The best human body books

7 authors have picked their favorite books about the human body and why they recommend each book.

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Medieval Bodies

By Jack Hartnell,

Book cover of Medieval Bodies: Life, Death and Art in the Middle Ages

Jack Hartnell anatomises the Middle Ages in a very real sense: the book is divided up into parts of the body. It is a brilliant and innovative approach, allowing him to bring together the history of medicine, artistic objects, political thought, cartography, metaphor, and the medieval imagination, among other things. Importantly, he looks far beyond Western Europe, so the book also includes Jewish and Islamic approaches to the body, explores the Byzantine world, and analyses objects and ideas from, for instance, North Africa and the Middle East. The book focuses on the Mediterranean world in its broadest sense, ranging widely across sources and disciplines but staying rooted in the question of how medieval people thought about and experienced their bodies. As you might expect from an art historian, he has lavishly illustrated the book, and it gives readers a great sense of the beauty and weirdness of the art and…


Who am I?

Marion Turner is a Professor of English Literature at Oxford University where she teaches medieval literature. Her critically-acclaimed biography of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer was picked as a Book of the Year by the Times, the Sunday Times, the New Statesman, and the TLS, and has been hailed as ‘an absolute triumph,’ and a ‘masterpiece.’ It won the British Academy Rose Mary Crawshay Prize and the English Association Beatrice White Prize, and was shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize.


I wrote...

Chaucer: A European Life

By Marion Turner,

Book cover of Chaucer: A European Life

What is my book about?

An acclaimed biography that recreates the cosmopolitan world in which a wine merchant’s son became one of the most celebrated of all English writers. Uncovering important new information about Chaucer’s travels, private life, and the circulation of his writings, Marion Turner reconstructs in unprecedented detail the cosmopolitan world of Chaucer’s adventurous life, focusing on the places and spaces that fired his imagination. From the wharves of London to the frescoed chapels of Florence, the book recounts Chaucer’s experiences as a prisoner of war in France, as a father visiting his daughter’s nunnery, as a member of a chaotic Parliament, and as a diplomat in Milan.

I Contain Multitudes

By Ed Yong,

Book cover of I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life

With both humor and scientific precision, Ed Yong takes us through the microscope lens into the world of microbes and microbiology that share our world and, in some cases, our bodies. Yong's book connects those worlds to show our interdependence. His book provides ample evidence that while disease-causing microbes grab most of the headlines, many others in the microbiome are essential allies for a healthy life and are critical to advancements in biotechnology.


Who am I?

K. Lee Lerner is an author, editor, and producer of science and factual media, including four editions of the Gale Encyclopedia of Science and the Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security. His expansive writing on science, climate change, disasters, disease, and global issues has earned multiple book and media awards, including books named Outstanding Academic Titles. An aviator, sailor, and member of the National Press Club in Washington, his two global circumnavigations and portfolio of work in challenging and dangerous environments reveal a visceral drive to explore and investigate. With a public intellectual's broad palate and a scientist's regard for evidence-based analysis, Lerner dissects and accessibly explains complex issues. 


I wrote...

Biotechnology: In Context

By K. Lee Lerner, Brenda Wilmoth Lerner, Adrienne Wilmoth Lerner

Book cover of Biotechnology: In Context

What is my book about?

Life is ancient, grounded in the physics, chemistry, and evolutionary biology of Earth. In contrast, today's biotechnology marshals new ideas and techniques with the potential to reshape the planet and life itself. The problems facing the world in fighting hunger, pollution, and disease cry out for innovative scientific solutions. For many, biotechnology offers a beacon of hope. For others, the manipulation of life sounds like a siren's song of peril.

The Story of the Human Body

By Daniel E. Lieberman,

Book cover of The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease

Of the many good books about human evolution, Dan Lieberman’s is my favorite. A biologist and paleoanthropologist, Lieberman describes in clear, accessible prose the fossils that document our own origins, stressing function as inferred from fossils. Having recounted the story of our evolutionary origins, he goes on to explain its consequences – some good, some bad – for human health in the 21st century.


Who am I?

