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Woman: An Intimate Geography Paperback – February 15, 2000

4.1 out of 5 stars 177 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, as far as the health care profession is concerned the standard operating design of the human body is male. So when a book comes along as beautifully written and endlessly informative as Natalie Angier's Woman: An Intimate Geography, it's a cause for major celebration. Written with whimsy and eloquence, her investigation into female physiology draws its inspiration not only from scientific and medical sources but also from mythology, history, art, and literature, layering biological factoids with her own personal encounters and arcane anecdotes from the history of science. Who knew, for example, that the clitoris--with 8,000 nerve fibers--packs double the pleasure of the penis; that the gene controlling cellular sensitivity to male androgens, ironically enough, resides on the X-chromosome; or that stress hormones like cortisol and corticosterone are the true precursors of friendship?

The mysteries of evolution are not a new subject for Angier, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biology writer for the New York Times whose previous books include The Beauty of the Beastly and Natural Obsessions. The strengths of Woman begin with Angier's witty and evocative prose style, but its real contribution is the way it expands the definition of female "geography" beyond womb, breasts, and estrogen, down as far as the bimolecular substructure of DNA and up as high as the transcendent infrastructure of the human brain. --Patrizia DiLucchio --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Did postmenopausal women invent the human race? Are males more similar to females than females are to males? These are among the many stimulating questions at the core of Angier's provocative "scientific fantasia of womanhood," a spirited and thoroughly informedAif admittedly biasedAstudy of how the body is "a map of meaning and freedom." Angier (The Beauty of the Beastly; Natural Obsessions) presents new theories on the evolution of women's anatomy, physiology and social behaviors. She points out, for example, that the X chromosome has a "vastly higher gene richness" than the Y, which by contrast is "a depauperized little stump," and she champions the argument of anthropologist Kristen Hawkes that the role of postmenopausal grandmothers, who could help younger females nurture their weaned but still dependent offspring, "invented youth.... And in inventing childhood, they invented the human race. They created Homo imperialis, a species that can go anywhere and exploit everything." With wit and verve, Angier discusses such topics as ovulation, conception and birth; the social and physiological functions of breasts; orgasm, mate selection and child-rearing behavior; the complex workings of estrogen; hysterectomy; muscle strength; and female aggression and bonding. Her wide-ranging celebration of the female body engages the intellect but, more importantly, also offers a rigorous challenge to male-oriented theories of biology. BOMC selection; author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (February 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385498411
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385498418
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (177 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #705,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on October 23, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Woman: An Intimate Geography is the most delightful and informative book on the physiology of women I have ever read. The range of Angier's research leaves almost no aspect of the female body unexplored or unexplained. Even, for example, such barbaric rituals as infibulation and clitorodectomy (still shockingly practiced in as many as 28 countries) are depicted for us in a rare combination of absolute fidelity to scientific detail, and with a moral outrage that is paradoxically spiritual.
WOMAN, throughout its nearly four hundred pages, is exquisitely written. By brilliantly blending her scientific data with acute personal insights and by her expert use of language--exuberant and optimistic when the message is merry, solemn and meticulous when the message is most serious--Angier manages to create for her reader a kind of scientific poetry of the body.
Ms. Angier's book should appeal to women of all ages: to adolescents for whom she lucidly illuminates the lovely tapestries of their bodies; to women of child-bearing age whom her encyclopedic information will help in making the difficult reproductive decisions of our era; and it will appeal to older women who have lived through so much feminist history (and turmoil)since Simone de Beauvoir first expelled us from the Garden of Ignorance. Angier's stylistic eloquence bathes us all in her affection and respect for women; she blesses us with the strength and resilience of her language; she nourishes us, evoking our most primordial response even as we absorb her intellectual richness at their source--giving us what every human needs--affection and knowledge, from our stem cells to the final Silence.
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Format: Hardcover
This is one of those books that I am considering buying for every woman I know: young, old, of all creeds, races, and religions.... even after completing it I am STILL floored by its appropriate, humorous, scientific, lyrical, and profound words.  It is empowering without any negativism.  There is not a shread of male-bashing in this work of art.   Natalie Angier is a science writer for the New York Times and her work is infused with just enough science to make all the fascinating issues she covers comprehensible to any and everyone who reads this book.   She covers the female body like no one ever has, and I don't just mean the chapters on breasts, the uterus, and the ovaries, but the hormones, the menstrual cycles, nursing babies, menopause, exercise, chemistry, and the psychology of being a woman.  I wish so much that this amazing piece of work had been around when I was 18 and wondering what the hell was WRONG with me! (nothing. apparently.  But who can tell an 18 year old anything.... maybe if I could have read it.....).  Angiers carefully weaves together the myths, the legends, the cultures, and even the misogyny from where we ALL come and gracefully and humorously meshes them with the studies, the sciences, the theories and the facts, and gives the reader an entire body of work on all of the issues about ourselves we are curious about.   It is book that teaches you something fascinating about how and why you are and work and play and love.  One of the themes that surrepticiously repeats in this book is the completely normal, completely natural, "you are SO ok - it's laughable to think otherwise" theme.  Women are complex and complicated creatures and we owe that to this magnificent temple called the body and we now have all the evidence and joy in this book to know that.
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Format: Paperback
.. others have missed the point of Woman, that it is a book celebrating female physiology and biology in a way that it often has not been by the (typically now but almost always in years past) male science writers. This is not to say that there are no good books about the female body, simply that this once should be taken in the construct in which it was conceived.
Angier certainly does convey the wonder of the female body, the absolute miracle of the biology that creates and sustains life. And she also makes a compelling case for the argument that the biology of women has traditionally been seen as 'other,' with the norm being male, and that writing, opinion and diagnoses (particularly psychological) have often sprung from this misconception - the fact that every fetus starts of as female still does nothing to convince people that woman are not the second sex. Many of the recent books I've read in evolutionary biology highlight this basic dichotomy, with the male traits still somehow the 'better,' more highly evolved ones (of course, that many female writers feel differently illustrates clearly how science, a 'rational,' 'logical' and 'intellectual' discipline is nevertheless highly subjective).
I think that Woman is marvelous in its celebration of woman and her unique capacity to give birth (with the help, of course...). The myths about menstruation that have been around forever - including the current theory du jour that women don't NEED to menstruate - have made it a curse, a major pain, a source of suffering, and it cretinaly is amazingly refreshing to have it and other parts of being female actually spoken of in wonder at nature's incredible artistry to devise such cool ways of keeping a woman's body healthy.
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