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3.8 out of 5 stars
10
3.8 out of 5 stars
Blood: A Biography of the Stuff of Life
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on 2 March 2016
An interesting read, but more of a biography of the Author than it is of Blood. Whole chapters cover stories of his adopted child, included under a discussion of the phrase "blood is thicker than water", while little details are covered in regards to for example, the discovery of circulation or blood types.

It's more of a history and discussion of blood as a social construct than any kind of medical or scientific history. So while it is well written, be aware that it might not be what you are after if you're looking for a story of medical discoveries!
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on 28 August 2016
Disappointed in the amount of the history of the understanding of the biology and advance in medicine of blood.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 16 June 2014
Unlike the organs of the body, heart, liver, etc., blood, the fluid that all these organs need to function, so guaranteeing our continued life, always had an air of mystery about it. This was true even after William Harvey's classic brutal experiment on a live dog in the seventeenth century showed the circulation of the blood around the body. We now know a huge amount about blood and the vast amount of important information about our bodies that can be obtained from it. Nevertheless, contrary to unambiguous scientific evidence, blood has continued to be ascribed almost mystical properties, which have been used to define important cultural concepts such as race and nationality, leading to definitions of kinship and citizenship. In extreme cases decisions about who lives and who dies have rested on such spurious blood distinctions. It is a supreme irony that the substance that unites everyone on the planet has been, and often still does, divide us in ways that often have tragic consequences.

In this excellent book, Lawrence Hill provides a scientific and social history of blood, a biography as he calls it, and discusses many areas where blood has played a central role in determining our actions and shaping our ideas about who we are. These range from discriminatory racial laws and customs based on mistaken beliefs about the nature of blood, to more mundane topics such as the use of `blood doping' to improve the performance of athletes. Examples both from real life and fiction are drawn from history as far back as the Old Testament all the way to modern times. The author himself is of `mixed race' and sometimes gives moving examples from his own experience.

This is a brilliant, original, provocative book full of interesting facts and ideas that along the way forces us to examine our own prejudices, particularly about the question of race. It is superbly written and well worth reading.
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on 1 July 2014
This book arose out of a lecture series given by the author at the University of Toronto. Divided into five chapters, which I guess represent five lectures he gave, this book is difficult to give a label to. A mix of science, biology, medicine, history, social commentary and personal memoir it covers all sorts of stuff about blood: the good stuff in our bodies that carries around oxygen that keeps us alive; the bad stuff that carries diseases such as HIV, malaria, plague; who invented blood transfusions; Lady MacBeth and that damned spot; blood as a weapon of power; his musings on blood being thicker than water or not; do men and women have different blood; human sacrifice; drug taking in sport; and taking up most of the book blood as a factor in race, culture and ethnicity. And this latter theme is really what the author is looking at in his exploration of blood and what it all means.

By way of background, Lawrence Hill is a successful Canadian author, whose black father and white mother migrated from the US to Canada when they got married in 1953 to escape the difficulties such a union at the time brought. He grew up in a family very involved in human rights, and most of his writings are concerned with issues of identity, especially race. For those of a certain age, you may be surprised to know that the author's brother is Dan Hill, he who sang that tear jerker song of the 1970s 'Sometimes When We Touch'. On googling their images, to me they look nothing like brothers, and I can understand his fascination and intense interest in looking at how our origins and blood lines define us. But more importantly perhaps how others see us and may label us differently from what we ourselves think we may be.

This, then is the crux of the book, and although it wasn't quite what I thought it would be, it really is a most interesting and informative read. There may be a little too much self-indulgence on the part of the author, but in a world where peoples of different cultures, religions, races, and ethnicities are meeting and having children of their own, these are very real issues that he is bringing up. It made me feel good to be an NZer, where on our five yearly census form, under the 'Which Ethnic Group Do You Belong To' there is a space for 'Other' where increasingly people are simply putting 'New Zealander' rather than identifying themselves as just one of the many others listed.
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on 5 September 2016
I rarely read non-fiction science books, but this one was fascinating and very readable, and there was a good mix of biology and science with sociological and cultural analysis. The book covered a lot of aspects – from the use of drugs in sport to moral panics around AIDS to race and racism, using modern and historical examples and case studies. It showed how central blood is not only to the body but to society and culture; the analyses of race were thought-provoking and there were some facts that I hadn’t known, such as the origins of the term ‘blue-blooded’. However, I had hoped that there would be more about vampires, especially the real life vampire community and blood drinking practices, but there was only a short section on vampires within literature, which could have been explored in more detail.
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on 21 July 2014
Beautiful book and elegantly written. Expertly treats the subject from manifold perspectives - historical, anthropological, psychological, political, medical.
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on 21 January 2015
Brilliant book - well written, easy to read, likeable author
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on 13 September 2014
A must - informative & engaging on every page. Genius.
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on 1 June 2015
It's ok
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on 10 July 2014
Shallow and trite
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