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Your Body: The Missing Manual [Paperback]

Matthew MacDonald

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Book Description

Aug. 8 2009 Missing Manual

What, exactly, do you know about your body? Do you know how your immune system works? Or what your pancreas does? Or the myriad -- and often simple -- ways you can improve the way your body functions?

This full-color, visually rich guide answers these questions and more. Matthew MacDonald, noted author of Your Brain: The Missing Manual, takes you on a fascinating tour of your body from the outside in, beginning with your skin and progressing to your vital organs. You'll look at the quirks, curiosities, and shortcomings we've all learned to live with, and pick up just enough biology to understand how your body works. You'll learn:

  • That you shed skin more frequently than snakes do
  • Why the number of fat cells you have rarely changes, no matter how much you diet or exercise -- they simply get bigger or smaller
  • How you can measure and control fat
  • That your hair is made from the same stuff as horses' hooves
  • That you use only a small amount of the oxygen you inhale
  • Why blood pressure is a more important health measure than heart rate -- with four ways to lower dangerously high blood pressure
  • Why our bodies crave foods that make us fat
  • How to use heart rate to shape an optimal workout session -- one that's neither too easy nor too strenuous
  • Why a tongue with just half a dozen taste buds can identify thousands of flavors
  • Why bacteria in your gut outnumbers cells in your body -- and what function they serve
  • Why we age, and why we can't turn back the clock
  • What happens to your body in the minutes after you die

Rather than dumbed-down self-help or dense medical text, Your Body: The Missing Manual is entertaining and packed with information you can use. It's a book that may well change your life.

Reader comments for Your Brain: The Missing Manual, also by author Matthew MacDonald:

"Popular books on the brain are often minefields of attractive but inaccurate information. This one manages to avoid most of the hype and easy faulty generalizations while providing easy to read and digest information about the brain. It has useful tricks without the breathless hype of many popular books."-- Elizabeth Zwicky, The Usenix Magazine

"...a unique guide that should be sought after by any who want to maximize what they can accomplish with their mental abilities and resources."-- James A. Cox, The Midwest Book Review - Wisconsin Bookwatch

"If you can't figure out how to use your brain after reading this guide, you may want to return your brain for another."-- The Sacramento Book Review, Volume 1, Issue 2, Page 19

"It's rare to find a book on any technical subject that is as well written and readable as Your Brain: The Missing Manual. The book covers pretty much anything you may want to know about your brain, from what makes it up, through how it develops to how to mitigate the affects of aging. The book is easy reading, fact packed and highlighted notes and practical applications. So if you want to learn more about your brain, how it works, how to get the best out of it or just want to stave off the ravages of Alzheimers (see chapter ten for details of how learning helps maintain your brain) then I can't recommend this book highly enough."-- Neil Davis,

"MacDonald's writing style is perfect for this kind of guide. It remains educational without becoming overly technical or using unexplained jargon. And even though the book covers a broad scope of topics, MacDonald keeps it well organized and easy to follow. The book captures your attention with fun facts and interesting studies that any person could apply to their own understanding of human ability. It has great descriptions of the brain and its interconnected parts, as well as providing full color pictures and diagrams to offer a better explanation of what the author is talking about."-- Janica Unruh, Blogcritics Magazine

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Product Details

Product Description

About the Author

Matthew MacDonald is a science and technology writer with well over a dozen books to his name. Web novices can tiptoe out onto the Internet with him in Creating a Website: The Missing Manual. HTML fans can learn about the cutting edge of web design in HTML5: The Missing Manual. And human beings of all description can discover just how strange they really are in the quirky handbooks Your Brain: The Missing Manual and Your Body: The Missing Manual.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.8 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Quick Start Guide to Your Body Aug. 16 2009
By John Jacobson - Published on
This book is a member of the O'Reilly Missing Manual series, long a favorite of mostly the geek crowd for filling in material that may have been left out of or been hard to find in the owner's manual. The subtitle is "The book you should have been born with."

