Helen Bynum

Skin & Bones

The Secret Life of Bones: Their Origins, Evolution & Fate

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Duckworth 288pp £9.99 order from our bookshop

The Remarkable Life of the Skin: An Intimate Journey Across Our Surface

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Bantam 283pp £20 order from our bookshop

I remember my summer of ‘Perfect Skin’. It was 1985 and, home from university, I was working shifts in a canning factory. Lloyd Cole and the Commotions’ debut album played on permanent repeat during the daily drive. I was lucky: I had escaped the traumas of teenage acne. But I still longed for the ‘cheekbones like geometry’ that Cole soulfully intoned about. Our internal scaffolding and its covering fabric are the subjects of two new additions to the entertaining body parts subgenre of popular science writing. True to type, The Secret Life of Bones by Brian Switek and Monty Lyman’s The Remarkable Life of the Skin are much more than armchair anatomies. Yes, they subject their chosen body parts to an intense gaze, telling us what we are made of, but both authors also have an eye on the whole. They aim to use our bones and skin to reveal who we are and want to be.

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