The best books about the human body to deepen your appreciation of your own meat sack

Who am I?

People, including me, can be so uptight about their bodies. Early on in my career, I found that writing about my shame (chin hair!) or embarrassment (dogs sniffing my crotch!) helped the stigma go away. Researching and learning about how amazing our bodies are helped empower me to feel confident and comfortable being fully myself. I think it can do the same for others, too. My takeaway: There is greatness in our grossness. 


I wrote...

Gross Anatomy: Dispatches from the Front

By Mara Altman,

Book cover of Gross Anatomy: Dispatches from the Front

What is my book about?

Mara Altman's volatile and apprehensive relationship with her body has led her to wonder about a lot of stuff over the years. Like, who decided that women shouldn't have body hair? And how sweaty is too sweaty? Also, why is breast cleavage sexy but camel toe revolting? Isn't it all just cleavage? These questions and others like them have led to the comforting and sometimes smelly revelations that constitute Gross Anatomy, an essay collection about what it's like to operate the bags of meat we call our bodies. 

Divided into two sections, "The Top Half" and "The Bottom Half", with cartoons scattered throughout, Altman's book takes the listener on a wild and relatable journey from head to toe - as she attempts to strike up a peace accord with our grody bits. 

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is readers supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History

By Florence Williams,

Book cover of Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History

Why this book?

This book exploded my beliefs about breasts all that they are and all that they’ve been through and where they are headed next. Williams is a fabulous guide, taking the reader on an adventure as she uncovers the anatomy and evolution of the breast, and even the pollutants found inside her own breastmilk. Knowing the vulnerabilities – and history! – of my rack made me appreciate it all the more. 


Woman: An Intimate Geography

By Natalie Angier,

Book cover of Woman: An Intimate Geography

Why this book?

Angier is probably the most poetic, yet fun science writer around. She could even make the anatomy of a rug sound fascinating, so it is with a subject such as the woman’s body that she was able to truly soar. It’s a science book that you won’t be able to put down. I read it all in one day while belly flopped over my bed. Interpreting female body facts through a feminist lens – I mean, 8,000 nerve endings in the clitoris! Tell me more about that! 


Heart: A History

By Sandeep Jauhar,

Book cover of Heart: A History

Why this book?

The amount of blood that passes through a human heart every week is enough to fill a swimming pool. That and facts like it saturate this book about our most essential organ, the heart. Jauhar weaves a dynamic science-based narrative with personal accounts that infuses the reader with love and reverence for the body part, the medical personnel, and the innovations that keep us all pumping.  


Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

By Mary Roach,

Book cover of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Why this book?

In Roach’s macabre yet delightful book, we learn about the usefulness of the human meat sack after its typical expiration date. It’s heartening to think that we can keep contributing to society even postmortem and to learn about the many strides science has taken due to body donation. This read is certified gross, funny, enlightening, and weird. 


Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Underrated Organ

By Giulia Enders, Jill Enders (illustrator),

Book cover of Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Underrated Organ

Why this book?

I don’t know about you, but I always want to know more about my poop and orifices and this book delivered on both desires. It’s got something for everyone – sphincters, intestines, microbiome, a discussion on the best positions for defecation. Enders is a real gut aficionado and I felt her enthusiasm rub right off on me. More guts is what I say! 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the gastrointestinal tract, human subject research, and the human body?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the gastrointestinal tract, human subject research, and the human body.

The Gastrointestinal Tract Explore 6 books about the gastrointestinal tract
Human Subject Research Explore 19 books about human subject research
The Human Body Explore 28 books about the human body

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Pink Brain, Blue Brain, Silences, and Savage Appetites if you like this list.