Books that'll make you understand your body better

The true inside story of all the parts that make us who we are
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Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Underrated Organ

by Giulia Enders

About the book:  A New York Times BestsellerA cheeky up-close and personal guide to the secrets and science of our digestive systemFor too long, the gut has been the body’s most ignored and least appreciated organ, but it turns out that it’s responsible for more than just dirty work: our gut is at the core of who we are. Gut: The Inside Story of our Body's Most Underrated Organ gives the alimentary canal its long-overdue moment in the spotlight. With quirky charm, rising science star Giulia Enders explains the gut’s magic, answering questions like: Why does acid reflux happen? What’s really up with gluten and lactose intolerance? How does the gut affect obesity and mood? Communication between the gut and the brain is one of the fastest-growing areas of medical research—on par with stem-cell research. Our gut reactions, we learn, are intimately connected with our physical and mental well-being. Aided with cheerful illustrations by Enders’s sister Jill, this beguiling manifesto will make you finally listen to those butterflies in your stomach: they’re trying to tell you something important.


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10% Human: How Your Body's Microbes Hold the Key to Health and Happiness

by Alanna Collen

About the book:  "You are just 10% human. For every one of the cells that make up the vessel that you call your body, there are nine impostor cells hitching a ride. You are not just flesh and blood, muscle and bone, brain and skin, but also bacteria and fungi. Over your lifetime, you will carry the equivalent weight of five African elephants in microbes. You are not an individual but a colony.Until recently, we had thought our microbes hardly mattered, but science is revealing a different story, one in which microbes run our bodies and becoming a healthy human is impossible without them.In this riveting, shocking, and beautifully written book, biologist Alanna Collen draws on the latest scientific research to show how our personal colony of microbes influences our weight, our immune system, our mental health, and even our choice of partner. She argues that so many of our modern diseases--obesity, autism, mental illness, digestive disorders, allergies, autoimmunity afflictions, and even cancer--have their root in our failure to cherish our most fundamental and enduring relationship: that with our personal colony of microbes.Many of the questions about modern diseases left unanswered by the Human Genome Project are illuminated by this new science. And the good news is that unlike our human cells, we can change our microbes for the better. Collen's book is a revelatory and indispensable guide. It is science writing at its most relevant: life--and your body--will never seem the same again"--


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The Gene: An Intimate History

by Siddhartha Mukherjee

About the book:  THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling author of The Emperor of All Maladies—a magnificent history of the gene and a response to the defining question of the future: What becomes of being human when we learn to “read” and “write” our own genetic information?Siddhartha Mukherjee has a written a biography of the gene as deft, brilliant, and illuminating as his extraordinarily successful biography of cancer. Weaving science, social history, and personal narrative to tell us the story of one of the most important conceptual breakthroughs of modern times, Mukherjee animates the quest to understand human heredity and its surprising influence on our lives, personalities, identities, fates, and choices. Throughout the narrative, the story of Mukherjee’s own family—with its tragic and bewildering history of mental illness—cuts like a bright, red line, reminding us of the many questions that hang over our ability to translate the science of genetics from the laboratory to the real world. In superb prose and with an instinct for the dramatic scene, he describes the centuries of research and experimentation—from Aristotle and Pythagoras to Mendel and Darwin, from Boveri and Morgan to Crick, Watson and Franklin, all the way through the revolutionary twenty-first century innovators who mapped the human genome. As The New Yorker said of The Emperor of All Maladies, “It’s hard to think of many books for a general audience that have rendered any area of modern science and technology with such intelligence, accessibility, and compassion…An extraordinary achievement.” Riveting, revelatory, and magisterial history of a scientific idea coming to life, and an essential preparation for the moral complexity introduced by our ability to create or “write” the human genome, The Gene is a must-read for everyone concerned about the definition and future of humanity. This is the most crucial science of our time, intimately explained by a master.


