Woman: An Intimate Geography
With the clarity, insight, and sheer exuberance of language that make her one of The New York Times’s premier stylists, Pulitzer Prize-winner Natalie Angier lifts the veil of secrecy from that most enigmatic of evolutionary masterpieces, the female body. Angier takes readers on a mesmerizing tour of female anatomy and physiology that explores everything from organs to orgasm, and delves into topics such as exercise, menopause, and the mysterious properties of breast milk.
A self-proclaimed “scientific fantasia of womanhood.” Woman ultimately challenges widely accepted Darwinian-based gender stereotypes. Angier shows how cultural biases have influenced research in evolutionary psychology (the study of the biological bases of behavior) and consequently lead to dubious conclusions about “female nature.” such as the idea that women are innately monogamous while men are natural philanderers.
But Angier doesn’t just point fingers; she offers optimistic alternatives and transcends feminist polemics with an enlightened subversiveness that makes for a joyful, fresh vision of womanhood. Woman is a seminal work that will endure as an essential read for anyone intersted in how biology affects who we are?as women, as men, and as human beings.
Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, as far as the health care profession is concerned the standard operating design of the human body is male. So when a book comes along as beautifully written and endlessly informative as Natalie Angier’s Woman: An Intimate Geography, it’s a cause for major celebration. Written with whimsy and eloquence, her investigation into female physiology draws its inspiration not only from scientific and medical sources but also from mythology, history, art, and literature, layering biological factoids with her own personal encounters and arcane anecdotes from the history of science. Who knew, for example, that the clitoris—with 8,000 nerve fibers—packs double the pleasure of the penis; that the gene controlling cellular sensitivity to male androgens, ironically enough, resides on the X-chromosome; or that stress hormones like cortisol and corticosterone are the true precursors of friendship?
The mysteries of evolution are not a new subject for Angier, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biology writer for the New York Times whose previous books include The Beauty of the Beastly and Natural Obsessions. The strengths of Woman begin with Angier’s witty and evocative prose style, but its real contribution is the way it expands the definition of female “geography” beyond womb, breasts, and estrogen, down as far as the bimolecular substructure of DNA and up as high as the transcendent infrastructure of the human brain. —Patrizia DiLucchio