Saturday, November 20, 2010

curious compendium

The Medicine Cabinet of Curiosities:
an unconventional compendium of health facts and oddities, from asthmatic mice to plants that can kill
- Nicholas Bakalar

The title pretty much sums it up.

With segment lengths ranging from a couple of sentences to a couple of pages, this is the perfect book for people like me to read in bed, people who can generally only stay awake for a few paragraphs. Filled with fascinating little snippets from the world of medicine, The Medicine Cabinet of Curiosities is written in a fashion where you can easily skip around from section to section, finding those distinctly gruesome or disturbing bits that always ensure a good night's sleep.

A singularly nice touch is the relegation of footnotes to a dedicated appendix. I personally have an issue with MLA style footnotes. I find them disruptive and untidy and, unless they happen to be especially witty, quite unnecessary for me to read right away.

I particularly enjoyed the gruesome diseases segments, as well as those times when I was able to condescendingly sniff that of course I already knew that.

Nicholas Bakalar has a delightful sense of humour and I found myself chortling frequently, which is not generally what you expect to do when reading about maggot therapy, for example. He does have a curious habit of referring to himself with the royal we, but somehow this little quirk only serves to make his writing more inclusive. Like there is this cozy group of white coated professionals sequestered in a room somewhere, ready to assure you that no, you don't actually have Ebola.


Anonymous said...

I can see that being a fun read.

Toccata said...

I find I am suddenly curious about asthmatic mice. Now that my head is filled with wondering about what kind of gruesome and disturbing thing-a-ma-jigs are waiting to pounc and invade my innards I am sure I will have a good night's sleep. Pleasant Dreams.

Toccata said...

Damn, I just realized I hit send just as I saw a typo.

L said...

There's no way I could read that before bed without then having nightmares. I'm such a wimp.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It was quite delightful, Mr Anchovy, and educational.

Many of them are likely already cozily residing in your innards, Toccata, so I wouldn't fret about being invaded all that much.

You could read it before a party though, Lesley and it would provide you will lots of sparkling banter.

Allison said...

I love titles that are like abstracts. Sounds like quite the interesting read!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It does sound like an abstract, Al! One knows exactly what one is getting oneself into.

Karen said...

Barb, your review made me curious so I added this little book to my list. Currently reading it and loving every bit! Great recommendation.