Get the key ideas from

The Body

A Guide for Occupants

By Bill Bryson
19-minute read
Audio available
The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson

The Body: A Guide for Occupants (2019) is an entertaining and fact-filled account of how we all work. With his trademark wit, Bill Bryson explains the astonishing ways in which our bodies are put together, and what goes on inside them.

  • Popular science fans
  • Biology and medicine enthusiasts
  • Anyone keen to learn more about their own body

Bill Bryson is a best-selling American author who lived in the UK for many years. His books include Notes from a Small Island, which in 2003 was voted the book that best represents England, and A Short History of Nearly Everything, which won both the Aventis and Descartes prizes.

Go Premium and get the best of Blinkist

Upgrade to Premium now and get unlimited access to the Blinkist library. Read or listen to key insights from the world’s best nonfiction.

Upgrade to Premium

What is Blinkist?

The Blinkist app gives you the key ideas from a bestselling nonfiction book in just 15 minutes. Available in bitesize text and audio, the app makes it easier than ever to find time to read.

Discover
3,000+ top
nonfiction titles

Get unlimited access to the most important ideas in business, investing, marketing, psychology, politics, and more. Stay ahead of the curve with recommended reading lists curated by experts.

Join Blinkist to get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from

The Body

A Guide for Occupants

By Bill Bryson
  • Read in 19 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 12 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson
Synopsis

The Body: A Guide for Occupants (2019) is an entertaining and fact-filled account of how we all work. With his trademark wit, Bill Bryson explains the astonishing ways in which our bodies are put together, and what goes on inside them.

Key idea 1 of 12

The human body is a miraculous thing.

Imagine that you had to build a human being from scratch. How would you go about it? What building blocks would you need? How much would it cost?

Well, in 2013 the UK’s Royal Society of Chemistry took on the bizarre task of estimating the specific cost of building actor Benedict Cumberbatch. According to their calculations, you’d need 59 different elements, although only six in any serious quantity – carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorous. Those elements would cost you £96,546.79 - labor and taxes not included.

But that’s only one estimate. An episode of the science program Nova, broadcast by US network PBS in 2012, pegged the cost of building a human at a mere $168.

Even the cost of the materials for building a human body, then, is uncertain – but more to the point, even with all those materials, the actual act of building a human being would still be beyond us. All we’d have would be a pile of inert elements. The miracle of life isn’t something you can create simply by sticking stuff together.

In fact, we can’t even say with certainty where life begins. The cell is the essential life-giving unit that we’re all made up of. But how exactly do cells coordinate themselves to create a functioning human being? Science still can’t tell us the full story – which is wondrous in itself.

Science can tell us a lot, though. Inside the nucleus of each cell is a meter of DNA. Made up of chromosomes and genes, DNA contains the information needed to make you. It’s amazing to think that your DNA is the product of generation after generation of transmission: the information encoded in your genes links you directly to your ancestors of some three billion years ago.

Some people think of the body as a machine, but it’s so much more mysterious and impressive than that. On all the time, it usually goes for decades without needing repairs, and all it needs to run is water and food. Plus, it’s conscious.

It’s also remarkable to think that we arrived here through evolution, having started off as nothing more than a few cells in the ocean. All the developments that humans have undergone since that time have basically been wonderful accidents. 

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

Key ideas in this title

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

No time to
read?

Pssst. Sign up to your secret to success: key ideas from top nonfiction in just 15 minutes.
Created with Sketch.