Book – The Body

Author – Bill Bryson

Year – 2019

Pages – 445

Genre – Non Fiction

Recommended to me by Lucy Kellett-Baines

Listened to on Audible – narrated by Bill Bryson

Over three hundred books so far, and this is the first that I have listened to as an audio book! As a huge consumer of podcasts, audio books seem a natural fit for me, but instead my dedication to the various excellent podcasts of the world mean that I have never had the time for a multi-hour epic of listening. However, with the purchase of a new phone, I received a free subscription to Audible for a short time, so I thought it was worth dipping my toe in the water with this 2019 Bill Bryson offering, narrated by the author.

The Body is, as the title may suggest, Bryson’s look at the human body and how it is made up and works for us. In this book he covers everything, taking us through the heart, lungs, brain, structure of the body, various illnesses and ailments that blight the body, and ultimately to the death of the vessel that holds us. Along the way, we hear various anecdotes about the people who helped us to discover more about ourselves – from scientists unable to find test subjects for their medicines, leading them to inject themselves with deadly diseases, through to professors who stole the credit for important discoveries from their students – and this adds a very human element to the discussion of what should be one of the most human things ever; our own being.

In the limited reading of Bill Bryson that I have, it has always struck me that the reason he does so well is his ability to connect with a reader by explaining things that can sometimes be very technical, or potentially dull, in a very down to earth way. He isn’t overly chummy, or prone to long winded personal stories (although I have not read any of his travel books, so you may be screaming at me to the contrary), but instead makes you feel like a student in his class – with a personal connection, but a professional distance. This came across in this book, maybe doubly so with the author himself being the one orating proceedings. You are lulled into some technical work by his warm manner of writing, allowing it to be more easily absorbed.

However, there is an issue that comes in listening to something like this rather than reading. Whilst it negates the issue I sometimes have of just preserving through a non-fiction tome, in something like this there is a difficulty in taking in some of the more technical side by listening. Writing this review (admittedly around a month after having finished the book) I cannot remember many of the names of the elements of the body, nor the people who worked so hard on understanding them. In paper format, it would have been considerably easier to spend time rechecking and rereading these parts to try and secure them in my head – a luxury not afforded to one who is listening to the words whilst driving down the A2. I will continue with my audio books, but hope this is something that won’t continue to vex me as I do.