Short History yet!) and they’re really just so-so for me. They’re fine but I miss what other people see in them, I guess. Good to know this one is appealing beyond that 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so happy I’m not the only one that wasn’t in love with his travel books. He seemed so cranky in the one I tried. You should really try A Short History. It was very similar to The Body with how info is conveyed. Happy New Years!


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