cover image Anatomical Oddities: The Otherworldly Realms Hidden Within Our Bodies

Anatomical Oddities: The Otherworldly Realms Hidden Within Our Bodies

Alice Roberts. The Experiment, $18.95 (128p) ISBN 978-1-891011-13-9

University of Birmingham anatomist Roberts (The Complete Human Body) spotlights obscure human body parts in this offbeat survey. She explains that pillars of the fauces are “a double set of vertical ridges” at the back of the mouth that help push food toward the esophagus and that the islets of Langerhans are small “heaps of cells” in the pancreas that “dedicate their lives to producing the hormone insulin.” Discussing the etymology of each body part’s name, she notes that the sella turcica, or the cavity that holds the pituitary gland, was “named after a Turkish saddle because it curves up at the front and the back, just like the pommel and cantle of its namesake.” Throughout, Roberts highlights the amazing abilities of the human body, as when she notes that typically functioning “kidneys effectively filter some 400 gallons of blood daily.” Unfortunately, Roberts’s illustrations vary in quality; the stylized sketches amuse (one depicts a bagel-like sphincter with legs), but the lack of realism means readers won’t necessarily know what the parts look like in real life (the thyroid illustration unhelpfully mimics an ancient Greek frieze, a play on the word’s etymology). Still, as a compendium of anatomical trivia, this entertains. Illus. (Nov.)