More than a million infant boys are circumcised every year in America, the highest occurrence of this procedure in the world. Why? Out of sheer cultural habit, concludes David Gollaher in his groundbreaking study, Circumcision. The tremendous momentum behind Gollaher's account is generated by one simple question: what is known about this most common of procedures? Alarmingly, precious little. Gollaher remedies that problem by tracing the historical roots of circumcision as a rite of passage into manhood in various ancient cultures before bringing the reader to 19th-century America, when circumcision rates skyrocketed through endorsements by the nascent American medical profession, which credited circumcision with exaggerated health benefits. Circumcision would eventually turn into a mark of class distinction, and the surgery would become entrenched in modern medical practices, despite scant study of its benefits, dangers, or side effects. Gollaher is to be commended for maintaining an even perspective on a practice that is sure to become increasingly controversial; he allows the research itself to fascinate and illuminate. As expected, there are many unsettling graphic descriptions in this book, but its most horrifying revelation is its most casual: the incontrovertible fact that circumcision remains the least understood--yet most widely practiced--surgery in the United States. --Sumi Hahn Almquist
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.