Friday, May 20, 2011

Skin: A Natural History

Skin. The organ you probably take the most for granted. It seems extremely simple, but as Nina G. Jablonski shows us in this book, Skin: A Natural History, it is extremely complex. I chose this book for my alternate reading assignment in my Biological Anthropology class this past semester, and it's fascinating. She goes over, of course, the "basics" that most (if not all) of us know from our introductory biology courses in high school or college, but she takes it a little more in depth as well.

Most are familiar with the basic biology of skin, and the levels of melanin production affecting human diversity. Jablonski also discusses, however, such topics as sweat and the adaptation of human hairlessness. There is anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and anthropology exemplified in this book. Not only does she go over (in detail, mind you) the technical ins and outs of skin, but also the sociocultural aspects, such as body modification - decoration through painting, piercing, scarring, tattooing...she touches also on new developments in the research of producing artificial skin.

Obviously, if you are not at all a nonfiction kind of person, you likely wouldn't enjoy this book as leisure reading. But if you hesitate to pick this up because you think it might be a little over your head, I strongly suggest you give it a chance. Jablonski may be writing science, but she writes in such a way that is very accessible (without dumbing anything down). And for those of you who aren't formal students of this kind of subject, you don't need to worry about coming across words you aren't familiar with - while Jablonski does use scientific language, there is a glossary in the back of the book. It's got some nice photos and diagrams, as well.

Definitely an interesting read.



University of California Press

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