While my work is in history, I love to read science non-fiction. I bounce around from Mary Roach books and other things in a similar vein, and about half of my podcast listening is science based as well. When reviews of James Hamblin’s If Our Bodies Could Talk started sliding in I thought it sounded up my alley. Somewhere along the way, I discovered that Hamblin did his own audio and added that to my queue list at the library.
In If Our Bodies Could Talk Hamblin does well what I thought Jessica Bennett did not (or rather, that she didn’t attempt), he takes a basic question and answer format and expands it to discuss the larger implications. This makes perfect sense as Hamblin explains that he left medical school to become a writer (landing at The Atlantic) because he couldn’t reconcile being asked to memorize and regurgitate facts that he would be able to easily access in his professional career. Add to that not being taught to look at problems holistically, and attack medicine as a failure somewhere in the body’s systems and the need for such an approach and you have the root of his video series for The Atlantic and eventually this book.
With that beginning point, the vast majority of the questions that are asked in the book are answered with social, political, and economic ramifications as the end result. Hamblin doesn’t shy away from talking about how broken our healthcare and medical systems are and how care is often profits driven (the story that sticks with me on this one is oral hydration versus saline IVs). He also approaches his topics and the public’s general state of misinformation kindly and deploys well-placed humor to break up what might otherwise be monotonous.
I enjoyed listening to this book, and took away a great deal from it (do not just blindly take multivitamins: look at what you need specifically because you can accidentally poison yourself), and was able to look at topics more broadly than I had before (our food production is literally breaking the planet).