Thursday, August 27, 2009

Book Recommendation: Woman, An Intimate Geography

Now that I'm finally finished my PhD and being a student, I have time to really enjoy reading. Before this, all my reading was for school: research papers, class assignments, text book chapters, etc. So, the thought of picking up another book just wasn't enjoyable.

But, now, I'm diving into all the books I partially started, or planned to read, but just never had the time or the desire.

I'd like to make this book recommendation blog post a regular item. My plan is to let you know what I'm reading right now and why I think you should read it too.

So, to start off first, I want to tell you all about one of the most fascinating books about the female body, psyche, physiology and history I've ever read. (Note: gentlemen, this book might not be up your alley, but if you read it, it might win you some brownie points with your ladies... or at least help you understand the opposite sex a bit better).

Natalie Anger has won the Pulitzer Prize for the writing of this book. In it, she actually makes topics like female reproduction, female hormones, and female biology absolutely interesting and... might I say, amusing (you'll definitely laugh/giggle when you read her wording).

I first learned about this book about 3 years ago when I was researching the reproductive physiology of women and the biological differences between men and women. The reviews on it were amazing, and I just knew I had to have it. With chapter titles like, "The Mosiac Imagination: Understanding the 'Female' Chromosome", "Cheap Meat: Learning to Make Muscle", how could you not want to dive into this book?

I actually started reading it in the middle with the chapter on women and testosterone, and was hooked (however, like I said, I just didn't have time to finish it all... but that's not the case now).

Because I'm not skilled necessarily in writing the most complete book review, I'd like to quote other's comments on this book. From this, you'll see that this book is definitely one you want to start reading as soon as you can.

From Rambles: The "geography" that Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer NatalieAngier refers to in the title of her book ranges from the southernmost clitoris and associated vulval landmarks to the high summits of the brain in her exploration of new theories of female anatomy, physiology, psychology, biology and various permutations of these topics across the life span. In gorgeous prose displaying high style and metaphor, wit and verve, Angier by turns is serious, angry, joyous and loving; at times didactic and hortatory; at other times confessional, the result being a book brimming in information.

BY MAGGIE JONES | Simone de Beauvoir probably would have agreed with Natalie Angier's theory of feminism -- with one exception. De Beauvoir believed women were the biological runners-up in the gender wars; Angier, the stylish, Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer for the New York Times, takes the contrary view. In "Woman: An Intimate Geography," she argues that women's bodies are complex, versatile and powerful, and that they often surpass men's. To prove her point, she takes us on a tantalizing, witty journey through female biology, debunking many entrenched stereotypes and myths and a lot of questionable science.

Equipped with an eye for detail and a sure grasp of science, Angier maps the female body -- eggs, uterus, breasts, hormones, brain -- enlisting a remarkable array of studies and little-known facts, as well as examples from history and literature, to offer a feminist take on biology. She explains, for instance, that the clitoris has 8,000 nerve endings, twice as many as the penis. "All this," she gloats, "and to no greater purpose than to subserve a woman's pleasure. In the clitoris alone we see a sexual organ so pure of purpose that it needn't moonlight as a secretory or excretory device." She details the power of estrogen on the brain and heart and the complexity of the female chromosome, which boasts thousands of genes, compared to the male counterpart's puny two dozen. ....

From Random House: Natalie Angier's text is a detailed exploration of female anatomy. By showing how culture based assumptions have influenced research in evolutionary psychology and have consequently lead to dubious conclusions about "female nature," she deals a body blow to Darwinian-based gender stereotypes. Her ability to choose just the right word, as well as illustrating anecdote, gives this densely packed mapping of the female form a lightness of touch and renders it eminently accessible. From eggs to testosterone ("Wolf Whistles and Hyena Smiles") and from the vagina to "sensory exploitation theory," she creates an exposé of enlightened subversion and a "snarl at injustice."

Woman is a seminal work, and an essential statement in the cultural conversation about how biology affects who we are and how we perceive ourselves.

From me:
This book will definitely teach you something about yourself that you never knew before. It will give you a better appreciation of yourself as a woman, and help you learn to love everything that makes you who you are.

I hope you get to enjoy it today... I sure am.

Cheers, Cass


Jessica said...

I would totally appreciate periodic book recommendations. There is so much out there and sometimes I'm not sure what to pick up. So thanks!

Amy said...

Thanks for the post, that sounds like a great book.