Last year, I read and greatly enjoyed Sherwin B. Nuland's How We Die. It was therefore with great excitement that I checked out from our library Nuland's recent The Wisdom of The Body (in softcover, the book is titled How We Live).
I was disappointed. Nuland, a surgeon and professor of surgery at Yale, is at his best in describing medical events and systems in the context of case histories. The few times he does this in Wisdom make for both compelling story-telling and instruction. Unfortunately, much of Wisdom reads like an introductory primer in human medical systems. This is a worthy goal for a book, and Nuland does it well, but it was not what I expected. His basic thesis, that the "wisdom" of the body consists of complex, adaptable systems which by their very variability sustain homeostasis, is persuasively argued. However, Nuland showed in his earlier book that a serious medical argument could be (and was) successfully made both through anecdotal case history and exposition of the broader principles involved.
Nuland misplaced the fulcrum in the balance of his most recent book, with unfortunate results. He is, however, such a fine and humane writer that I eagerly await his next work (as I do his new column in The American Scholar).