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Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged

5 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio; Unabridged CD edition (May 7 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1452607605
  • ISBN-13: 978-1452607603
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 2.8 x 13.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,836,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"[A] remarkably informative and compellingwork of discovery." ---Booklist Starred Review

About the Author

Florence Williams is a visiting scholar at the University of Colorado's Journalism School, a contributing editor at Outside magazine, and a freelance writer for the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, the New Republic, Mother Jones, and numerous other publications.

Kate Reading, a freelance narrator for over twenty years, is an Audie Award and AudioFile Earphones Award winner and has been named Narrator of the Year by AudioFile magazine. Her work onstage has been recognized by the Helen Hayes Awards Society, the Washington Theatre Lobby Awards, and the Carbonell Awards in Florida.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As a male, breasts hold the usual fascination. As a doctor, they are remarkable devices of engineering. While often treated as objects of desire, envy, lust, and lots of other emotions, breasts were developed for specific purposes, as all mammary glands are. Sure, evolution has helped change the purpose a little, and the biology of the breast has changed, but there's still a complete attraction to them by males and females alike, for many reasons.

This book is not about titillation, and there's no lineup of breast photos, one after another, for viewing pleasure. This is, more than anything, an examination of why the breast was developed, what its biological functions are, and the issues women (and men, to a degree) face. The book starts with a good examination of the evolutionary development of breasts. It moves through a good biology of the breast (they do more than deliver milk!), then touches on issues of the breast including diseases that can manifest themselves in the breasts, as well as the effect of chemicals and surgery. Yes, there is a discussion of the social aspects, and touches on the subject of augmentation, but more than anything this is probably the best book on the subject of breasts from an all-inclusive science and biology point of view currently available. I've certainly seen no other book that comes close to the level of coverage here. There's excellent coverage of the subject of tumours in the breasts, one of the best I've seen outsider pure medical books.

For women, this book will help explain what your breasts are for, and the proper care of them. You'll learn about the structure and diseases that can affect the breast, and that's all information that seldom is communicated.
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Format: Hardcover
A must read for women everywhere - SO interesting. I felt liberated and stronger for having read this book and now understand my body, my species, and myself as a women even better.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An unusually informative and enlightening book that I recommend to all. Very well researched with a wide range of sources.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x98935450) out of 5 stars 80 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x98a34d44) out of 5 stars The Human Mammary Gland In All Its Glory May 24 2012
By Frederick S. Goethel - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The family of animals known as mammals are so named because they are the only creatures on earth that have mammary glands with which to feed their young. Of the mammals, humans are unique as we have the only mammary glands that extend from the body from the time of puberty onward. All other species in the mammal family have mammary glands that extend and become engorged for the purpose of lactation following pregnancy, but they also retract when lactation ceases and the infant is weaned. Why humans have this feature is a serious area of research and there is much debate over how this development evolved. Some scientists believe it had a sexual purpose, while other scientists believe it had a distinctly functional purpose. The author examines both schools of thought and provides information from both.

Following the examination of the development of breasts, the author reviews the biology and functioning of breasts. Descended from sweat glands, it would appear from the outside that breasts are fairly simple apparatus that become functional following pregnancy and then returned to dormancy. However, the breasts are extremely complicated organs and one of the least studied organs in the human body. While we know a fair amount, there is a great deal that has yet to be discovered about the workings of the breast. Biologists are working on a continual basis to try to unlock the secrets of the breast, and with luck will be able to do so at some time in the future. Even breast milk itself is little understood, there are literally tens of thousands of components of breast milk, yet only a relatively few have actually been identified.

Moving on from the biology of the breast, the author examines the issue of breast augmentation and its effect on the health of women who partake of this practice. Beginning with the development of silicone as a breast enhancement material, the author follows advances in breast enhancement technology, as well as the pit falls. She also discusses a San Francisco woman who made a career out of her giant, enormous breasts. She wanted to see the effects that breast augmentation have had on her through the years. It is a relatively young medical field, yet breast augmentation has become one of the most common surgical procedures, with thousands done every year. Even though there is a high rate of complication, women continue to flock to surgeons have breast augmentation done.

The author finishes out with the final chapters on the effects of chemical pollutants and the role of estrogen and progesterone play in disease development. She examines a number of chemicals to explore what, if any, affect they have on both breast tissue and on the nursing infant. We know that a number of chemicals are passed on through breast milk, but we don't know what effect that has. In addition, we do not know the true facts of prolonged estrogen and progesterone exposure to breast tissue, particularly after the period of menopause. The examination of chemical pollutants and hormones leads to an examination of the state of breast cancer research and where we are at in the fight to prevent breast cancer. It is amazing how little we currently know about the causes of breast cancer and what we can do to prevent it in the future.

In writing a book of this nature, it would be easy for the author to fall into one of several traps. The first would be to write a scientific tome loaded with data and statistics, as well as biological information that would be better suited for a medical journal rather than a general circulation book on the subject of human breasts. The other would be to write a book that contains titillating, sophomoric humor. The author does a fine job of walking the narrow line between being overly biological and overly sophomoric. She presents the information in an easy, understandable way and the book is actually a pleasure to read and fairly difficult to put down. She doesn't shy away from the occasional joke, but they are always in good taste and are actually rather funny.

