• The Bossy Bookworm

Review of The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson

Bryson's examination of the human body, its processes, its wonders, and its limitations is surprising, illuminating, and wonderful.

“We pass our existence within this wobble of flesh and yet take it almost entirely for granted.”


The Body: A Guide for Occupants is made up of fascinating, funny, odd, and often unexpected information about the complicated corporeal shell we each inhabit.

With his signature wit and curiosity, Bryson delves into everything you didn't know that you didn't know about the body (and, I'm glad to say, he narrates the audiobook edition of the book).

“The great paradox of the brain is that everything you know about the world is provided to you by an organ that has itself never seen that world. The brain exists in silence and darkness, like a dungeoned prisoner. It has no pain receptors, literally no feelings. It has never felt warm sunshine or a soft breeze. To your brain, the world is just a stream of electrical pulses, like taps of Morse code. And out of this bare and neutral information it creates for you—quite literally creates—a vibrant, three-dimensional, sensually engaging universe. Your brain is you. Everything else is just plumbing and scaffolding.”

I'm willing to accompany Bill Bryson anywhere he wants to take me, and an adventure through body systems, grievous injuries, and our various, wondrous healing processes is no exception. Bryson considers the body's systems, outside positive and detrimental influences upon the body, and disease and the process of death. He inspires wonder, shares knowledge, and offers sometimes shocking factoids about our bodies and how they work.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

Bryson has also written the smart, wry travel books The Lost Continent, Neither Here nor There, Notes from a Small Island, Notes from a Big Country, and Down Under, as well as two books about the English language, Mother Tongue and Made in America, and A Short History of Nearly Everything and A Really Short History of Nearly Everything.

I mentioned The Body: A Guide for Occupants in the list Shhh! Books I'm Giving as Gifts This Holiday.