An acclaimed scientist, teacher, and writer, Andrew Knoll has travelled the world for decades, investigating ancient rocks to understand the intertwined histories of our planet and the life it supports. His boyhood thrill at discovering fossils has never deserted him. It continues to motivate him to explore topics that range from the earliest records of life and the emergence of an oxygen-rich atmosphere; the diversification of both plants and animals, and the intricacies of mass extinctions, past and present. He has also participated in NASA’s exploration of Mars.


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A Brief History of Earth: Four Billion Years in Eight Chapters

By Andrew H. Knoll,

Book cover of A Brief History of Earth: Four Billion Years in Eight Chapters

What is my book about?

We live our lives tethered to the Earth, but how well do you know our planetary home?

Drawing on his decades of field research and up-to-the-minute understanding of the latest science, Andrew H. Knoll delivers a rigorous yet accessible biography of Earth, charting our home planet’s epic 4.6-billion-year story. Placing twenty-first-century climate change in deep context, A Brief History of Earth is an indispensable look at where we’ve been and where we’re going.

Parts

By Tedd Arnold,

Book cover of Parts

Parts is a hilarious and fun tale about a boy who thinks he is falling apart. After his toes start peeling, his tooth falls out, and he finds fuzz in his belly button, he thinks he will most likely have to be held together by duct tape. As the story unfolds, the boy’s parents realize they never told him all of these things are normal and soothe his worries. The rhyming scheme of this book is incredible and the illustrations capture the fun-loving nature of the message.


Who am I?

I am an award-winning children’s picture book author who writes stories about obstacles children encounter, focusing on the emotional and mental health of the character so children facing similar situations are able to relate. I have been writing poems and short stories since I was a child and all of my stories are written in rhyme. I love reading a rhyming book out loud and listening to the story unfold.


I wrote...

Soar

By Hillary Daecher, Angie Hohenadel (illustrator),

Book cover of Soar

What is my book about?

Ramone, a shy Ruby-throated hummingbird is about to leave the nest for the first time. But his anxiety and fear keep him from taking off as he contemplates all that could go wrong.

Full of kind words and encouragement, Ramone’s mother gives him room to work through his various emotions, building his confidence and letting him set his own pace. Ramone watches as his friends soar through the sky, realizing all he might miss out on if he doesn’t conquer his fear. Ramone’s adventure showcases the emotions, both positive and negative, children experience as they approach new challenges. Accompanied by strikingly beautiful illustrations, this tale guides readers through Ramone’s emotional journey, showing kids that fear must be overcome in order to grow.

Der Nackte Mensch

By Gottfried Bammes,

Book cover of Der Nackte Mensch: Hand- und Lehrbuch der Anatomie fur Kunstler

While the West was busy with postmodernism, the Soviet world cultivated social realism based on the 19th-century figurative tradition of the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. East Germany was no exception with its own figurative tradition at Dresden Academy of Fine Arts. Gottfried Bammes was a professor of art there, and he further developed classical anatomy studies by introducing a more scientific approach. Illustrations in Der Nackte Mensch are precisely measured and reliable, and each of them introduces a new way to look at human anatomy. Concepts such as wire-framing and splitting organic form into geometric shapes appear here. This book is full of ideas, and it has been a huge influence on how I perceive human anatomy. Gottfried Bammes is, in my opinion, the greatest anatomist of the 20th century!


Who am I?

I’m a traditional sculptor with more than 25 years of experience. Being a dyslectic student in the 2000s, I developed a systematic approach to translating medical anatomy texts into visual information that I could use while sculpting.  All the anatomy books for artists at the time were text-centered. My reference sketches became quite popular among colleagues. It was clear that visual artists perceive information best when it’s visual, and that is how I got the idea for my first book. Now the Anatomy for Sculptors handbooks are bestsellers among visual artists striving to better understand the human form.


I wrote...

Anatomy For Sculptors: Understanding the Human Figure

By Uldis Zarins, Sandis Kondrats,

Book cover of Anatomy For Sculptors: Understanding the Human Figure

What is my book about?

This anatomy handbook for artists gives you everything you need to create realistic human body forms. Of course, only long hours of practice can hone your skills and let you become a masterful visual artist. Having a live model in your training also makes a big difference, but one is not always available. However, reliable anatomy references can be an excellent substitute – as long as they really are good!

Only about 2-5% of the book is text! Anatomy For Sculptors: Understanding the Human Figure contains visual references for hundreds of body postures and motions. Regardless of what composition you choose for your artwork, you don’t have to guess anymore. This book will show you the exact form of every muscle from any angle.

