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ARC Review: This America of Ours: Bernard and Avis DeVoto and the Forgotten Fight to Save the Wild

This America of Ours: Bernard and Avis DeVoto and the Forgotten Fight to Save the Wild by Nate Schweber It’s not often that a book on a topic in American history is a complete surprise to me. I’m a fan of history and consider myself fairly well read - especially on American history. Even if I don’t know a specific American history story, I generally know roughly what I’m getting into when I pick up a book.  Yet when I first saw this book and its subtitle on the “ Forgotten Fight to Save the Wild ” I was intrigued. I hadn’t a clue who Bernard and Avis DeVoto were, and so I knew I had to read this book. What I found was a fascinating and surprising history of which I knew very little, and a stirring and uplifting story of a man and wife who became two of America’s foremost conservationists, and whose work was vital to protecting our public lands in the face of corruption and greed. Surprise number one for me was that Avis DeVoto (nee MacVicar) was born and raised in Houghton, Michigan -

Audiobook Review: Evolution Gone Wrong: The Curious Reasons Why Our Bodies Work (Or Don't)

Evolution Gone Wrong: The Curious Reasons Why Our Bodies Work (Or Don't) by Alex Bezzerides, Narrated by Joe Knezevich

Biologist and writer Alex Bezzerides has written a book on the interrelated topics of evolution, biology and physiology. In an interview Bezzerides says that “the books about the amazing way that evolution has led us down this path of incredible minds and adroit hands...have already been written, and I wanted to explore the other side of the coin.” He brings along a great sense of humor which makes for a lively and informative book.

If evolution has been at work for millions and millions of years, then why “is the human body so uniquely prone to aches and pains.” Why hasn’t evolution produced better bodies for us humans? Why do we suffer from teeth that need braces, eyes that need glasses, backs and knees that fail us, fallen arches, difficult childbirths, and on and on.  According to Bezzerides, these aches and pains (and many more) don’t happen despite our evolutionary history, but rather because of it.  

Bezzerides helps us understand that a lot of the things about our bodies that don’t work are evolutionary trade-offs for the positive things that evolution has given us. When hominid ancestors began to walk on two feet, it freed up the hands to be able to do things other than locomotion. 

As hands began to evolve and become more dexterous that drove larger brains. Larger brains gave us things like “film festivals, tooth fairies, and snowboarding competitions.” But the physiological trade-offs include things like back pain. As Bezzerides notes, “you cannot take a horizontal spine and make it vertical and not expect a few problems”.

Walking upright adds stress to our knees and feet as well. The knee is the “joint that puts more people under the knife than any other.” Bezzerides tells us about his own knee problems, including ACL repair from an injury playing basketball.

Eye problems trace a different path. Eyes evolved among ocean living creatures. As a result, eyes work by passing light through a lens, across a liquid filled space to light sensing cells on the retina. The fluid in our eyes is there because it once controlled light refraction in water for our ocean living ancestors. Eyes on land don’t achieve the same control for light refraction to allow consistently sharp vision. Luckily for us, glasses can refract light into our eyes, correcting the less than sharp vision some of us are born with.

From problems with teeth and eyes, and why choking is so common, the book proceeds through issues with bones and muscles, and on into problems with human reproduction. Like the rest of the book, the chapters on reproduction use frank biological terminology mixed in with Bezzerides’s humorous asides. This includes a whole section on menstruation, where he explains the term “spontaneous decidualization” and how it helped him to understand why menstruation evolved. He leans heavily on metaphors in these chapters, some of which are pretty hilarious.

Written with humor, this is an engaging and informative book, and one I can easily recommend. It’s a Four Star ⭐⭐⭐⭐ read for me.

NOTE: I listened to the audiobook and narrator Joe Knezevich did an outstanding job. He really leans into the humor in the book and I thought his narration really fit the material.




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Title: Evolution Gone Wrong: The Curious Reasons Why Our Bodies Work (Or Don't)
Author: Alex Bezzerides
Audiobook Publisher: Hanover Square Press (Harlequin Trade Publishing)
Publish Date: May 18, 2021
ISBN-13: 9781799960065 (audio CD MP3), and 9781488075858 (ebook)
Publisher’s List Price: $14.99 (ebook as of 03/2022)