I would highly recommend this book to all women as an owner's manual. It contains a great deal of information that women should know about the state of breast cancer research, as well as breast self-examination and how the breast actually functions. I would also highly recommend it to any male who has a female in his life. Many men tend to think of the breast as little more than sexual objects, yet they are complicated and fascinating organs in the human body. If men knew how complicated the breast was, they would probably give it a great deal more respect.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x991ac6cc) out of 5 stars Humorous Treatise on Breast Functions and Diseases May 20 2012
By D_shrink - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author discusses a very serious subject, in that most of book is devoted to breast cancer and its primary cause according to her which is carcinogens in the environment. Yet she approaches her subject in a humorous manner from the first page, beginning with, "We love breasts, yet we can't take them seriously. We name them affectionately, but with a bit of insult. They can turn both babies and grown men into lunkheads."

She begins with a history of how and why breasts developed in lower order primates, which was originally to confer immunity to offspring from pathogens. She even has a theory that the transmission of culture occurs from the bonding between mother and child during breast feeding. Yet she easily slips back and forth between information and humor as in discussing the fat percentage of milk in various species as with the seal which has the highest fat content [50%] of any mammal, to which she adds. " a stiff wind could turn that into butter."

The book is filled with hundreds of informative and often amusing facts relating to breasts and breast feeding, as:
1. the average female breast weighs about 454 grams or one pound
2. the largest breasts created through augmentation were a size 38KKK and weighed approximately 21 pounds each with a volume equal to approximately 2.6 gallons.
3. the left breast is about 9% larger in most women, but one is always about that much bigger
4. the average nipple has 12 orifices
5. Timmie Jean Lindsay was the first recipient of a breast transplant in 1962. She was still alive at the time the book was written at age 79 and still had her original transplants. The story of how she got them is cute so I won't spoil that part.
6. a stripper in TX had her implants for a period of time long enough to have the silicone harden. In a dispute with a partner she was shot in the chest but had the bullet deflected off her hardened implants saving her life.
7. human breast milk sells for 4.00/ounce
8. the breast is composed of three types of things: glandular tissue, fat cells, and stroma. The % of fat increases with age, making the breast tissue less dense. This section of the book is also quite informative and more detailed than the minor fact I just mentioned.

All in all a very informative and well written humor book on the subject, which is not to minimize the author's quite serious attempt to make her feelings known that she is a proponent of the belief that man-made environment carcinogens are a major cause of breast cancer which is the primary theme of the book. Well worth the read on several levels.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x986727f8) out of 5 stars A book everyone should read May 8 2012
By K. H. Murdock - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Breasts begins with a list of humorous words for breasts ("Funbags. Boobsters. Chumbawumbas. Dingle bobbers...") and the book contains funny anecdotes throughout. Still, at it's core, it is a serious book, chock full of important information. Williams asks: Why are girls developing breasts at a younger age than ever before? What are the toxins in our environment doing to our breasts? How do the hormones in birth control pills affect our breasts? She also addresses some less serious but truly interesting topics, such as why we have breasts to begin with (and why so many male scientists get the answer wrong). If you have breasts or have a daughter, mother or sister with them, you should read this book. Actually, if somehow you miraculously don't, you still should. She addresses male breast cancer as well. An overall great read.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x98aec888) out of 5 stars A great read with great flaws. Sept. 15 2013
By Running Strong - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book, looked forward to reading it each morning with my coffee. I was going to give it 4 stars but then I started really evaluating it. She's a fun writer and I appreciated her humor though wish she used more to offset some of the seriousness.

My issue with this book is threefold.
The fact that she questions whether breastfeeding is good anymore is irresponsible. There isn't a chance on hell that the very best formula will ever be better than the most toxic breast. I believe she took a huge step backward by her mumblings in this area.

She talked a lot about the slash, burn and chemo side of the failing breast cancer treatments (sure the big pharm loves that) but never mentioned the alternative treatments that work by way of combating the very causes of cancer she writes about. Weak.

And finally, I was let down by the lack of solutions offered to the problems. She stated the problems but gave in to them as if there was nothing she could do. If you are going to scare the poop out of people, you have to give them an assignment so they don't feel so helpless. Tell them how to change the lax government guidelines on new chemicals. How do we speak up to change laws? What about speaking through actions?

I'm glad she pointed out how little progress we have made in treating breast cancer (despite the billions of dollars dumped into cancer research). I'm happy she prefers prevention over the unnatural evaluation of drugs to come.

This book is worth reading, just don't stop when its done. Use it as a starting block to ignite change.
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x989358ac) out of 5 stars This book is a must read! May 9 2012
By DJ Fryer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is funny, irreverent, well-researched, and thoroughly engaging. Florence Williams does her research. She takes us on a tour de boob from its evolutionary history to the EPA, from a plastic surgeon's office to breasts' susceptibility to environmental exposures, using her own body as guinea pig. She dives into 18th century anatomical texts, and follows the latest research on early puberty and its link to breast cancer. Williams' prose is clear and eloquent, and at times hilarious. She strikes the perfect balance between informing, educating and entertaining the reader. This book is a page-turner, and the information in it could not be more timely. Put this book on your Must Read list and share it with everyone you know.