Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and
septic rooms, largely lonely, isolated, and feeble.
Warraich, a physician in training, believes that
modern death has become too medicalized,
even “sterilized.” Dying in your own bed is
an increasingly uncommon occurrence. Only
about 20 percent of Americans expire at home.
Meanwhile, dying in hospitals and nurs-
ing homes escalates. Warraich’s discussion of
death incorporates expected elements—CPR,
DNR (do not resuscitate), flat EEGs, Karen
Quinlan, advance directives, euthanasia, organ
donation, the toll on family and caregivers, the
right to die—as well as some surprising and
creepy components—zombie cells, the Lazarus
phenomenon (autoresuscitation), and tumor
necrosis factor alpha (a sort of molecular Grim
Reaper). A chapter on the role of religion and
spirituality in the end-of-life experience is excel-
lent. Warraich endorses religion’s ability to help
temper the terror of impending death. Psychia-
trist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross observed that “dying
nowadays is more gruesome in many ways,
namely, more lonely, mechanical and dehuman-
ized.” She expressed that opinion in 1969. The
situation hasn’t gotten any better. Warraich’s
thoughtful book may help. —Tony Miksanek
the Deep Origins of Consciousness.
By Peter Godfrey-Smith.
Dec. 2016. 288p. illus. Farrar, $27 (9780374227760). 612.8.
Philosophers don’t usually practice their
discipline at the bottom of the sea, but, for
Godfrey-Smith, observing and videotaping
octopuses in the wild have provided invaluable
keys to the evolution of consciousness. In an engrossing blend of avidly described underwater
adventures off the coast of Australia in what he
dubbed Octopolis for its unusual congregation
of busy cephalopods, and a fluid inquiry into
the brain-body connection, Godfrey-Smith
considers the protean nature of the octopus, a
complex animal utterly divergent in its evolutionary trajectory from our own. Nonchalantly
elucidating complex concepts, he describes the
octopus’ decentralized nervous system, phenomenally malleable body, and multihued
light-show skin, all propelled by a mischievously curious and intrepid intelligence, well
illustrated by lively tales about laboratory
octopuses with attitude. Godfrey-Smith also
performs an exceptionally revealing deep dive
into the evolutionary progression from sensing
to acting to remembering to the coalescence
of the inner voice, thus tracking the spectrum
between sentience and consciousness. Godfrey-Smith concludes with wonder—“The mind
evolved in the sea,” which is “the origin of us
all”—and concern: the sea must be defended
and preserved. —Donna Seaman
Our Bodies, Our Data: How Companies
Make Billions Selling Our Medical
By Adam Tanner.
Jan. 2017. 232p. Beacon, $28.95 (9780807033340).
So much for health-care confidentiality.
Tanner, a former Reuters correspondent who
Primal Fat Burner: Live Longer, Slow
conducted research at Harvard University’s
Institute for Quantitative Social Science, be-
gins his thoroughly reported story with this
alarming line, “Soon after you tell your doc-
tor about an intimate medical problem, data
about your condition are sold commercially
to companies that have nothing to do with
your treatment or billing.” These data miners
leave out names and contact details, but they
do list age, gender, and conditions that phar-
maceutical companies can use to figure out
which doctors prescribe which drugs. Origi-
nally, scientists thought that programming
computers for hospital pharmacies would
save lives by preventing patients from getting
multiple prescriptions for the same drug and
alerting pharmacists about prescriptions that
might cause adverse interactions with other
medications. Today, digital files are also used
to make money and target advertising. Tanner
says he wrote this book “hoping to foster de-
bate on how we can best balance the promise
that big data offers to advance medicine and
improve lives while also preserving the rights
and interests of patients.” Mission accom-
plished. —Karen Springen
Aging, Super-Power Your Brain, and
Save Your Life with a High-Fat, Low-
Carb Paleo Diet.
By Nora Gedgaudas.
Jan. 2017. 368p. Atria, $26 (9781501116414); e-book,
$13.99 (9781501116438). 613.2.
Gedgaudas, nutritional consultant and author of Primal Body, Primal Mind (2011),
spent a summer researching wolves in the
Canadian Arctic, and all but accidentally
experienced transformative effects of the
fat-based diet she survived on there. Her
text- and nutrional-science-heavy book is for
readers interested in both the how and the
why of the Paleo diet, which is high in fat and
non-GMO vegetables, and includes measured
amounts of grass-fed, organic protein. Modern humans’ Paleolithic ancestors, Gedgaudas’
research shows, survived by eating calorie-rich
fat, and humans today are fat burners at birth,
powered by the ketones, energy units derived
from eating fat, found in breast milk. Contemporary diets, however, have trained us to
treat glucose from carbohydrates and sugar
as our main fuel, Gedgaudas argues, and this
may be responsible for a host of modern ill-nesses. With able, funny writing; dozens of
recipes; digressive but interesting boxed sections within chapters; and a note to readers
to seek ultimate advice from their doctors,
Gedgaudas lays out a plan for adopting a ke-togenic diet for improved health and wellness.
A Really Good Day: How Microdosing
Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My
Marriage, and My Life.
By Ayelet Waldman.
Jan. 2017. 256p. Knopf, $25.95 (9780451494092).
Waldman, a novelist (Love and Treasure,
2014), essayist (Bad Mother, 2009), and
former federal public defender, is smart, outspoken, provoking, and funny. She brings
her storytelling chops, penchant for intimate disclosures, and fluency in the abject
failures of the unwinnable War on Drugs
to this involving chronicle of her attempt
to combat her chronic and incapacitating
mood disorder, after trying every other conceivable treatment, by taking microdoses of
LSD. Waldman shares her 30-day log recording her experience with this “new and
renegade” protocol utilizing subperceptual
doses of the psychedelic, and limns a poignant, sometimes hilarious portrait of her
under-pressure marriage to fellow writer
Michael Chabon (Moonglow, 2016). Her intensely personal revelations are balanced by a
clarion history of LSD, from its discovery by
Swiss research chemist Dr. Albert Hofmann
in 1938 to how it works, clinical studies of
its therapeutic potential, the CIA’s attempts
to weaponize it, and the lamentable consequences of its 1967 criminalization. Buoyed
by the benefits of microdosing, Waldman
calls for renewed research and drug-law reform in this informative, candid, altogether
irresistible quest. —Donna Seaman
Salem Health: Cancer. 2d ed.
By Jeffrey A. Knight. Ed. by Michael A.
Buratovich and Laurie Jackson-Grusby.
4v. 2016. 1,500p. Salem, $395 (9781619259508).
One of the most common medical reference
interactions involves patrons seeking information about cancer. Since medical research
progresses rapidly, it is vital that librarians
have current information. The second edition of this set offers an update of the 2009
edition, covering both the clinical and the
biomedical research fields. The four consecutively paged volumes group signed entries
alphabetically within broad subject areas,
such as biology, carcinogens and suspected
carcinogens, chemotherapy and other drugs,
complementary and alternative therapies,
symptoms and conditions, lifestyle and prevention, and procedures.
Entries cover a wide range of topics (Benign
tumors, Invasive cancer, Advance directives,
BRCA1 and BRCA2) and range in length
from one to five pages. Most include a list
of resources for further reading. The reading level is high, with many technical terms.
The editors and contributors are health-care
professionals and medical writers. A complete list of articles appears at the beginning
of each volume, and a detailed index at the
end helps users find related information. A
series of appendixes in volume 4 contains a
list of drugs by class and trade name, a list
of associations and agencies, cancer centers
and hospitals, carcinogens, a glossary, and
a bibliography. This is a useful resource for
public, college, and consumer-health libraries. —Barbara Bibel