cover image The Sublime Engine: A Biography of the Human Heart

The Sublime Engine: A Biography of the Human Heart

Stephen Amidon and Thomas Amidon, Rodale, $24.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-60529-584-8

The brothers Amidon refer to their book as a "biography of this remarkable machine" and it’s a fitting description for such a tidy volume. Chapters begin with entertaining and illustrative historical tales, before reviewing the roles that people have assigned to the heart, as a metaphor for what is "most essential in a human being" and the place "in which Jesus Christ dwelled" (from 399 BCE, an era that also looked heavenward to explain the myocardial infarction). The authors liberally sprinkle their effort with charm and literary allusions, to The Scarlet Letter, Measure for Measure, (where love is "a sort of cardiac shock") and other texts. In fact, The Sublime Engine is that rare book: so entertaining that its ability to educate seems effortless. The authors turn the heart into a beloved friend for whom we should care desperately; readers may in fact be more inspired to "start jogging and eat fewer cheeseburgers" by Amidon (author of Human Capital) and Amidon (a practicing cardiologist) than by their own GP, which makes a final tale of two very different men who suffer heart attacks, and the disparity of care that they receive, even more, yes, heartbreaking. (Feb.)