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What to Read Next: The Body

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Bestselling author Bill Bryson has shown us the world through such titles as A Walk in the Woods and A Short History of Nearly Everything.

Now, at a time when the rest of the world seems so far away, read The Body: A Guide for Occupants and take a journey inward. With his trademark wit and approachable style, Bryson guides us through the incredible composition that is the human body. He methodically works his way from the outside (see: chapter 2 on Skin and Hair) on in (see: chapter 12 - The Immune System!), combining general facts with history as he makes human anatomy palatable for the rest of us.

Still craving more information on your innerworkings? Try Mary Roach’s Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal for a rollercoaster ride beginning with your mouth. With such chapters as “Liver and Opinions: Why we eat what we eat and despise the rest” and “Big Gulp: How to survive being swallowed alive,” Roach’s humorous take on the digestive tract provides a much-needed distraction from stockpiling canned goods and toilet paper.

Speaking of current events, you’ve likely recently heard how William Shakespeare wrote King Lear while under quarantine in plague time. Because apparently, he didn’t have a pile of laundry staring him in the face.

If you’re not feeling quite so ambitious (or, you know, you don’t have quite as much free time as he did) try Bill Bryson’s biography Shakespeare: The World as Stage. Clocking in at under 200 pages, Bryson’s biography is as quick to read as it is enjoyable, and his take on the Bard is anything but boring.

For fans of creative problem solving, Randall Munroe (author of the webcomic xkcd) merges the scientific with the absurd in his book How To, giving readers suggestions on how to elaborately conquer real-world “problems” like how to jump really high, or how to build a lava moat (maybe don’t). As stated in the disclaimer, it’s best not to try any of Munroe’s ideas at home, but it's amusing reading his explanations of “how” and “why you probably shouldn’t.”

If you’d like a little more fact and a little less fiction, maybe give Bill Gifford’s Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever (Or Die Trying) a try. The acclaimed journalist tackles the anti-aging industry, addressing the science of staying young: What’s a hoax, and what really works? In an age of misinformation and miracle cures, Gifford offers us advice on how to navigate such confusing waters, while possibly also teaching us how to think for ourselves.

Check out our Recommendations page for even more librarian-curated picks!