The chapter headings are listed below:

Skin, Your Outer Layer
The Doors of Perception (the senses)
Your Lungs
Your Heart
Your Digestive System
Your Immune System
Sex and Reproduction
Your Final Exit: Aging and Death

The book introduces each subject with a description of the normal workings of the organ (its physiology). It then briefly discusses what can go wrong (what doctors call pathology). Practical tips for routine maintenance and health are discussed, many myths are shot down. A number of interesting factoids are discussed in text boxes that are enhanced visually by a yellow or blue background.

This book is a good introduction to the subject matter, but is incomplete in many areas. e.g. I could not find a list of generally accepted screening recommendations in the book, things like suggested frequency of blood pressure screening, when should a statin drug be considered in a patient with high cholesterol, the importance of knowing your HDL and LDL cholesterol values and not just your total cholesterol, how often should woman have Pap smears and mammograms, should a man have a PSA test done. These are a few of many issues that might have been addressed and weren't. On the other hand several pages are addressed to love-making techniques, how to use and not abuse the clitoris, and does penile size make a difference in sexual satisfaction of the woman. Alcohol is briefly discussed, not in relation to health, but rather sexual performance. Ovulation, the release of the egg from the woman is nicely discussed, including the need for intercourse to occur near the time of ovulation to improve the chances of conception.

Some common and practical issues aren't addressed, e.g. what is dandruff and how does one control it? Decisions must be made in deciding to limit the information in a book, but it might be more important to list more of the common things and less of the things one is unlikely to face in life.

There is a 16 page index.

The contributors are listed in the front pages of the book. The "technical" reviewer is listed as a medical student due to graduate in 2 years. The book might have been better served by enlisting a practicing physician who is more versed in the practical aspects of providing directed and economical health care to his patients.

A strength of the book is its emphasis on the importance of life style choices and their effects on health. There is no question that for many of us, our life styles have more to do with our health than the medicines we take or the number of visits we make to the doctor.

For most electronic devices we purchase, we receive both a User's Manual and a Quick Start Guide. This book is more of a Quick Start Guide, a tantalizing introduction to the subject, but incomplete in many ways.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Body Manual Sept. 6 2009
By Dr. Joseph S. Maresca - Published on
Your Body- The Missing Manual is a thorough description of how
the body works and the classic breakdowns inherent with the
passage of time. The work describes the major systems; such as,
the outer layer, fat, muscles, bones, sensory, lungs, heart,
digestion, the immune system, reproduction, aging and death.

Some classic descriptions include the heart healthy zone, fitness,
the aerobic zone, the threshold zone and the red zone. The immune
system can overact by attacking harmless environmental
substances like dust and pollen. Allergy goes hand-in-hand with
inflammation. We can improve the immune system via a balanced
diet, stress avoidance, rest and an optimistic outlook.

Overly prescribed antibiotics, unnecessary antibacterial products
and a dirty environment can exacerbate immune system reactivity.
Removing the irritants can reduce the symptomatology of an
irregular immune system substantially.

The author spends some time explaining how we die and the
classic experiences reported in near death cases. For instance,
the average death starts with the rapid descent. This
process is a steady weakening of the body systems over time.
The moments before death include the agonal phase which
consists of muscle convulsions, gasps and a gurgling sound
called the death rattle. At some point, the heart stops and
the body begins to cool.

The book doesn't say how to slow the process of rapid
descent; however, nutrition and exercise may be important
intervention strategies along with stress reduction and a
positive outlook. Removal of overly prescribed medicines
may be another element in maintaining life together with
superior nutrition strategies.

The book would be an excellent acquisition for health
conscious consumers who would like to get a better
understanding of how the body works.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not clinical, fun to read, but not for youngsters Sept. 2 2009
By Fozziliny G. Moo - Published on
I was hanging out on Facebook one day and O'Reilly Media sent out a status message saying they needed a few people to review a new book Your Body The Missing Manual. I responded and was contacted by an O'Reilly representative who got my shipping information.

Within a couple of days, I received a box. Inside was a stinky (stinky because of the ink and paper they used) book with a green cover.

