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Right Hand, Left Hand [Paperback]

Chris McManus
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

13 Nov 2003

- Why are most people right-handed? Do left-handers behave differently from right-handers?

- Why is the heart on the left-hand side of the body?

- Why is each side of the human brain so different?

- Why do the British drive on the left? Why do European languages go from left to right, while Arabic ones read the other way?

- Why do clocks go clockwise?

- What is the relationship between handedness and speech disorders, such as stuttering?

RIGHT HAND, LEFT HAND uses sources as diverse as the paintings of Rembrandt and the sculpture of Michelangelo, the behaviour of Canadian cichlid fish and the story of early cartography. Modern cognitive science, the history of the Wimbledon tennis championship and the biographies of great musicians are also used to explain the vast repertoire of ¿left¿right¿ symbolism that permeates our everyday lives.

Frequently Bought Together

Right Hand, Left Hand + The Left-hander's Handbook: How to Succeed in a Right-handed World - For Teachers and Parents of Left-handed Children
Price For Both: £20.54

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix (13 Nov 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753813556
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753813553
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 269,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Chris McManus' Left Hand, Right Hand will be of interest to lefties who may have slightly resented the historic association of right-handers as being correct and dextrous (Latin dexter: right-hand side) and left-handers as sinister and gauche (Latin sinister: left-hand side with the heraldic bend sinister indicating illegitimacy). Chris McManus could hardly be more appropriately named (Latin manus: hand) and, as a university professor and one of the world's leading authorities the extraordinary and fascinating intricacies of our fundamental asymmetry. Wherever you look in nature there is asymmetry with an inclination to handedness and, like the law and life, it is almost impossible to be even-handed.

Right Hand Left Hand is a wonderful read, reaching from the fundamental depths of atomic structure (sub-atomic particles called neutrinos are left-handed) and the stuff we are all made of (the DNA double helix has a right-handed twist, although one of its co-discoverers Jim Watson is left-handed) through anatomy (our hearts generally are on our left side) up to Zulus, who reputedly cured any left-handed child's tendency by so scalding the hand so that the child is bound to use the right hand. Whatever your inherited or chosen handedness, there is a surprise and a good story here for the general reader. You will be able to keep family and friends entertained for hours retelling the details, although they might appreciate it more if you just handed round copies of the book since it is over 400 pages long. Accompanied by illustrations, notes, further reading and an excellent index, this is one of the best popular science books of the year. --Douglas Palmer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'A fascinating study of the origins of asymmetry in life, culture and myth' -- TLS, 28 June 2002

'McManus's account of 'handedness' must be one of the most intellectually capricious science books this year' -- Scotland on Sunday

'a fascinating and immensley readable exploration ... even football gets a mention' -- New Scientist, 29 June 2002

'limpidly written, drily witty and extraordinarily wide-reaching ... surely the most inclusive and erudite popular account of asymmetry yet produced' -- The Spectator, 13 April 2002

'well worth reading' -- Nature, 6 June 2002 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing take on the world of asymmetry 6 Jan 2003
Many left-handed people (like myself) like to make a point of their "individuality", particularly since in generations past left-handers were (and still are in parts of the world) persecuted for simply using another side of their bodies to achieve everyday tasks. In this ambitious and entertaining book, the entire world of asymmetry (and symmetry) is covered in depth. Assymetries in social science, biology, chemistry, physics and psychology are heartily dissected. From Dr Watson's discovery that not all hearts are placed on the left, to disturbing accounts of loss of language and thought processes when one half of the brain is damaged, this book has it covered. A rather deep review of the left-handedness of amino acids and why genes might make us more "left" than right" are offset by two frivilous and fun chapters about left-handed facts and figures such as Da Vinci's mirror-writing and the left-handedness of Muppets. And lots of diagrams will keep you interested. I had an entertaining two weeks reading this book, and you will too.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellently written, fascinating book! 15 Feb 2012
I first read Right Hand, Left Hand several years ago, being left handed myself i thought it may provide me with some insight to it's origins as, to my knowledge i am the only lefty in a long chain of rightys. I didn't necessarily find the answers i was looking for, however, i did learn more than i could ever have predicted about lateralisation in general, including cerebral lateralisation, why we drive on different sides of the road in different parts of the world and many other aspects of left and right. In fact, it was a combination of 'A brief history of time' and McManus' Right Hand, Left Hand that inspired me to leave banking to study to become a Neurologist.
This is the first review i have written, but this book truly deserves it and remains my favorite book of all time.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful exploration of symmetry and asymmetry 28 Feb 2005
I am left-handed (or as I now know partially left-handed) as I suspect most of the readers of this book are. That is a pity as this is an excellent book and is about much more than just handedness, it is about symmetry (and asymmetry).
The author shows a fantastic breadth of knowledge as he covers not only handedness but also a wide range of subjects, including:
- Situs inversus - where the organs are reversed (i.e. a mirror image) but there is no increase in the likelihood of the person being left-handed
- Word associations - where typically 'good' words are associated with right and 'bad' words are associated with left
- Burial conventions - how different societies orientated their dead in different directions
- Symmetry of molecules - L-isomers and D-isomers - and how a different orientation can have a radical effect on the nature of the molecule
- A collection of left-handed myths (and explanations)
- An analysis of which side of the road countries drive on
- And much, much more
This is popular science writing at its very best and the result is one of the best popular science books I have ever read.
Recommended to all (not just left-handers).
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting for both left & right handers 23 Mar 2004
By Keith Appleyard VINE VOICE
I'm a 'lefty', 'southpaw', 'cack-handed' etc. My daughter bought me this for my birthday. It was a very interesting read.
The only downside was that some of the chapters seemed too long, at over 30 pages? There were points when the topic of the chapter seemed exhausted, and was strung out, and on more than one occasion my interest waned, only to perk up on the next page when some new issue was introduced, and off we went again?
What I liked best was the little anecdotes (I drafted this before I read the previous Reviewers thoughts, so he stole my thunder, but I thought I'd leave it in).
Like how it took years for Canada to decide whether to drive on the Left or the Right, with British Columbia & the Maritime Provinces not changing over until after the First World War, and then still over a number years between 1920 and 1924. Similarly how Western & Eastern Austria drove on different sides of the road until 1938.
Lots of fascinating material.
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