Book Review: The Body – A Guide for Occupants

‘There are thousands of things that can kill us…’

The Body: A Guide for Occupants: A Guide for Occupants - THE SUNDAY TIMES  NO.1 BESTSELLER: Bill Bryson: 9780857522405: Books

I arrived typically late to the Bill Bryson party but now I’m here I’m all in. After reading his timeless travelogue Notes from a Small Island and also his peerless summation on Shakespeare, I chanced upon The Body: A Guide for Occupants in a charity shop. Aside from various chocolate bars, it’s probably the best £1.50 I’ve ever spent… 

Bryson’s most recent novel is an attempt to demystify the human body to truly analyse what makes us… well… us. He does this with typical warmth and humour, combining difficult scientific concepts with his usual mix of humorous asides and gleeful myth busting. The fact that Bryson is happy to point out an aspect of the body that remains unexplained ensures that The Body: A Guide for Occupants remains inclusive even in its more verbose moments. This a book for the layperson, and as a quintessential layperson, I bloody loved it.  

As someone with only a passing interest in science and medicine (I got an E at GCSE, something that was itself a bit of a miracle), I was surprised at just how fascinating I found Bryson’s work here. The body truly is a wonderful thing and it is striking just how little we actually know about it. Or how little I knew about it at least. Very little is the answer.  

The Body: A Guide for Occupants is a book for everyone. I laughed. I grimaced. I learnt something along the way. Maybe even a bunch of things. Mainly, I learnt that no writer alive has the ability to take on vast, difficult concepts and condense them into an easily digestible book better than Bill Bryson. Utterly marvellous.