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The Unseen Body

A Doctor's Journey Through the Hidden Wonders of Human Anatomy

Jonathan Reisman, M.D.

Flatiron Books

The Unseen Body Download image

ISBN10: 1250246628
ISBN13: 9781250246622


224 Pages



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Jonathan Reisman, M.D.—a physician, adventure traveler and naturalist—brings readers on an odyssey navigating our insides like an explorer discovering a new world with The Unseen Body. With unique insight, Reisman shows us how understanding mountain watersheds helps to diagnose heart attacks, how the body is made mostly of mucus, not water, and how urine carries within it a tale of humanity’s origins.

Through his offbeat adventures in healthcare and travel, Reisman discovers new perspectives on the body: a trip to the Alaskan Arctic reveals that fat is not the enemy, but the hero; a stint in the Himalayas uncovers the boundary where the brain ends and the mind begins; and eating a sheep’s head in Iceland offers a lesson in empathy. By relating rich experiences in far-flung lands and among unique cultures back to the body’s inner workings, he shows how our organs live inextricably intertwined lives—an internal ecosystem reflecting the natural world around us.

Reisman offers a new and deeply moving perspective, and helps us make sense of our bodies and how they work in a way readers have never before imagined.


Praise for The Unseen Body

"A fascinating, lyrical book . . . Reisman's experiences in other cultures bring a richness and depth to The Unseen Body. The way he thinks about the body and medicine—the rivers and tributaries, the flowing and unclogging, the top-down organization of the brain—is extraordinary!"—Mary Roach

“An elegant, elegiac, and deeply enjoyable meander through human anatomy by way of brain-tanned buckskin, blood as the last, salty remnant of life’s oceanic origins, and the World Testicle Cooking Championships. The images Reisman conjures will linger long after you’ve devoured his delightful prose.”—Nicola Twilley, coauthor of Until Proven Safe and cohost of Gastropod

“Terrific, memorable, original, and full of information that informs one’s understanding not only of the body but also of what has stopped us from knowing more. There is palpable joy at learning in Reisman’s writing, and readers will know him as an individual whose humility and empathy are as impressive as his adventurous, travel-hungry spirit.”—Kenneth S. Brecher, cultural anthropologist and author of Too Sad to Sing

“Through his acute and extensive observations of the seen world of nature and human nature, Reisman illuminates the analogous workings of our unseen bodies. An Alexander von Humboldt of the human body, Reisman’s comparisons give us an ingenious perspective from which to understand the ways our internal organs function alone and together. I highly recommend this book to everyone interested in understanding and appreciating the marvels of the human body.”—Warren Zapol, M.D., professor of anesthesiology at Harvard Medical School, Antarctic researcher, and inventor

"A remarkable travel narrative that documents the author’s trip through a seemingly familiar place, the human body, and with a blend of science and personal experience renders that place both strange and fascinating, so much so that the reader will feel not only delighted, but also proud to be a lifelong inhabitant of it.”—Lawrence Millman, award-winning author of Fungipedia

"If you are fascinated by the human body and how it works, or you are thinking about studying medicine, or you are just a curious person you will find this book a joy to read . . . This is a great and easy read which I heartily (excuse the pun) recommend."—Alex Rodgers, author of The Deep

"Quirky, never-dull popular science . . . even readers familiar with college biology will enjoy the experience."Kirkus Reviews

"Reisman’s passion and inquisitiveness are engaging even when topics turn to feces and cadavers . . . An engaging book likely to pique the curiosity of readers interested in a wide range of medical conditions or naturalistic medicine."Library Journal

"Physician and naturalist Reisman offers a 'behind-the-scenes look at life itself' via an odyssey through the human body. Accompanied by stories from his experience practicing medicine around the world . . . deep curiosity driv[es] his narrative."Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Jonathan Reisman, M.D.

Jonathan Reisman, M.D., is a doctor of internal medicine and pediatrics who has practiced medicine in the world’s most remote places—in the Arctic and Antarctica, at high-altitude in Nepal, in Kolkata’s urban slums and among the Oglala Sioux in South Dakota. He speaks Spanish and Russian and heads a non-profit to improve healthcare and education in India. Jonathan’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, Slate, and The Washington Post. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and children.

Olaf Starorypinski

Jonathan Reisman

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