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Woman: An Intimate Geography [Hardcover]

Natalie Angier
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 6 1999
A Pulitzer Prize-winner offers a book about femaleness --- in body and mind --- that could prove as important as The Second Sex or Our Bodies, Our Selves and as fresh as Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom. With the clarity, insight, and sheer joy of language that has secured her reputation as one of the New York Times's premier stylists, Natalie Angier lifts the veil of secrecy from that most enigmatic of evolutionary masterpieces, the female body, exploring the essence of what it means to be a woman. Angier's thoughts on everything from organs to orgasm evince her famously playful originality, yet stand their ground in scientific fact. She also dives into hot topics such as menopause and evolutionary psychologists' faddish views of "female nature," creating a sparkling, fresh vision of womanhood.

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From Amazon

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

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.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding science writing Feb. 7 2004
This book a wonderful combination of science, opinion, and well-honed wit - the wit and opinion being so much better for being so well based in fact. The writing is filled with first-person passion: not the grim, militant kind, but affection that can afford a good laugh at its subject. Best of all, Angier's affection for her topic (herself included) seems equally based on romanticism and research.
Being in a species with two sexes is interesting, but news from the other side is rarely balanced, complete, or even comprehensible. I value Angier's eloquence and clarity. I also value her ability to incorporate new information into her views, instead of shouting down whatever doesn't match some political manifesto.
The only fault I find in this book is that there is not more of it. The years since she wrote the book have added intriguing facts to the pile such as the genes in embryonic brains that express differently in male and female, long before hormonal effects take hold. Even when "Woman" was written, though, there was plenty of information about matrilineal mitochondria that she could have used - it would have enriched her discussion of genetics. Also, she omitted discussion of the relatively rare women who succeed in the hard sciences. Keeping with her tone, there would have been no need to compare them to the men in the field. They would have been interesting enough in their own right.
I am not a woman myself, just an admirer, companion, co-worker, and occasional visitor. I was very happy to see a writer who not only has such agreeable views, but brings such a wealth of knowledge to the discussion and brings herself, too. Brava!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars ARGH! Jan. 6 2000
I hardly know where to begin there's so much wrong with this book. And though the author admits in the opening paragraph of the introduction that this is her personal attempt to find a way to think about the biology of being female without falling into the sludge of biological determinism, that is exactly what she does. This is not a scientific study in the least, either of the current or evolutionary female condition. Instead, it is a disjointed hodge-podge of anecdotes with a smattering of facts. Rehashed facts, at that. I think what alarmed me the most was the preponderous of Angier to deal with sexuality in a primarily reproductive mode. Certainly reproduction is essential, but what about post menopausal sex? Bisexual, or lesbian sex? Isn't that part of the female experience as well? Not just sperm meeting ova? But then, at no time in the book does Angier seem like an objective observor. Lending a pedantic tone to the book, and chipping away at the foundation of whatever basis she's attempting to lay. Strangely enough, I'm glad I read the book because it clearly illustrates how far women have yet to come in understanding ourselves.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh please, next time call it a comic writing Aug. 29 1999
By A Customer
This book reminds me of many movies you go to see based on books you have read, because when you come out you are shaking your head and wondering what the heck was THAT?? Angier's has written a book, which as a social commentary, would have been amusing, and make you think, truly think, about some of the ideas she presents. The problem is that her science is awful. Instead of facts and research leading her to conclusions, she has seemingly instead gone and found facts and statistics to justify her ideas. This is science of the worst sort. Every argument she makes just left me waiting for some one else to chime in with a counter-point. Anecdotal evidence, circular arguments, half-baked reasoning, this whole book truly pales when compared to fine books such as Guns,Germs, and Steel, which actually try to explain how humankind ended up the way it has, and also explain the journey it took to get there. Call this book social commentary, drop the self-serving science, and I'd give it 3 1/2 stars. As it is though, not a chance. Hopefully some other writter is out there right now finishing up the book that all these other reviews want you to believe that this one is.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Inaccuracies of Interviews Lost Me..... July 23 2000
By A Customer
Thoroughly well written book...but I stopped reading on page 121. Ms. Angier's perceptions of Beth Tiner's recovery from hysterectomy due to endometriosis are inaccurate and paint a picture of a well-recovered hysterectomy patient. If she got this wrong, where else did she error?
Ms. Angier specifically wrote "Tiner herself had a hysterectomy at the age of twenty-five to treat endometriosis that had tormented her with pain since she was seventeen. She doesn't regret having had the surgery. She doesn't have the pain anymore."
Clearly, Ms. Angier does not subscribe to Sans Uteri or read Beth Tiner's frequent posts there. Just where DID she get this perception from? I put the book down after reading what Ms. Angier wrote and haven't picked it back up to finish yet. I'm not sure I will.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars psuedo poetic tone gets REALLY annoying June 26 2000
i was given this book as a graduation present. as a feminist, i was excited to read something indepth (and praising) of the female body.
to put it nicely, i was highly disappointed. . .
angier's psuedo poetic tone became really annoying really quickly. in fact, in order to get to the real information, i had to get past that. that is hard to do. therefore i found the book very uninformative.
i understand that many people have nothing but praises for this book, but if you get annoyed with rambling and a run around approach, then you will not enjoy this book.
(well, maybe you can use it as a humor book, as my friend and i did...)
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Journalistic Examination of Woman-ness
Even though I haven't actually read this book in a couple of years, I constantly refer to it and recommend it to any woman I know. Read more
Published on Feb. 10 2004 by Sarah_A
4.0 out of 5 stars I am WOMAN...
I love this book. From the history of hysterectomy to the evolution of the breasts, this book covers at least a thousand things you (especially if you're a woman, too) really... Read more
Published on Nov. 11 2003 by Amazonbombshell
4.0 out of 5 stars A book both women AND men should read
Angier ties together, in a highly readable manner, the complexities of the human body very, very well all the while never loosing site of the whole. Read more
Published on Sept. 3 2003 by Warren Fritze
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book
Ms. Angier rocks. This book was great, I highly recommend it. It's heaven for those into science but also quite interesting for those who don't want something too technical or... Read more
Published on Sept. 2 2003
1.0 out of 5 stars This is science writing?
Although the premise of this book is promising and there are a few interesting little facts any real value is obscured by Angier's tired attempts at stylistic wit, complete failure... Read more
Published on June 5 2003 by E. Miller
4.0 out of 5 stars Anatomy with a twist!
This is a really interesting book written by a woman for women. I learned all kinds of things! Although it does get a little slow towards the middle, it is a good read.
Published on April 4 2003 by Avid Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous
One of my very favorite books. Love Angier's science writing in the New York Times and can't recommend this book enough. Read more
Published on Feb. 20 2003 by "runranns"
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing and informative book
I loved Woman: An Intimate Geography! I have never found a women's health book as informational and entertaining. Read more
Published on Oct. 5 2002 by Jennifer Sugg
4.0 out of 5 stars Mixing metaphor and mystique
Angier uses her strong journalist's skills in biology to guide us on an encyclopaedic journey. The excursion examines nearly every aspect of women's bodies, with many mysteries... Read more
Published on Sept. 2 2002 by Stephen A. Haines
4.0 out of 5 stars captivating
I did not plan to read this book. ... I wondered, as you might, how a whole book (that is not a reference book) could be written on women's bodies. Read more
Published on Aug. 4 2002 by Elizabeth
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