Your Body: The Missing Manual
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
Final Release Date: July 2009
Pages: 304

What, exactly, do you know about your body? Do you know how your immune system works? Or what your pancreas does? Or the myriad -- and often simple -- ways you can improve the way your body functions?

This full-color, visually rich guide answers these questions and more. Matthew MacDonald, noted author of Your Brain: The Missing Manual, takes you on a fascinating tour of your body from the outside in, beginning with your skin and progressing to your vital organs. You'll look at the quirks, curiosities, and shortcomings we've all learned to live with, and pick up just enough biology to understand how your body works. You'll learn:

  • That you shed skin more frequently than snakes do
  • Why the number of fat cells you have rarely changes, no matter how much you diet or exercise -- they simply get bigger or smaller
  • How you can measure and control fat
  • That your hair is made from the same stuff as horses' hooves
  • That you use only a small amount of the oxygen you inhale
  • Why blood pressure is a more important health measure than heart rate -- with four ways to lower dangerously high blood pressure
  • Why our bodies crave foods that make us fat
  • How to use heart rate to shape an optimal workout session -- one that's neither too easy nor too strenuous
  • Why a tongue with just half a dozen taste buds can identify thousands of flavors
  • Why bacteria in your gut outnumbers cells in your body -- and what function they serve
  • Why we age, and why we can't turn back the clock
  • What happens to your body in the minutes after you die

Rather than dumbed-down self-help or dense medical text, Your Body: The Missing Manual is entertaining and packed with information you can use. It's a book that may well change your life.

Reader comments for Your Brain: The Missing Manual, also by author Matthew MacDonald:

"Popular books on the brain are often minefields of attractive but inaccurate information. This one manages to avoid most of the hype and easy faulty generalizations while providing easy to read and digest information about the brain. It has useful tricks without the breathless hype of many popular books."-- Elizabeth Zwicky, The Usenix Magazine

"...a unique guide that should be sought after by any who want to maximize what they can accomplish with their mental abilities and resources."-- James A. Cox, The Midwest Book Review - Wisconsin Bookwatch

"If you can't figure out how to use your brain after reading this guide, you may want to return your brain for another."-- The Sacramento Book Review, Volume 1, Issue 2, Page 19

"It's rare to find a book on any technical subject that is as well written and readable as Your Brain: The Missing Manual. The book covers pretty much anything you may want to know about your brain, from what makes it up, through how it develops to how to mitigate the affects of aging. The book is easy reading, fact packed and highlighted notes and practical applications. So if you want to learn more about your brain, how it works, how to get the best out of it or just want to stave off the ravages of Alzheimers (see chapter ten for details of how learning helps maintain your brain) then I can't recommend this book highly enough."-- Neil Davis,

"MacDonald's writing style is perfect for this kind of guide. It remains educational without becoming overly technical or using unexplained jargon. And even though the book covers a broad scope of topics, MacDonald keeps it well organized and easy to follow. The book captures your attention with fun facts and interesting studies that any person could apply to their own understanding of human ability. It has great descriptions of the brain and its interconnected parts, as well as providing full color pictures and diagrams to offer a better explanation of what the author is talking about."-- Janica Unruh, Blogcritics Magazine

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Your body:the missing manual

By Betty

from Hong Kong

About Me Educator

Verified Buyer


  • Well-written


    Best Uses

    • Student

    Comments about O'Reilly Media Your Body: The Missing Manual:

    A very useful reference book.

    (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)


    Every human should read this book

    By Nikos

    from Koroni, Greece

    About Me Developer, Maker, Wildlife Manager

    Verified Reviewer


    • Concise
    • Easy to understand
    • Helpful examples
    • Well-written


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      • Novice
      • Student

      Comments about O'Reilly Media Your Body: The Missing Manual:

      Reading about my body has been a revelation on many issues. The author gives good descriptions of the body's systems without involving too much biology lingo. I'd like to see a new book with all the healthy habits described and how to put them into daily life.

      (7 of 9 customers found this review helpful)


      Your Body, it's easy, fun reading, maybe not for young kids.

      By Anonymous

      from Undisclosed

      Comments about O'Reilly Media Your Body: The Missing Manual:

      I was hanging out on Facebook one day and O'Reilly Media sent out a status message saying they needed a few people to review a new book Your Body The Missing Manual. I responded and was contacted by an O'Reilly representative who got my shipping information.

      Within a couple of days, I received a box. Inside was a stinky (stinky because of the ink and paper they used) book with a green cover.

      I didn't really know what to expect. I had planned to compare this to some of the larger encyclopedia-like books that my kids had that were packed with fancy color pictures and diagrams for various aspects of the body. This book isn't like those at all. It is more exposition and less illustration, although there are some very good illustrations in the book. They're just relatively simple compared to other books.

      The writing style is very interesting. It is not clinical at all and is littered with sarcastic and sardonic quips. The first chapter -- about your skin -- starts off, in the very first paragraph, talking about robbing a bank wearing a ski mask. When the author wrote about techniques for removing fingerprints to avoid leaving evidence of your involvement at a crime scene, I was beginning to wonder if there was an underlying, hidden agenda in the book.

      The text is packed with fascinating callouts that fit in contextually throughout the book. This lets the author pack each chapter with numerous bits of tangential information.

      All in all, however, the book is somewhat light on the coverage. This isn't a tell-all, but it is a tell-a-lot. And what it does tell, it tells well. There is a lot of information about latest research and findings. For example, I learned that stretching (in the chapter on muscles) isn't the recommended activity before an aerobic/cardiovascular workout, but that 5-10 minutes of light warm up activity is better.

      I learned a lot from this book I didn't know before so I definitely feel more knowledgeable as a result of reading it.

      While the other body atlas-type books I've seen seem to be targeted at pretty much all ages, I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone under the age of 16. The reason I would not recommend this book to younger readers is because Chapter 10, the chapter on sex and reproduction, ventured a bit too far out of my comfort zone into sociological and cultural aspects of sexuality than I would ever feel comfortable letting younger kids read. I'm pretty sure my 10-year old does not needs to learn about "Arousal and the Art of Foreplay," "Reading The Big O," or how to "Engage in mutual exploration."

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