Customer Reviews: How We Live
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on March 12, 2004
I bought this book under the title "Wisdom of the Body". Because it was written after "How We Die", which won a National Book Award, it was changed from "Wisdom of the Body" to "How We Live" because so many reviewers nicknamed it that. Dr. Nuland is one of the best writer's I have come across concerning the function of the human body. He writes with such clarity and interweaves his stories with wonderful references to the history of medicine. I think everyone that has the least bit of interest in how their body works should read his books. You don't have to have a medical background to understand his writing, but if you do have a medical background, he helps you see things even more clearly. These books are especially meaningful for anyone who has an aging parent suffering from certain illnesses. It will give you an understanding and a peace that you might not find elsewhere.
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on March 4, 2001
Dr. Nuland has written a well constructed book that leads the reader through a bit of anatomy, together with helpful discussions of the Greek and Latin words behind the anatomical names. However, the main focus is on how the body strives to maintain health and how the emergent phenomena of 'Human Spirit' plays into that maintenance. Contrary to the impressions from earlier reviewers, I found this book to be extremely well written, and carefully constructed so that the reader is exposed to the nature of the material in a well ordered way. I loved his writing style, I loved the emotion behind the stories he told, and I appreciate his struggles with how the human spirit could emerge from the chaos of evolution. I highly recommend this book.
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on May 18, 2006
How We Live, by Sherwin B. Nunland, is an intriguing, well-written book worthy of a five-star review. The 364-page book is beautifully written, with excellent descriptions and powerful stories. In addition to scientifically accurate descriptions of each body system, How We Live relates the structure of each part of the body to the function of a human being as a whole. This book is truly the work of an excellent author.

The first chapter, "The Will to Live", is a story of just that - a woman who requires immediate emergency surgery top treat a desperate condition. The descriptions in this chapter are vivid and graphic - including detailed accounts of the surgery itself. Spurting blood, ruptured organs, and jerking muscle are described so intensely it is easy to imagine what the scene described would look like. In fact, this chapter is so well-written, I advise anyone with a weak stomach to skip it!

The second chapter provides many accurate descriptions of the body and how it works - everything from blood and capillaries to the differences between voluntary and involuntary muscle. The circulatory system is described in such detail that it is easy to forget this is a scientific book! The body and its structures are described as wonders of nature. The third chapter goes into a story of breast cancer and gets more deeply into the endocrine system. There is, in this chapter, an interesting description of a cancerous breast and the procedure done to remove it. The fourth chapter deals with the nervous system, and provides several helpful illustrations to help the reader understand somewhat challenging information. The fifth chapter details the cell, and the sixth and seventh chapters discuss sexuality and the reproductive process. The book goes on the discuss birth, the heart, the digestive system, and the brain. These chapters add up to a scientifically accurate, yet interesting book.

How We Live is different from most other science books in that it isn't dry or confusing. It combines accurate information with heart-warming stories and is fun to read. The information is surprisingly easy to understand and the book is interesting enough to contend with fiction novels. This is a must read!
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on May 24, 2006
Do you have a human body? Are you the least bit interested in how it works? If you are then the book How We Live is perfect for you! My goal in life is to become a doctor; therefore, I am entering school as a Pre-med student. This book, How We Live, by Sherwin B. Nunland truly inspired a thirst in me to learn more about the workings of my body. He writes this book with enthusiasm, intellect, and skill and his stories placed throughout the book are truly capturing.

He starts of the book by immediately grabbing his reader. He states his opinions on the body and talks about human's will to live and the doctor's passion to save them. He quickly begins an intense story about a surprise surgery he once performed. As he walked into the hospital a page sounded for "any general surgeon". Dr. Nunland was in the operating room in a heartbeat, the woman needed immediate surgery. Her stomach was cut open and all he could see was blood, he was soon searching for the unknown source of blood flow. Just as everyone thought they were losing their patient, Dr, Nunland was able to miraculously bring her back to life. Dr Nunland explains this miracle as a patient's will to live and his ability to save her.

