How We Live (Paperback) ~ Sherwin B. Nuland (Author) Cover Art

How We Live (Paperback)

By: Sherwin B. Nuland (Author)


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Review

After he won the National Book Award for How We Die, physician and popular medical writer Sherwin Nuland noticed that book critics kept referring to his next book, The Wisdom of the Body, as How We Live. Rather than fight the tide, he embraced the nickname and reissued the book. How We Live is a fascinating examination of the machinery of life. Dr. Nuland begins his meditation with a hair-raising account of a medical emergency that nearly ends in disaster: a 40-year-old woman almost bleeds to death on the operating table as he and other doctors struggle frantically to find the source of the hemorrhage. Eventually, Dr. Nuland and his team are able to locate the cause--a rare aneurysm of the splenic artery--and repair it. The patient survives. How We Live, Dr. Nuland tells us, grew out of the experiences of that night and his certainty that Marge Hanson lived because of her own will and the surgical team''s will not to let her die. That "will to live" is what Dr. Nuland calls the Human Spirit, and spirit is very much a part of the body''s wisdom.

Each chapter of How We Live focuses on a different biological function, from the work of the lymph nodes to the process of pregnancy and birth. The heart, the nervous and digestive systems, the sex organs, and the brain are all explored and commented on with clarity and grace. But Dr. Nuland is not content with merely providing an operating manual for the body. He is in a constant state of wonder at what a miraculous and mysterious thing the body is: a dynamic system of parts all working in concert, infused with that fierce, intangible quality--the human spirit.

Short Desription

"An anatomy of human life, vividly illustrated. . . . Awe-inspiring [and] sublimely uplifting."
--Time

Having won the National Book Award for How We Die, his best-selling inquiry into the causes and modes of death, Sherwin Nuland now turns his attention to the miraculous resiliency of human life. For this lucid, wonderful, and wonder-filled new book explores the body''s mysterious capacity to marshal disparate organs and processes in the interests of survival.

Like its predecessor, How We Live is filled with gripping medical case histories: a woman is pulled back from the brink of death from inexplicable internal bleeding; another patient triumphs over breast cancer; the "routine" removal of a polyp triggers a nearly lethal medical crisis. For Nuland, each of these cases serves to illustrate the extraordinary responsiveness and adaptability of the human organism. We learn how the aorta''s baroreceptors monitor blood pressure and respond to its minutest fluctuations. We follow the intricate chain of electrochemical command that makes us leap out of the path of a speeding car. We discover why the stomach--which is capable of breaking down everything from porridge to pizza--refrains from digesting itself. Informed by sympathy for human suffering and an erudition that includes poetry and the Talmud as well as the medical canon, How We Live is science writing of the rarest kind--lucid, poetic, and genuinely uplifting.

Originally published under the title The Wisdom of the Body



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