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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
National Book Award finalist
A New York Times notable book

“One knows early on one is reading a classic—a text so necessary and abundant and true that all efforts of its kind, for decades before and after it, will be measured by it.”—Thomas Lynch, Los Angeles Times

After fifteen years in print, Woman remains an essential guide to everything from organs to orgasms and hormones to hysterectomies. With her characteristic clarity, insight, and sheer exuberance of language, bestselling author Natalie Angier cuts through the still prevalent myths and misinformation surrounding the female body, that most enigmatic of evolutionary masterpieces. Woman is a witty and assured narrative tour de force with a reliable grasp of science.

Updated throughout and with a new introduction bringing readers up to date on the latest science in evolutionary psychology and hormone replacement therapy, this new edition of Woman reinvigorates Angier’s joyful vision of womanhood.

“Ultimately, this grand tour of the female body provides a new vision of the role of women in the history of our species.”—Washington Post

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Product Description

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
1.0 out of 5 stars A book for "parity" of women Nov. 9 2000
I don't think there is anything remarkable in this book. All of the knowledge can be readily found in any textbook for first-year colloge student in "Human Sexulity" course. For more depth and professionally precise infomation, any medical textbook on gynecology contains infomation on female anatomy, physiology, and sexuality -- presented professionally and with authortiy. (But textbooks mentioned above usually are not displayed in commercial bookstores. But you can find them in Amazon.com). That's why to many laymen this book sounds like a new discovery of female. It's not. Also regarding the question of "what women want", Natalier Angier guesses it's a satisfaction of "a desire for emotional parity" (parity = equality in status, pay, rights, etc). That's a nonsense. "...a desire for emotional parity is widespread and profound. It doesn't go away, although it often hibernates under duress", Angier wrote in a New York Times article last year. It sounds that women are pitifully under oppression! That's again a nonsense. By the way, the really authoritive persons qualified to write about women physiology and psychology and anatomy is medical doctors and researcher like Williams Masters, etc....
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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
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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4.0 out of 5 stars I am WOMAN... Nov. 11 2003
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 ought to know about biological womanhood. Even better than that, it's written by a (female) science writer who can really write, and while it does at times get difficult (well, it's a science book), having to reread a paragraph every once in a while won't kill you -- in fact, it'll help you understand yourself.
Better still, this is an empowering book. Natalie Angier is no 1960s feminist theorist; she's a thoroughly modern lady scientifically pointing out why the female body/mind is different, similar, complicated beyond our wildest dreams, ultimately beautiful and eminently worthy of praise.
Drawing on anthropology (my thing, so I loved that), biology, psychology, genetics, and a host of other fields, Ms. Angier introduces facts, fallacies, theories, hypotheses, and the data itself, and while she sometimes draws her own conclusions, a great deal is left for the reader to make up her (or his -- men can read this book too!) own mind. She includes a healthy dose of speculation, but -- and this is crucial -- she recognizes in the text that she is speculating, she points out the actual data, and again she leaves us to agree with her, modify her ideas, or not.
Bottom line: WOMAN is a treat and a half.
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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 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
4.0 out of 5 stars From fascinating facts to blatant speculation...
I was intensely interested in reading this book when it first came out, and finally got around to it. From the beginning, Ms. Read more
Published on Aug. 2 2002 by Drake Dorson
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