Dr. Nunland uses this initial story to grasp the reader and continues with this fast pace story telling mixed with his medical opinions throughout the entire book. Anyone interested in the body would love this book. He talks about intriguing surgeries, capillaries, muscle movement, cell division, Alzheimer's Disease, many of the systems working in our body, sexual reproduction, and the brain. Nunland is able to mention all of this, and more, and yet his book How We Live is much more then just a science book. He incorporates touching stories, near deaths and real life experiences that would relate to everyone. Read this book if you are at all interested in how you work!
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on November 30, 2000
I enjoyed Nuland's book. For those who know a little, or a lot, about anatomy and physiology, this is an excellent read. Nuland has a passion for his work as a surgeon and a talent to make the complex understandable. His philosophical expository is punctuated with real life cases.
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VINE VOICEon September 16, 1999
Dr. Nuland seems to have an amazing command of the form and function of much of the body. Unfortunately, his decriptions are often marred by overly verbose language that detracts from the topic at hand. For example: "As alarming and jarring as the page was, it was at the same time stangely exhilarating. At once supplicating and commanding, part outcry for help and part call to arms, the clamorous message spoke to me like some suddenly recalled ancestral imperitive." The book continues on like this for some time. It takes almost an entire page for Dr. Nuland to get from the front door of the hospital to the emergency room. This might not be so bad if it did not interrupt (read: stop cold) the flow of a quite riveting medical case study. It seems that much of this book has suffered from the overuse of a thesaurus. "Clamorous"?, "ancestral imperitive"?, give me a break.
Unlike another reviewer, I did not at all mind the long descriptions without illustrations of many of the body's vital systems. Since this is not intended to be an anatomy textbook, the fact that you cannot fully understand how these systems work had no bearing upon the point Dr. Nuland is trying to get across.
Overall, an interesting book, but severly hurt by his writing style. Perhaps another edition of this book can be run past a good editor.
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on November 14, 1998
Last year, I read and greatly enjoyed Sherwin B. Nuland's How We Die. It was therefore with great excitement that I checked out from our library Nuland's recent The Wisdom of The Body (in softcover, the book is titled How We Live).
I was disappointed. Nuland, a surgeon and professor of surgery at Yale, is at his best in describing medical events and systems in the context of case histories. The few times he does this in Wisdom make for both compelling story-telling and instruction. Unfortunately, much of Wisdom reads like an introductory primer in human medical systems. This is a worthy goal for a book, and Nuland does it well, but it was not what I expected. His basic thesis, that the "wisdom" of the body consists of complex, adaptable systems which by their very variability sustain homeostasis, is persuasively argued. However, Nuland showed in his earlier book that a serious medical argument could be (and was) successfully made both through anecdotal case history and exposition of the broader principles involved.
Nuland misplaced the fulcrum in the balance of his most recent book, with unfortunate results. He is, however, such a fine and humane writer that I eagerly await his next work (as I do his new column in The American Scholar).
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on February 19, 1998
I yield to no one in my admiration for Dr. Nuland's story telling, writing skills, or speaking eloquence. However, THE WISDOM OF THE BODY is not a successfully made book. It mixes together fascinating clinical stories with monotonous, drawn out descriptions of the body's functions. Nuland does not always succeed in conveying the body's anatomy and physiology to the reader, and the result is often a restless boredom. This book has only 8 or 9 illustrations, and should have used ten times that many if readers are to understand the complex concepts Nuland discusses. As a fellow surgeon, I enjoyed reading Nuland's personal case histories, but there are much better books to consult for educating one's self on the wisdom of the body. (A few examples: Tortora and Agnostakos TEXTBOOK OF PHYSIOLOGY, Frank Netter's CIBA illustrations, or Dr. Paul Brand's FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE.)
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on October 6, 2000
This was the first of Nuland's books that I have read and it will definitely not be the last. I found it extremely fascinating to read, both from the perspective of the scientific and humanities aspects to medicine. He tells about the body's inner workings through unique case studies over the course of his career. The physiology is very descriptive, but not in a boring text-book type of way. The pages flow from one to the next as he explores the various aspectes that living organisms, especially humans, go through in the process of life. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in medicine or biology. There are better books that focus on only the science or personal aspect of medicine, but this is a rare and fabulously written combination of the two. Nuland's command of the English language is a joy to read and will be extremely informative and entertaining to the novice or expert reader.
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on May 12, 2007
I read How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter several years ago. It was helpful, informative and downright fascinating. How We Live is more of the same, but focuses on startling recoveries, remissions and successes. Dr. Nuland writes clearly and with evident enthusiasm for his subject. I'm glad he had offered his thoughts and experiences to strangers. (I never knew I'd be so fascinated with a spleen!!)

His book lengh essay The Art of Aging: A Doctor's Prescription for Well-Being is a pragmatic yet reassuring guide, too.
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