From Publishers Weekly
Just as Michael Sims does in his planetary guide, Apollo's Fire
(Reviews, June 11), science journalist Ackerman (Notes from the Shore
) uses a single day as a narrative framework for examining a wide array of scientific information, but she has chosen a much more intimate subject: the human body. Starting with a 5:30 a.m. wakeup call and working through to the wee hours (with a pause for a restorative midday nap), she explains the complex details behind some of the body's most basic functions. The day is a somewhat arbitrary structure for topics that could be discussed at any time (she holds off on exercise until the late afternoon, for example), but the arrangement is never obtrusive, and Ackerman's prose is inviting. While she doesn't offer a radical new perspective on the human body, she does provide a steady stream of interesting information on things like the tiny hair cells inside the cochlea that enable us to hear even the briefest of noises, and the aphrodisiac allure for women of the odor of men's underarm sweat. All in all, Ackerman offers an pleasant day's diversion. (Oct. 2)
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When are we the most mentally alert? What makes us feel hungry? A skilled and personable science journalist, Ackerman has hit her stride in her third book, a virtual full-body scan conducted over the course of 24 hours. With informational exactitude and conversational casualness, Ackerman summarizes and contemplates the latest findings regarding body processes and life habits. Beginning with our grogginess upon awaking and moving through a typically demanding day and night of too little sleep, Ackerman explains the mechanics and significance of the body's inner clock, why touch is essential to our well-being, and how those billions of microbes we host, weighing an estimated two pounds, help us digest food. Stress is Ackerman's most compelling subject: what it is exactly, what havoc it wreaks, and how to control it. As she touts the benefits of exercise, music, companionship, and laughter, which she describes as "stress therapy rooted in ancient neural threads of joy," one can't help but note that scientific breakthroughs are proving the veracity of age-old adages about how to live right. Seaman, Donna