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I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life

by Ed Yong

About the book:  Joining the ranks of popular science classics like The Botany of Desire and The Selfish Gene, a groundbreaking, wondrously informative, and vastly entertaining examination of the most significant revolution in biology since Darwin—a “microbe’s-eye view” of the world that reveals a marvelous, radically reconceived picture of life on earth.Every animal, whether human, squid, or wasp, is home to millions of bacteria and other microbes. Ed Yong, whose humor is as evident as his erudition, prompts us to look at ourselves and our animal companions in a new light—less as individuals and more as the interconnected, interdependent multitudes we assuredly are.The microbes in our bodies are part of our immune systems and protect us from disease. In the deep oceans, mysterious creatures without mouths or guts depend on microbes for all their energy. Bacteria provide squid with invisibility cloaks, help beetles to bring down forests, and allow worms to cause diseases that afflict millions of people.Many people think of microbes as germs to be eradicated, but those that live with us—the microbiome—build our bodies, protect our health, shape our identities, and grant us incredible abilities. In this astonishing book, Ed Yong takes us on a grand tour through our microbial partners, and introduces us to the scientists on the front lines of discovery. It will change both our view of nature and our sense of where we belong in it.


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The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health

by David R. Montgomery,Anne Biklé

About the book:  A riveting exploration of how microbes are transforming the way we see nature and ourselves―and could revolutionize agriculture and medicine.Prepare to set aside what you think you know about yourself and microbes. Good health―for people and for plants―depends on Earth’s smallest creatures. The Hidden Half of Nature tells the story of our tangled relationship with microbes and their potential to revolutionize agriculture and medicine, from garden to gut.When David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklé decide to restore life into their barren yard by creating a garden, dead dirt threatens their dream. As a cure, they feed their soil a steady diet of organic matter. The results impress them. In short order, the much-maligned microbes transform their bleak yard into a flourishing Eden. Beneath their feet, beneficial microbes and plant roots continuously exchange a vast array of essential compounds. The authors soon learn that this miniaturized commerce is central to botanical life’s master strategy for defense and health.They are abruptly plunged further into investigating microbes when Biklé is diagnosed with cancer. Here, they discover an unsettling truth. An armada of bacteria (our microbiome) sails the seas of our gut, enabling our immune system to sort microbial friends from foes. But when our gut microbiome goes awry, our health can go with it. The authors also discover startling insights into the similarities between plant roots and the human gut. We are not what we eat. We are all―for better or worse―the product of what our microbes eat.This leads to a radical reconceptualization of our relationship to the natural world: by cultivating beneficial microbes, we can rebuild soil fertility and help turn back the modern plague of chronic diseases. The Hidden Half of Nature reveals how to transform agriculture and medicine―by merging the mind of an ecologist with the care of a gardener and the skill of a doctor. 20 illustrations


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Skin: A Natural History

by Nina G. Jablonski

About the book:  We expose it, cover it, paint it, tattoo it, scar it, and pierce it. Our intimate connection with the world, skin protects us while advertising our health, our identity, and our individuality. This dazzling synthetic overview is a complete guidebook to the pliable covering that makes us who we are. Skin: A Natural History celebrates the evolution of three unique attributes of human skin: its naked sweatiness, its distinctive sepia rainbow of colors, and its remarkable range of decorations. Jablonski places the rich cultural canvas of skin within its broader biological context for the first time, and the result is a tremendously engaging look at us.


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A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the Baboons

by Robert M. Sapolsky

About the book:  In the tradition of Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey, Robert Sapolsky, a foremost science writer and recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant, tells the mesmerizing story of his twenty-one years in remote Kenya with a troop of Savannah baboons.“I had never planned to become a savanna baboon when I grew up; instead, I had always assumed I would become a mountain gorilla,” writes Robert Sapolsky in this witty and riveting chronicle of a scientist’s coming-of-age in remote Africa. An exhilarating account of Sapolsky’s twenty-one-year study of a troop of rambunctious baboons in Kenya, A Primate’s Memoir interweaves serious scientific observations with wry commentary about the challenges and pleasures of living in the wilds of the Serengeti—for man and beast alike. Over two decades, Sapolsky survives culinary atrocities, gunpoint encounters, and a surreal kidnapping, while witnessing the encroachment of the tourist mentality on the farthest vestiges of unspoiled Africa. As he conducts unprecedented physiological research on wild primates, he becomes evermore enamored of his subjects—unique and compelling characters in their own right—and he returns to them summer after summer, until tragedy finally prevents him. By turns hilarious and poignant, A Primate’s Memoir is a magnum opus from one of our foremost science writers.


