The Remarkable Life of the Skin
An Intimate Journey Across Our Largest Organby Monty Lyman
The first popular science book to address the skin in its multifaceted physical, psychological, and social aspects
Providing a cover for our delicate and intricate bodies, the skin is our largest and fastest-growing organ. We see it, touch it, and live in it every day. It is a habitat for a mesmerizingly complex world of micro-organisms and physical functions that are vital to our health and our survival. It is also a waste removal plant, a warning system for underlying disease and a dynamic immune barrier to infection. One of the first things people see about us, skin is crucial to our sense of identity, providing us with social significance and psychological meaning. And yet our skin and the fascinating way it functions is largely unknown to us.
In prose as lucid as his research underlying it is rigorous, blending in memorable stories from the past and from his own medical experience, Monty Lyman has written a revelatory book exploring our outer surface that will surprise and enlighten in equal measure. Through the lenses of science, sociology, and history—on topics as diverse as the mechanics and magic of touch (how much goes on in the simple act of taking keys out of a pocket and unlocking a door is astounding), the close connection between the skin and the gut, what happens instantly when one gets a paper cut, and how a midnight snack can lead to sunburn—Lyman leads us on a journey across our most underrated and unexplored organ and reveals how our skin is far stranger, more wondrous, and more complex than we have ever imagined.
A BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week
Shortlisted for the 2019 Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize
“Peels back the layers of our largest and most versatile organ to reveal its physical, social, and psychological features . . . Lyman conveys both the science of the skin as well as its many wonders and paradoxes while imparting much practical advice on its care . . . This brilliant synthesis will be an engrossing read for anyone interested in human health and biology.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Our skin is much more than organic bubble wrap that keeps our ‘insides’ safely where they belong . . . Common dermatological diseases are deftly discussed [and] tantalizing tidbits of information abound . . . The many wonders of skin are superbly detailed in Lyman’s thoughtful, informative treatise.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Lyman, a doctor of acute general medicine, presents a panoramic view of human skin in his excellent debut . . . Whether one’s interests are in science and medicine, or in sociology and anthropology, there is something for a wide range of readers in Lyman’s skillful work.”—Publishers Weekly
“More than just a collection of interesting case studies and fun facts—though it is that, too—this book spans a range of fields in basic science and social science in its depiction of the skin’s many roles . . . Throughout this wide-ranging narrative, the author’s writing is clear and not overly technical, and he excels in relating even the most esoteric subjects to a shared human experience . . . Illuminating and thought-provoking, this book elicits a new awareness of and appreciation for the skin.”—Kirkus Reviews
“This microscopic look at skin is crawling with revelations, from tiny mites to cellulite and skin care . . . An exciting introduction to a little-known universe and to a talented new writer.”—Sunday Times (UK)
“A seriously entertaining book . . . Here are things you wish you’d known about the skin years ago . . . Clever, optimistic.”—Times (UK)
“Lyman peels back the science on human skin in this absorbing, fact-packed study.”—Nature
“Fascinating . . . Takes us beneath the surface of our largest and least-known organ.”—Daily Express
“This book’s a gem.”—Irish Examiner