Cover Image: A History of the World Through Body Parts

A History of the World Through Body Parts

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Member Reviews

A History of the World Through Body Parts: The Stories Behind the Organs, Appendages, Digits, and the Like Attached to (or Detached from) Famous Bodies (whew, what a mouthful!) is exactly what the title says. It is a brief look at the history of humanity and the certain body parts that played important parts in key moments.

From the stone age to the space age, the Petras trace the rise and fall of history and the accompanying body parts that played a role. There are twenty-seven chapters and each chapter focuses on a certain body part – such as Qui Jin’s feet, Anne Boleyn’s heart, or Charles II of Spain’s jaw. Each piece tells a story of the times and tells us not only what was popular at the time but also how the times were changing.

While each chapter is fairly short, there is also a good deal of information given. For me, this made the book enjoyable to read. The information is given in a way that is easy to take in, not relying on overly scientific terms that might push a more casual reader away.

A History of the World Through Body Parts is an entertaining as well as educational read. Some of these stories I already knew but there were just as many I did not know the whole truth behind. I definitely recommend it for any of my readers who are looking not only a fairly quick read but one that will help them learn something too.
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This little treatise is an entertaining and informative romp through art, history, and archeology that delivers on what the title promises. Herein you find a smattering of stories and facts from around the world and throughout history that focus on various famous body parts, their depiction in art, their apparent power to cause some to wax philosophical, etc. Historical, cultural, and linguistic connections are peppered throughout. It reads more like a light, amusing trivia book. There are short chapters and even shorter factoids interwoven throughout the text. My one niggle with the text is this:: Though carefully researched and an abundance of citations, quite a few of these are not primary sources. I can't help but get the nagging feeling that some of the stories mentioned in this text may be just that...tales that have been repeated so often they are now considered fact by those who fail to dig beyond the thin veneer of a fancy presentation. This stole a star from my rating. Otherwise, it is an all around amusing, stimulating read.
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This was so fun!  Short chapters on how different parts of the body affected history.  Some stories I was somewhat familiar with, but most I'd never heard of.  I read lots of history and this book approached it from a unique point of view.
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From hand Prince in a cave, Cleopatra‘s big nose Wilhelms little arm and even a few private parts. I thought The stories were entertaining and even informative. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and wish it would’ve been longer. It was 200+ pages but went by so fast anyone who loves history is going to love this book. I certainly did and highly recommend it. I was given this book by net Gally and the publisher and I am leaving this review voluntarily. Please forgive any grammar or punctuation errors   I’m blind and dictate my review but all opinions are definitely my own.
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I am a sucker for all things anatomy and physiology, the weirder the better. This book did not disappoint. It gives specific points throughout history and the famous body parts that played a role. Quite a delight to read.
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This book is a fascinating exploration of history through a lens that both adults and older youth will find relatable and fascinating: the human body. The field of heritage interpretation teaches that a key to conveying ideas to audiences is to help them make connections between tangible objects and intangible concepts, and this book does that well. Each chapter focuses on a different part of the body - typically belonging to a famous historical figure - and uses it as a window into exploring a specific set of historical and cultural experiences.

While this is a non-fiction history book, this is less a reference text and more of an introduction to a range of topics which that will serve to encourage curious readers to seek more resources to learn more about the people and places which make up its subjects. This will be a great addition to any library collection which seeks to stimulate interest about history among its patrons; I believe the attention-grabbing title and informative, entertaining and approachable writing style will lead to high engagement and circulation.
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I received an advance copy of this through netgalley! There were no pictures, although seemingly places for pictures? Which did have me wonder if this copy was merely missing them. 

Overall I found the style of the book to be quite captivating. It’s easy to get lost in a book and be unable to stop reading when each story is just a few pages long. “Just one more”, repeat x 10. The author doesn’t shy away from grim stories—in a book about body parts, it would be hard to. From the unethical source of Washington’s teeth to the brutal childhood of Tubman there’s certainly nothing off limits. Repeatedly the theme: one’s body, and all it’s possible flaws or abnormalities, make one into who they are, for better or worse. History would certainly be very different if the featured people lacked the highlighted traits. 

One thing I found unappealing were the full-page blue asides. Each was tangentially related to the current story, but interjected even mid-sentence, making it somewhat distracting. Additionally, the book really didn’t have an overarching narrative to bring it all together, leaving the individual stories feeling disconnected. I feel like there was a missed opportunity to tie it together — just like an actual body is more than just individual parts, so too could this book, and the history of body parts, have been. I still strongly recommend this book, but between this and the interjecting asides, 4/5.
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In this amusing book each chapter begins with a particular part on a particular person, for example, Martin Luther’s bowels or George Washington’s teeth.  The authors discuss the target body part in historical context and in terms of wider importance, then also consider that same body part in other famous persons and people in general. The discussions range from ancient history to modern times. The tone is light—conversational with a sprinkling of academic style and snarky asides—yet there is real information here.  Readers who want to know even more about a topic and consult the resources listed at the end of the book.   I’m usually focused only on content, but I must say that the visuals in this book are very attractive.  The mix of fonts and retro drawings work well with the tone of the text. One of my favorites is the alternative, visualized table of contents, which is a diagram of the human body with body parts labeled by the chapter number in which they are discussed. The chapter title pages, which include old-fashioned alternative chapter titles, are also really nice.
  All in all, this book is a keeper.  I learned a lot and smiled a lot and am ready to reread because there is is so much of interest here. And who could resist Queen Hatshepsut’s beard?
  This review is based on an electronic ARC from Netgalley.
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This was such a fun bit of quirky history. I'm torn between loving how it was such a quick read and wishing there was more. I certainly went on a quest to deep dive into some of the stories. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes history and would like a great survey of world history that can give you lots of ideas for further reading.
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This book was exciting, informative, and just so much fun to read! 