The Magic School Bus Presents

By Dan Green, Carolyn Bracken (illustrator),

Book cover of The Magic School Bus Presents: The Human Body: A Nonfiction Companion to the Original Magic School Bus Series

This entire Magic School Bus series has also been a favorite of ours with our kids. I love the way that the bus goes inside of the human body and gets up close and personal with the cells of the human body. I remember thinking about how it made the difficult-to-see and -imagine immune system easy to picture in the mind of the reader.


Who am I?

I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a doctor, perhaps because there were no doctors in my family, and I did not even realize that I wanted to (or could) go to medical school until I was almost done with college. Once I did realize this, however, it became immediately obvious to me that being a physician (a surgeon) was what I wanted to dedicate my life’s work to, and I have been passionate about it ever since. Probably the topics I am most passionate about after surgery are education, books, reading, poetry, etc., so this book lets both these passions dovetail beautifully!


I wrote...

Your Body Sick and Well: How Do You Know?

By Steven Clark Cunningham, Susan Detwiler (illustrator),

Book cover of Your Body Sick and Well: How Do You Know?

What is my book about?

This playful book serves up a fun and healthy collection of bite-sized treats that both educate and entertain.

Following in the Jurassic footsteps of his award-winning book Dinosaur Name Poems, the current poems share the motif of using the names of things to introduce in a safe and fun way topics that otherwise may be unfamiliar or even a little scary. The lyrical nature of the poems and the vibrant warmth of the illustrations give the traction needed to keep kids reading the poems and the “Learn More!” sections that follow each poem.

Man & Woman He Created Them

By Pope JohnPaul II,

Book cover of Man & Woman He Created Them

St. John Paul II was also a brilliant philosopher and theologian. Here is his answer to errors of our modern age. Here is his antidote to the deconstruction and disintegration of the family, marriage, manhood, womanhood, and even sex, itself. I would list it higher, but it's not precisely about his life—though it is his greatest life's work. Like the falling of small stones that start an avalanche, this book is slowly restoring the world.  


Who am I?

Scott L. Smith, Jr. is a Catholic author, attorney, and theologian. He is the author of Pray the Rosary with Saint John Paul II, the St. Joseph Consecration for Children and Families, along with Fr. Donald Calloway, a new translation of St. Louis de Montfort's Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary. He contributes regularly to his blog, The Scott Smith Blog, and is the co-host of the Catholic Nerds podcast.


I wrote...

Pray the Rosary with Saint John Paul II

By St. John Paul II, Scott L. Smith,

Book cover of Pray the Rosary with Saint John Paul II

What is my book about?

St. John Paul II said, “the Rosary is my favorite prayer.” So what could possibly make praying the Rosary even better? Praying the Rosary with St. John Paul II! Here are the pope's own words and meditations on the mysteries of the Rosary. 

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

By Dr. Paul Brand, Philip Yancey,

Book cover of Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

This is one of my all-time favorite books! Raised in India by missionary parents, Dr. Brand saw firsthand the effects of leprosy on the body. He trained as a doctor in England and returned to India where he pioneered the concept of the “gift of pain”—the idea that lepers’ “rotting” extremities resulted from the loss of sensation and subsequent infection, not the disease itself. A renowned surgeon, he was the first in the world to use reconstructive surgery on lepers, techniques he later applied to diabetics.

The book goes through the body, system by system, relating the physical body to the body of Christ. My favorite parts are Dr. Brand’s vivid stories of treating the “outcasts” society shuns but God does not.


Who am I?

Having practically grown up at the hospital where my dad worked as a medical photographer, I wanted to be a nurse from the age of ten. I worked in ICU for five years and then retired to become a stay-at-home mom and later a homeschool mother. But once a nurse, always a nurse. I continued to care for friends and family, including my one-hundred-year-old mother-in-law, through health crises and long-term illnesses. My book and the others listed here tell stories of God’s healing—physically, mentally, and spiritually—a theme I’m passionate about and hope you are, too!


I wrote...

Health, Healing, and Wholeness: Devotions of Hope in the Midst of Illness

By Tracy Crump,

Book cover of Health, Healing, and Wholeness: Devotions of Hope in the Midst of Illness

What is my book about?