I didn't really know what to expect. I had planned to compare this to some of the larger encyclopedia-like books that my kids had that were packed with fancy color pictures and diagrams for various aspects of the body. This book isn't like those at all. It is more exposition and less illustration, although there are some very good illustrations in the book. They're just relatively simple compared to other books.

The writing style is very interesting. It is not clinical at all and is littered with sarcastic and sardonic quips. The first chapter -- about your skin -- starts off, in the very first paragraph, talking about robbing a bank wearing a ski mask. When the author wrote about techniques for removing fingerprints to avoid leaving evidence of your involvement at a crime scene, I was beginning to wonder if there was an underlying, hidden agenda in the book.

The text is packed with fascinating callouts that fit in contextually throughout the book. This lets the author pack each chapter with numerous bits of tangential information.

All in all, however, the book is somewhat light on the coverage. This isn't a tell-all, but it is a tell-a-lot. And what it does tell, it tells well. There is a lot of information about latest research and findings. For example, I learned that stretching (in the chapter on muscles) isn't the recommended activity before an aerobic/cardiovascular workout, but that 5-10 minutes of light warm up activity is better.

I learned a lot from this book I didn't know before so I definitely feel more knowledgeable as a result of reading it.

While the other body atlas-type books I've seen seem to be targeted at pretty much all ages, I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone under the age of 16. The reason I would not recommend this book to younger readers is because Chapter 10, the chapter on sex and reproduction, ventured a bit too far out of my comfort zone into sociological and cultural aspects of sexuality than I would ever feel comfortable letting younger kids read. I'm pretty sure my 10-year old does not needs to learn about "Arousal and the Art of Foreplay," "Reaching The Big O," or how to "Engage in mutual exploration."

So, all in all, a good book. It's light, not-very-clinical reading that's bound to teach you several things you didn't already know. You can buy it direct from O'Reilly or from everyone's favorite online bookseller: for $25 or less.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT OVERVIEW OF THE HUMAN BODY Aug. 19 2009
By Meijer Bjorn - Published on
Your Body: The Missing Manual is an excellent introduction to the inner workings of your body. The book covers everything from your skin, to your intestines, to what happens during aging and death.

When reading a book that will impart knowledge, it is important for me to know the information is as factual as possible. MacDonald and staff did an excellent job of informing the reader that as with all things, there is always the unknown and that they do the best they can to provide the most current information possible. To do this, there were two technical reviewers employed to fact check the information. Also, if a reader knows of updated information, they will research the lead and add it if it is verifiable. You can also go to the publishers website and review any updated information there.

Information about the body or any scientific information is normally dry. MacDonald does a good job infusing moderately funny humor into the text to spice it up a bit.

The information in the book is basic. I found the things I knew little about to be incredibly interesting. The things I knew, I tended to gloss over. For example, the information on skin and how it works really fascinated me. The section on muscles and how to strengthen and tone them I already knew and the information was less interesting. The information, though basic, is thorough.

The Body: The Missing Manual is an excellent resource on the human body and would be great for the home library or a young adult showing interest in science or biology.
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Consumer and User's Guide To Your Human Body Sept. 17 2009
By Ira Laefsky - Published on
Like all of O'Reilly publisher's Missing Manual Series this small handbook provides accurate information in an easily "digestible" form to all of the major topics one needs to own, use and enjoy their complicated possessions. In this case the major organ and physiological systems of the human body are carefully explained both in structure, function, the ways to maintain them, and in the ways they break down. Clear jargon-free but technically precise explanations and illustrations are given for each of the major parts and functional systems of your body. You won't find the answer to every possible medical question you might have but, accurate well-explained and well illustrated descriptions are given about how the body works, how it can be kept in shape, and how it is liable to malfunction.

This short text is needed in every person's library if they hope to care for their miraculous body and it will clearly and accurately answer most "user's" questions in health and disease through all phases of life. It is entirely more accurate than most health information on the web and more understandable than other accurate sources. I do hope that it may be someday supplemented by an O'Reilly hacker's guide to the body like "Mind Hacks".

--Ira Laefsky

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