Starting with the title, the concept just pulls you in, leaving you excited to learn exactly what each body part was famous for, and precisely 𝘸𝘩𝘰 it was attached to! I have heard about ideas such as dark tourism before, specifically with people visiting Galileo’s middle finger in museums, and it growing to be a symbol. It was so exciting to learn about more interesting stories like that, in the immersive format that the authors crafted.

Thanks so much to Kathy and Ross Petras, as well as NetGalley for the chance to read the ARC!
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I was intrigued by the title of this book and surprised when I found that I really enjoyed the authors’ journey through the history of the world one body part at a time. Each chapter is devoted to one body part and can stand alone; no need to read the chapters in order (but if you are like me, you want to read them in order).

Each history of the body part is thoroughly investigated with plenty of sidenotes. The writing is very readable and sometimes a bit snarky, which is totally in keeping with the subject matter at hand.

This book would appeal to the casual reader who is nominally interested in history. It will definitely appeal to the science or medical nerds out there who enjoy their history with a bit of snark.

[Thank you to NetGalley and the author for the advanced ebook copy in exchange for my honest and objective opinion which I have given here.]
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I really enjoyed this book. It was informative, interesting and a quick read. The stories were interesting and touched the topics that one wouldn’t think about
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My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher Chronicle Books for a copy of this new medical based history of the world.

Learning can be fun, but many people feel that fun is just not learning, that history is a series of facts dates and this person did this and this person did that and here is why. I have heard many things about Martin Luther, but not that he probably came up with many of his ideas for his theses in the bathroom due to stomach problems. Or that the jaw of Charles II jutted out so much from inbreeding that it might have helped end the Hapsburg line in Spain. The book A History of the World Through Body Parts: The Stories Behind the Organs, Appendages, Digits, and the Like Attached to (or Detached from) Famous Bodies by Kathryn Petras and Ross Petras teaches alot about history in a interesting new way. 

The book is broken down into roughly 27 chapters each focusing on a human body part and chronologically progresses through history starting from our earliest ancestors using their hand in art to the modern day. The chapters are not long, dealing with a famous person or an event with a body part, and a subsection detailing more of a historical perspective to the chapter. Readers learn about the importance of not only health, but appearances and belief behind certain rituals involving the body and hot that affected the history of the world, and also that small segment that people lived in. 

The chapters follow a theme, and are all well written and easy to read and follow. Humor is tough and to make something not only entertaining and enlightening is difficult but the Petras have not problem with this at all. No cheap jokes, which would have been easy, but writing that makes the reader think quite abit about events, while smiling and flipping pages. 

Recommended for people who like their history a little different, or with that Uncle John books were a little longer, and consistent in their humor. A great gift for Father's Day, but also a great gift for people who like both medical and world history and never thought of the two subjects together.
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A quick, enjoyable read that delivers interesting tidbits bits of historical trivia through the lens of different body parts throughout history. I found the “head to toes” format a fun addition to the book as well!
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This book was great. What an interesting topic. The book was laid out really well and flowed nicely.
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I enjoyed this more than I thought I would! I learned lots about important people and events in history, things I’d never heard of in 20 years of life and 15 of schooling. The formatting is also really beautiful, I’m sure this makes a lovely hardback. My only complaint is that some references (selfies, COVID being referenced in the current, Snapchat, etc) may age the book poorly.
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I thought this would be a more detailed look at the body parts and history so I was slightly disappointed at how simple and short the chapters were. Still, that doesn't mean I didn't end up enjoying the book and it does make for an easy read. The text was very conversational and it made me go "oh, I never thought of that" (especially the last chapter)
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A really interesting dip into a side of history not typically explored.  I enjoyed this book and found it, overall, quite engaging.  My interest waned a bit at times but, overall, very well done and a joy to read.
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A History of the World Through Body Parts was a fun dive into history through the lesser used scope of human bodies themselves. From craniums to bound feet, this book explored how historic events were (or could have been) influenced by human bodies and what genetics and lives do to them. This was a fun, quick but informative read with facts and anecdotes to keep the reader engaged. Amazing book!
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Kathryn Petra and brother Ross Petra may be well known for their “word nerd” books, but that is about to change. Their newest offering presents a chronological arrangement of famous people from around the world, and the influence specific parts of their body had on their fame.   Whether it be the sphere of religion, politics, government, medicine, art, or writing, the historical influence of one's  nose, jaw, and spine are represented along with the penis, breast, and bladder. Cleopatra's nose was beautiful to Julius Caesar, the Hapsburg nose was the harbinger of the demise of the Hapsburgs in Spain, and the bladder was/is a concern for both knights in armor and astronauts.  Like now, writers and artists used their talents to improve the appearance or public image of  the powers that be, and thus gain  favor.  The tone of the book is conversational, the contents are informative, the table of contents clearly states the subject of the chapter,  and the resources are arranged by chapter.  Great choice for those who appreciate a bit of anatomy with their history, and I highly recommend to all who are looking for a new slant on world history. Thank you to Chronicle Books and netgalley for the opportunity to read this selection.
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