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Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, Third Edition

by Robert M. Sapolsky

About the book:  Renowned primatologist Robert Sapolsky offers a completely revised and updated edition of his most popular work, with nearly 90,000 copies in print Now in a third edition, Robert M. Sapolsky's acclaimed and successful Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers features new chapters on how stress affects sleep and addiction, as well as new insights into anxiety and personality disorder and the impact of spirituality on managing stress. As Sapolsky explains, most of us do not lie awake at night worrying about whether we have leprosy or malaria. Instead, the diseases we fear-and the ones that plague us now-are illnesses brought on by the slow accumulation of damage, such as heart disease and cancer. When we worry or experience stress, our body turns on the same physiological responses that an animal's does, but we do not resolve conflict in the same way-through fighting or fleeing. Over time, this activation of a stress response makes us literally sick. Combining cutting-edge research with a healthy dose of good humor and practical advice, Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers explains how prolonged stress causes or intensifies a range of physical and mental afflictions, including depression, ulcers, colitis, heart disease, and more. It also provides essential guidance to controlling our stress responses. This new edition promises to be the most comprehensive and engaging one yet.


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The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

by Bessel van der Kolk M.D.

About the book:  • A New York Times Science Bestseller •“Packed with science and human stories, the book is an intense read. . . . The struggle and resilience of [van der Kolk’s] patients is very moving.” —New ScientistA pioneering researcher transforms our understanding of trauma and offers a bold new paradigm for healing Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma, has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. He explores innovative treatments—from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga—that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score exposes the tremendous power of our relationships both to hurt and to heal—and offers new hope for reclaiming lives.


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It Didn't Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle

by Mark Wolynn

About the book:  A groundbreaking approach to transforming traumatic legacies passed down in families over generations, by an acclaimed expert in the field   Depression. Anxiety. Chronic Pain. Phobias. Obsessive thoughts. The evidence is compelling: the roots of these difficulties may not reside in our immediate life experience or in chemical imbalances in our brains—but in the lives of our parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents. The latest scientific research, now making headlines, supports what many have long intuited—that traumatic experience can be passed down through generations. It Didn’t Start with You builds on the work of leading experts in post-traumatic stress, including Mount Sinai School of Medicine neuroscientist Rachel Yehuda and psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps the Score. Even if the person who suffered the original trauma has died, or the story has been forgotten or silenced, memory and feelings can live on. These emotional legacies are often hidden, encoded in everything from gene expression to everyday language, and they play a far greater role in our emotional and physical health than has ever before been understood.   As a pioneer in the field of inherited family trauma, Mark Wolynn has worked with individuals and groups on a therapeutic level for over twenty years. It Didn’t Start with You offers a pragmatic and prescriptive guide to his method, the Core Language Approach. Diagnostic self-inventories provide a way to uncover the fears and anxieties conveyed through everyday words, behaviors, and physical symptoms. Techniques for developing a genogram or extended family tree create a map of experiences going back through the generations. And visualization, active imagination, and direct dialogue create pathways to reconnection, integration, and reclaiming life and health. It Didn’t Start With You is a transformative approach to resolving longstanding difficulties that in many cases, traditional therapy, drugs, or other interventions have not had the capacity to touch.


