Survival of the Sickest

February 6, 2009

Dr. Sharon Moalem's novel, Survival of the Sickest, traces out the evolution of diseases with mankind using a humorous and factual style. This definitely was an instance where I judged the book by its cover. I perceived the book to be quite boring, full of facts and information that I probably could not use, but reading the book completely shattered my initial judgment. This novel engages the reader and creates this sense of exploration of our human gene pool when continuing to read the rest of the novel, and challenges the reader about modern health and medicine by proposing that diseases we have today gave our ancestors a chance to survive then.
The book captures the reader by Moalem constructing a background about why he pursued the medical field and his relationship with his grandfather. Being a nonfiction book, this relationship he expresses creates a personal appeal that the reader now is compelled to read the novel. It asks many thought provoking questions that makes the book more exciting, and it makes the reader eager to continue reading to discover even more interesting facts. These interesting facts attracting the reader include how diabetics in the past helped them to survive in the extreme cold, and also the irking reason why we need to pee when we are cold. The book even explains why Asians are more prone to be more sensitive to alcohol than Europeans. It also continues to inform the readers why we need sun for cholesterol to run smoothly due to the consumption of Vitamin D and even how the bubonic plague and hemochromatosis are linked!
The diction he uses makes it easier for anyone, not just medically inclined readers, to fathom and grasp all the concepts Moalem, who has a Ph.D. in human physiology specializing in neurogenetics, is trying to convey. He even uses examples that everyone can relate to. Although there are times when the book gets slow and a little dull, Moalem quickly picks up the book's momentum and engages the reader once again.

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