Science is a polarized field of study where you either believe there’s a vaccine or pill for everything…or you look to your nearest shrubbery to find some homeopathic remedy. Whatever your viewpoint, Jo Marchant takes the road in between with the idea that our minds are oftentimes the most powerful tool we can use to combat illness.
Unlike other science books where the authors know little about science and a lot about speculation, Marchant has a PhD in genetics and medical microbiology. The book starts off with an explanation as to why even the most scientifically-sound approaches fail, because if you’re not mentally visualizing its success, it can prove unsuccessful. The book then moves onto how to train one’s immune system to be resilient beyond belief by incrementally building up a baseline of activity. Marchant reconceptualizes what pain is, and how sometimes pushing through it is a good thing, notwithstanding over-exertion to the point of injury.
I really enjoyed the “Fight or Flight, Thoughts that Kill” chapter, because Marchant talks at length about how mere thoughts can be the determinant factor in one’s survival. Using the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake as a comparison, Marchant states that despite one cardiologist’s lucky survival, dozens of other people died because “simply thinking that they were about to die was enough to kill them.” This chapter couldn’t stress more the importance of positive thinking even in dire situations.
Finally, the “Fountain of Youth, The Secret Power of Friends” chapter is kind of like a circle-back to all that’s been explored throughout the book and how no man (or woman) is an island. Marchant explores the idea of personal connections and how “social isolation (is) indeed a death sentence, as much a threat to our survival as hunger, thirst or pain.” This is not to say one needs to go out and friend every acquaintance on Facebook and Instagram, but that “social relationships influence gene expression in a way that’s relevant for health.”
In all, I found this to be an extremely intriguing read with lots of colorful vignettes throughout the text. I would wholly recommend it to both science and non-science literate friends and family.
tldr; Informative science book about mind over matter without being too academic.
Score Card: Cover Art: 4.8/5 | Content: 5/5 | Ease of Read: 5/5
I was provided a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion about it; all thoughts and opinions are my own.