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Hunger: An Unnatural History Paperback – 5 Sep 2006

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; New Ed edition (5 Sept. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465071651
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465071654
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.6 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,232,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"(an) elegantly written mixture of history, science and engaging journey through the whole spectrum of hunger." -- The Observer

"Fascinating ...(t)his rather grim subject comes to seem profound, thanks to Russell's ruminative prose style and keen intelligence." -- The Guardian Review, 28th January 2006

"Fascinating...(t)his rather grim subject comes to seem profound, thanks to Russell's ruminative prose style and keen intelligence." -- The Guardian --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Sharman Apt Russell is the author of several books, including Hunger and Songs of the Fluteplayer, which won the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award. She has written for publications including Discover and Nature Conservancy, and currently contributes to OnEarth, the magazine for the National Resource Defense Council. Russell teaches creative writing at Western New Mexico University and at Antioch University in Los Angeles, California. She lives in Silver City, New Mexico.

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By Dennis Littrell TOP 500 REVIEWER on 1 Dec. 2006
Format: Paperback
Most of us have never been hungry, I mean really hungry the way many of the people in this book have been hungry. What Sharman Apt Russell does is show the reader just what it is like in a physical, mental, political and medical way to be hungry, very hungry.

She begins with the so-called "hunger artists" who performed feats of fasting for audiences while sometimes up in cages overlooking traveled boulevards. It seems fasting was a bit of a fad in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She includes literary fasters like the protagonist of Kalka's story "A Hunger Artist" and that of Knut Hamsun's splendid short autobiographical novel Hunger (1890). She also gives us the all-time champ, holder of the record in the Guinness Book of Records (last acknowledged in 1971; Guinness no longer records fasts because of the dangers involved). His name is Mr. A.B. and he weighed 456 pounds when he began. 382 days later he weighed 180 pounds.

Next she shows how our digestive system works and how it changes during food deprivation--what happens after 36 hours, 7 days, 30 days. The details about ghrelin and leptin, glucose and ketones are fascinating. Then she recalls famous hunger strikes including some very interesting material on the suffragettes, the Irish Republicans and Mahatma Gandhi. Then comes the horror of the Warsaw Ghetto and, amazingly enough, the work of Jewish doctors in the ghetto who took that gruesome opportunity to measure and study the steps toward death by starvation.

Russell reports on "The Minnesota Experiment" during World War II in which young male conscientious objectors volunteered to go on an extended starvation diet so that doctors would know how to treat those in Europe and elsewhere after the war was over.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars 22 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful tapestry of hunger-related topics written in prose that reads like poetry 30 Jun. 2006
By David Evans - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In marvelously non-technical fashion, Russell describes the biology of hunger: what happens to your body as you go eighteen hours, thirty-six hours, and thirty days without food. She shows how hunger strikes have changed the world (from Gandhi's non-violent strikes to the Irish Republican Army and British suffragettes), the role of fasting in myriad religious traditions, how hunger has defined certain traditional cultures, and even how hunger has been used as entertainment.

Some chapters illuminate fascinating chapters in the history of hunger. "The Hunger Disease Studies" narrates how internationally renowned Jewish scientists in the Warsaw Ghetto used the omnipresent starvation to perform scientific studies on every aspect of starvation, searching for meaning in terrible suffering. "The Minnesota Experiment" describes an enlightening study of starvation and refeeding during World War II. Russell casts her net wide, examining the social and biological aspects of anorexia, giving an inside view to famine relief in Somalia and Ethiopia, and showing how hunger affects children distinctly.

Russell's skilled prose makes even the World Health Organization's technical instructions on refeeding a malnourished child interesting. She reminds us that science is a kind of poetry. As with all the best non-fiction, her endnotes offer a wealth of fascinating literature on every aspect of hunger, a literature I'll be sure to dive into. As another reviewer wrote, Russell's writing "is an extraordinary mating of exciting, sure-footed science and inspired prose poetry" (Burlington Free Press, 10 August 2003).
5.0 out of 5 stars very informative 6 Dec. 2010
By B. Bonazzola - Published on
Verified Purchase
I ordered this book because of the reviews and because it was linked to the subject I was interested in first place: fasting. I am so glad I read it, it is very informative in so many levels, from the phisiology of hunger/fasting/starving and some events in human history that all know but only in the surface (i.e. the Irish famine, the World War II, the Varsow Ghetto, etc).-
There's only one little part I felt akward and it was the WHO manual to treat starving people, thus it was also informative, it's not like you are going to put it into practice in plain street and if you are going to give a hand in Africa, I hope you are going to read something else than three pharagraphs telling you not to give protein right away.-
Anyway I really think it's a great book, it captivated me and teach me a lot.-
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 17 July 2016
By Ethan Saeedian - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very interesting book. Covers a variety of issues in regards to hunger and starvation. Recommend
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and informative 15 Nov. 2005
By D. M. Purkiss - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A wonderfully written, rich, sweeping survey of hunger. many fine stories - some harrowing - finely told and thoughtfully examined. Only a few minor errors - colostrum is thick and yellowy, not thin and blue, for example, and there was little reference to recent work on the speed of metabolic recovery after low-calorie eating. But these should spoil the book for no-one; it was informative, elegant and clever, and I recommend it heartily.
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hungry for a better book 11 Feb. 2011
By draculae - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Some extremely interesting (and concisely reported) material trapped in what I found to be a boring narrative. Basically, whenever the POV switched to the not-so-very-interesting experiences of the author, the book lost whatever momentum it had gained as a lesson on the subject of hunger.
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