Cover Image: The Beat of Life

The Beat of Life

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Member Reviews

The Beat of Life by Reinhard Friedl is book written by a heart surgeon about hearts. I have learned a lot about hearts with this read. Thank you NetGalley for giving me an opportunity to read this amazing read.
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If you wander over to and type in “heart” the definitions displayed are varied. The first entry is for the heart that pushes blood to all corners of our body. Another definition is “the center of the total personality, especially with reference to intuition, feeling, or emotion.”

While adequate attention is paid to the first definition with personal anecdotes, author Reinhard Friedl, a heart surgeon by profession, prefers to focus this book on the mind-heart connection and how it affects just about everything we do remarking that scientists haven’t fully explored the Brain-Heart axis as he calls it.

One such aspect that has been reported is Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy better known as “broken-heart” syndrome in the lay press. This is a weakening of the left ventricle from extreme stress. Interestingly, this occurs mostly in women, especially post-menopausal women. The syndrome is named for the Japanese octopus traps as the heart on x-ray appears strikingly similar.

If you think about it, this makes sense that extreme stress would cause the heart to react. After all, as Dr Friedl discovered, meditation can change the heartbeat, slowing it so we can relax.

As I finished reading “The Beat of Life” I felt that as much as we think we know about the heart, there is so much more out there to learn.

While this isn’t the type of book I would readily seek out, I recommend this read for those who are looking for a different way of looking at the anatomical heart and by extension, its relationship to the rest of the body as well as those who interested in the more mystical aspects of the heart. You won’t be disappointed.

 [Thank you to NetGalley and the author for the ebook copy in exchange for my honest and objective opinion which I have given here.]
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Medical books are ten a penny at a moment and the market is saturated, and yet I still continue to add to my collection. Generally they remind us that whilst doctors and nurses are medical marvels and heroes among us, they are at the very heart of it (pun intended) human beings.

Sadly, considering my love for other medical books, this one just didn’t grab me at all. I give books the benefit of the doubt for the first couple of chapters, but this one didn’t improve for me. I didn’t learn much more than what my layman brain already knew about the heart, and what I didn’t know was written in such a technical way, I’m not sure I would have realised if I knew it already or not.  There’s no denying that Reinhard is a very intelligent man and skilled surgeon, but I felt this book didn’t paint him in the best light.

Unfortunately, this was just not my kind of book, even though I have seen many 5 star reviews for it.
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“The beat of life - A surgeon reveals the secrets of the heart” is a book on life, really. It is a book about the heart. And it is a book about what life is. The author, Reinhard Friedl, is a heart surgeon, and he has witnessed a number of human hearts. And he knows everything about the organ that keeps us alive. 

And the heart might have more to do with our daily life, than we realise. Except for keeping us alive, the heart might have something to do with our brain and psyche. 

In the book, you will learn what benefits there are from meditation, and how that might affect your heart positively. 

I love all of the facts, and how everything explained in the book is backed up by science. I like the way that you can learn and enjoy the book at the same time. 

“The beat of life“ might give you a new perspective on life. You will learn a lot from this book. And you will be surprised. 

This is a very fascinating book that will make you more aware of the life you are living and the heart that gives you the life. And of course a lot of stories from life as a heart surgeon and the surgeries.
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This book is written by a heart surgeon who stops seeing the heart merely as a mechanical pump, and instead tries to find a more holistic view. He tells the story of calming your heartbeat by meditation, how the heart really reacts to love and heartbreak and heartbeat synchronization. There’s also some sneak peaks into hospital culture and lots of descriptions of surgeries. 

I really liked this! I’ve always wanted to be a surgeon so I’ll always be intrigued. This was the perfect mix of anatomical facts and the symbolism, without being too “yoga is life”. 

⚠️ if you’re afraid of blood and will faint even at the description of it, it’s needless to say this book isn’t for you. The stories about surgeries are also kinda gruesome, but in my opinion - if you like Grey’s Anatomy, you’ll like this! 

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a copy of this title. All opinions are honest and my own.
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There's no disputing Reinhard Friedl is most likely a really impressive guy. I would imagine any successful heart surgeon, or surgeon at all, would be considered impressive and, as such, perhaps deserves to have some degree of nonchalance or confidence about them. My main issue with this book however was that the confidence, in print, feels much like self-indulgence and occasionally like arrogance. I think it's pretty unlikely Reinhard Friedl is in fact either of those things, because what could be more humbling than holding a human heart in your hands and knowing you are the only person who can save it? But I don't think this book has done him the service he deserves and has instead perhaps lost sight of, or simply just detracted entirely from, what this book was really about.

That's not to say the content was perfect. Sadly there was something to be desired there as well. I expected this to be the human heart equivalent of Bill Bryson's The Body, or perhaps more akin to the career journey of Unnatural Causes (a sensational book by a forensic pathologist). By that I mean that I expected to learn a great deal about the heart, and to perhaps learn about the career of this accomplished surgeon. Instead, I felt like it was more about his journey to self discovery and some of the more romanticised associations with the heart, which is fine but it needed a bit of the other stuff too!

So, whilst I should have been the perfect audience for this book having loved many books like it before, I truly feel it hasn't been delivered in the way it might have been intended and sadly I can't recommend it because of that.
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Remarkable Look at Remarkable Organ. In this text, a German heart surgeon looks to both the physical heart in your chest and the various idioms and metaphysical thoughts on the heart and attempts to arrive at some "holistic" understanding that somehow marries the two. In this, it is as much personal exploration and journey as it is science book, though to be clear there is in fact quite a bit of documented science here - the bibliography is roughly 31% of the book, which is a bit higher than the norm in this reader's experience, and generally indicative of a particularly well documented effort. This reader has read much of the brain and neurology, but this is the first book specifically on the heart that he has considered, and it really was quite stunning. As to some of the more fantastical claims, among them that the heart has its own independently firing neurons and thus could be said to have some form of thought or cognition independently of the brain, and indeed that the human consciousness isn't just a product of the brain, but of the whole body... again, look to the sources in the bibliography - though note that in many, if not all, of these passages the author is clear that science as it currently stands at minimum doesn't fully understand these mechanisms at this time. Ultimately a truly thought provoking book, and very much recommended.
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