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When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection

by Gabor Mate

About the book:  Now in paperback, the bestselling exploration of the effects of the mind-body connection on stress and diseaseCan a person literally die of loneliness? Is there such a thing as a ""cancer personality""? Drawing on scientific research and the author's decades of experience as a practicing physician, this book provides answers to these and other important questions about the effect of the mind-body link on illness and health and the role that stress and one's individual emotional makeup play in an array of common diseases.Explores the role of the mind-body link in conditions and diseases such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, IBS, and multiple sclerosisDraws on medical research and the author's clinical experience as a family physicianIncludes The Seven A's of Healing-principles of healing and the prevention of illness from hidden stressShares dozens of enlightening case studies and stories, including those of people such as Lou Gehrig (ALS), Betty Ford (breast cancer), Ronald Reagan (Alzheimer's), Gilda Radner (ovarian cancer), and Lance Armstrong (testicular cancer)An international bestseller translated into fifteen languages, When the Body Says No promotes learning and healing, providing transformative insights into how disease can be the body's way of saying no to what the mind cannot or will not acknowledge.


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Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential--and Endangered

by Bruce D. Perry,Maia Szalavitz

About the book:  “Bruce Perry is both a world-class creative scientist and a compassionate therapist.”—Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia Born for Love is the definitive book on empathy. Renowned psychiatrist Bruce Perry has appeared on Oprah, CNN, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, and other programs as an expert in this hot area of neuroscience, and has been cited as such in Newsweek, the New York Times, and The New Yorker (in a story written by Malcolm Gladwell). He and co-writer Maia Szalavitz explore empathy’s startling importance in human evolution and its significance for our children and our society. The authors of The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog present a powerful case that love is essential…and endangered.


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The Trouble With Testosterone: And Other Essays On The Biology Of The Human Predicament

by Robert M. Sapolsky

About the book:  Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize From the man who Oliver Sacks hailed as “one of the best scientist/writers of our time,” a collection of sharply observed, uproariously funny essays on the biology of human culture and behavior.In the tradition of Stephen Jay Gould and Oliver Sacks, Robert Sapolsky offers a sparkling and erudite collection of essays about science, the world, and our relation to both. “The Trouble with Testosterone” explores the influence of that notorious hormone on male aggression. “Curious George’s Pharmacy” reexamines recent exciting claims that wild primates know how to medicate themselves with forest plants. “Junk Food Monkeys” relates the adventures of a troop of baboons who stumble upon a tourist garbage dump. And “Circling the Blanket for God” examines the neurobiological roots underlying religious belief. Drawing on his career as an evolutionary biologist and neurobiologist, Robert Sapolsky writes about the natural world vividly and insightfully. With candor, humor, and rich observations, these essays marry cutting-edge science with humanity, illuminating the interconnectedness of the world’s inhabitants with skill and flair.


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The Brain's Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity (James H. Silberman Book)

by Norman Doidge

About the book:  NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER The New York Times–bestselling author of The Brain That Changes Itself presents astounding advances in the treatment of brain injury and illness. Now in an updated and expanded paperback edition.Winner of the 2015 Gold Nautilus Award in Science & Cosmology  In his groundbreaking work The Brain That Changes Itself, Norman Doidge introduced readers to neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to change its own structure and function in response to activity and mental experience. Now his revolutionary new book shows how the amazing process of neuroplastic healing really works. The Brain’s Way of Healing describes natural, noninvasive avenues into the brain provided by the energy around us—in light, sound, vibration, and movement—that can awaken the brain’s own healing capacities without producing unpleasant side effects. Doidge explores cases where patients alleviated chronic pain; recovered from debilitating strokes, brain injuries, and learning disorders; overcame attention deficit and learning disorders; and found relief from symptoms of autism, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and cerebral palsy. And we learn how to vastly reduce the risk of dementia, with simple approaches anyone can use.   For centuries it was believed that the brain’s complexity prevented recovery from damage or disease. The Brain’s Way of Healing shows that this very sophistication is the source of a unique kind of healing. As he did so lucidly in The Brain That Changes Itself, Doidge uses stories to present cutting-edge science with practical real-world applications, and principles that everyone can apply to improve their brain’s performance and health.


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