Are you facing a health crisis or battling chronic illness? Do you need a dose of hope? Through her work as an intensive care nurse, Tracy Crump witnessed lifesaving miracles when everyone involved had given up—everyone except God.

Crafted with unique examples of God's miraculous power and saving grace, Health, Healing, and Wholeness blends Scripture-rich meditations with biblical principles highlighting God's mercy in times of medical need. Moving stories of a mother's sacrifice, children overcoming catastrophic accidents, and joy despite traumatic brain injury instill hope. Whether you are experiencing a medical crisis, walking alongside someone who is, or caring for a loved one, these thirty devotions will bring comfort and peace.

If Our Bodies Could Talk

By James Hamblin,

Book cover of If Our Bodies Could Talk: Operating and Maintaining a Human Body

I first picked up this book years ago for the appeal of its short, science-based chapters took on novelty, quirky questions about why our bodies are so weird: why do we have dimples? Why do stomachs rumble? Why do men have nipples? What happens to weight when it’s lost? (Spoiler alert: you breathe it out!)

But Hamblin also takes on some more serious topics, the (mis)understanding of which is even more important in the era of COVID and social-media-fueled wellness culture: how do vaccines work? Can you really boost your immune system? Do probiotics work? What about multivitamins? Are we made to eat meat? What is gluten, anyway? What causes cancer? Hamblin’s humor, straight-talk and lack of any agenda to sell you anything but the state of the science is a refreshing balm in a world fueled with health disinformation that thrives on our lack of scientific knowledge.


Who am I?

I am an evidence-based dietitian who’s worked in gastroenterology practices for over a decade and have seen countless patients defrauded by modern-day snake oil salespeople and unqualified influencers trying to hawk fad diets, unregulated supplements, pseudoscientific lab tests, and more. Knowledge is power, and scientific literacy—understanding how our bodies actually work—is the best defense against being led down a harmful rabbit hole of health misinformation. I love popular science books, and I especially love it when people can write about science with humor and intelligence without ‘dumbing it down’ or oversimplifying; these books all meet that criteria!


I wrote...

The Bloated Belly Whisperer: A Nutritionist's Ultimate Guide to Beating Bloat and Improving Digestive Wellness

By Tamara Duker Freuman,

Book cover of The Bloated Belly Whisperer: A Nutritionist's Ultimate Guide to Beating Bloat and Improving Digestive Wellness

What is my book about?

Since bloating can accompany many conditions, my book starts with a symptom-based quiz that helps narrow down the likelier causes of your individual problem. It then directs you to the most relevant chapters so you can read about these conditions in detail, determine whether they resemble your experience, and learn all about how they’re diagnosed and treated with diet, supplements, medicines, and/or other interventions. It includes several therapeutic diets tailored to different causes of bloating, 50 digestively friendly recipes, and an encyclopedia of common dietary supplements with a summary of the scientific evidence to support their safety and effectiveness.

Bodies Are Cool

By Tyler Feder,

Book cover of Bodies Are Cool

This cheerful love-your-body picture book gives parents a fun way to approach body positivity. Each spread has beautifully illustrated scenes with all types of bodies; harry bodies, wiggly bodies, every age bodies, brown skin bodies, all gendered bodies, and so much more! Watching my daughter delightfully point to one of the gorgeously curvy tummies with absolute love was everything I was hoping for.


Who am I?

I’m a feminist author, illustrator, and UX designer who thrives on projects that help to improve awareness, healing, and community around marginalized identities. When I became a mother, I realized the importance of teaching and educating children around inclusivity and empathy. When we allow children to open their minds and question stagnant culture, we set the stage for real and meaningful collective growth. I center my work around this goal and focus on inclusive themes, often from perspectives that are unexpected.


I wrote...

Feminism Is for Boys

By Elizabeth Rhodes,

Book cover of Feminism Is for Boys

What is my book about?

Boys can play sports with girls, wear dresses, cook, play with dolls, express emotions, be friends with all genders, and believe in equality. Feminism is not just about equal rights for all genders, but also about the pursuit to eradicate gendered stereotypes - allowing everyone to be their truly authentic selves. Boys are some of the most important allies in the movement for gender equality. Feminist boys should not be the exception, but the norm. Feminism is for everyone, including boys!

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