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The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine Hardcover – October 17, 2017
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The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
“Fast-paced, thoroughly researched . . . Fitzharris documents her hero’s long struggle against naysayers and rivals, as well as the setbacks he faced in his personal and professional life, in an engaging journey into the past. This is popular history at its best.” ―Dean Jobb, The Scotsman
“The Butchering Art is an absorbing medical and social history that will leave you feeling both enlightened and thankful to benefit from the advances Lister (and his wife) popularized.” ―Sarah Harrison Smith, Omnivoracious
“A fascinating account of how hospitals became places of healing rather than death.” ―The Daily Mail
“Atmospheric . . . The story it tells is one of abiding fascination” ―Jennifer Senior, The New York Times
"Vivid, gory" ―Agatha French, Los Angeles Times
“[A] vivid picture. . . Some of it reads as the brutal relic of a vanished past; some of it reads as a brutal relic of the present.”―Genevieve Valentine, NPR
"Readers interested in the medical field can’t go wrong with this one." ―Bookish
A Publishers Weekly Picks Books of the Week
". . . pulsating, technicoloured . . . [Fitzharris] has an eye for morbid detail, visceral imagery and comic potential." ―Wendy Moore, The Guardian
Book of the Day, The Guardian
"The Butchering Art is a formidable achievement ―a rousing tale told with brio, featuring a real-life hero worthy of the ages and jolts of Victorian horror to rival the most lurid moments of Wilkie Collins" ―John J. Ross, The Wall Street Journal
“[Fitzharris] paints a compelling portrait of a man of conviction, humor and, above all, humanity. . . The Butchering Art is thoroughly enjoyable."-- The Guardian
"In The Butchering Art, Lindsey Fitzharris becomes our Dante, leading us through the macabre hell of nineteenth-century surgery to tell the story of Joseph Lister, the man who solved one of medicine's most daunting and lethal puzzles. With gusto, Dr. Fitzharris takes us into the operating theaters of yore as Lister awakens to the true nature of the killer that turned so many surgeries into little more than slow-moving executions. Warning: She spares no detail!" ―Erik Larson, bestselling author of Dead Wake and The Devil in the White City
"With an eye for historical detail and an ear for vivid prose, Lindsey Fitzharris tells a spectacular story about one of the most important moments in the history of medicine: the rise of sterile surgery. The Butchering Art is a spectacular book―deliciously gruesome and utterly gripping. You will race through it, wincing as you go, but never wanting to stop." ―Ed Yong, bestselling author of I Contain Multitudes
"The Butchering Art is medical history at its most visceral and vivid. It will make you forever grateful to Joseph Lister, the man who saved us from the horrors of pre-antiseptic surgery, and to Lindsey Fitzharris, who brings to life the harrowing and deadly sights, smells, and sounds of a nineteenth-century hospital." ―Caitlin Doughty, bestselling author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and From Here to Eternity
"The Butchering Art is a brilliant and gripping account of the almost unimaginable horrors of surgery and postoperative infection before Joseph Lister transformed it all with his invention of antisepsis. It is the story of one of the truly great men of medicine and of the triumph of humane scientific method and dogged persistence over dogmatic ignorance." ―Henry Marsh, bestselling author of Do No Harm
"Electric. The drama of Lister's mission to shape modern medicine is as exciting as any novel." ―Dan Snow, BBC presenter and author
"Excellent . . . [Fitzharris] infuses her thoughtful and finely crafted examination of this [antiseptic] revolution with the same sense of wonder and compassion Lister himself brought to his patients, colleagues, and students . . . a remarkable life and time." ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Fitzharris knows how to engage readers in fascinating and shocking details about medical history . . . In deftly capturing an 'epochal moment when medicine and science merged,' the author also offers an important reminder that, while many regard science as the key to progress, it can only help in so far as people are willing to open their minds to embrace change." ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"A slightly gory, occasionally humorous, and very enjoyable biography of a man whose kindness, care, and curiosity changed medicine forever." ―Susanne Caro, Library Journal
About the Author
Lindsey Fitzharris has a PhD in the history of science and medicine from the University of Oxford. She is the creator of the popular website The Chirurgeon's Apprentice, and is the writer and presenter of the YouTube series Under the Knife. She writes for The Guardian, The Huffington Post, The Lancet, and New Scientist. Visit her website at www.drlindseyfitzharris.com, follow her on Twitter at @DrLindseyFitz, and find her on Instagram at @drlindseyfitzharris.
Top customer reviews
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History buffs, science lovers, people in the medical profession, fans of the morbid, fans of shows like Bones (that maybe always hid their eyes during the gruesome scenes and yet always ended up watching), anyone looking for a little real-life old-school horror for their October... READ THIS BOOK.
I know that I can't wait to finish this book (and I'll update my review if needed once I finish).
To the reviewers who complained about the lack of pictures: Instagram and YouTube are *visual* storytelling mediums. Giving a low star review based on *your* misconception that the book would have images because the authors social media has images is unfair to the author and, quite frankly, childish. Read the book and you will find it very descriptive - no need for artist's interpretation.
I'm not a medical person but have some knowledge by proxy (see above). I also find the topics of science and medicine fascinating. Moreover, I appreciate good writing and storytelling and that's where the true strength of this book lies. Fitzharris's research is prolific (about 1/3 of the size of the book consists of her notes, which are fascinating in themselves) but her greater strength is her writing style. I learned a few new words along the way and appreciated an author who talks up to her audience without any hint of condescension. Her anticipatory style explains what needs to be explained but only to the extent that it's necessary. There are no wasted words in this book.
This is not just a story about Joseph Lister but about the turn toward modern medicine, the evolution of germ theory, and where surgical practice stood in the mid-19th century. We learn enough about Lister to understand his motivations and hesitations and the story is never so broad as to stray from his personal journey. We also meet his advocates and adversaries but we never lose focus on Lister and his journey. It's true character-driven non-fiction.
While the author's voice is present, her writing is concise and never editorializes or intrudes on the story. The book is beautifully organized and moves swiftly. It's a fascinating read and I can't recommend it highly enough. It's the best book I've read this year and I would put it in the top 3 of layman's non-fiction medical books I've ever read (Maia Szalavitz would be the author of one or two others; the writing styles are vastly different but both Fitzharris and Szalavitz are compelling authors with clear vision). If you have the slightest curiosity about the book, do yourself a favor and try the sample or just take a chance and purchase it. I'm eagerly anticipating Fitzharris's next work.
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