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Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History | [Florence Williams]

Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History

In this informative and highly entertaining account, intrepid science reporter Florence Williams sets out to uncover the latest scientific findings from the fields of anthropology, biology, and medicine. Her investigation follows the life cycle of the breast from puberty to pregnancy to menopause, taking her from a plastic surgeon's office, where she learns about the importance of cup size in Texas, to the laboratory, where she discovers the presence of environmental toxins in her own breast milk.
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Publisher's Summary

Audie Award Winner, Nonfiction, 2013

Did you know that breast milk contains substances similar to cannabis? Or that it's sold on the Internet for 262 times the price of oil? Feted and fetishized, the breast is an evolutionary masterpiece. But in the modern world, the breast is changing. Breasts are getting bigger, arriving earlier, and attracting newfangled chemicals. Increasingly, the odds are stacked against us in the struggle with breast cancer, even among men. What makes breasts so mercurial - and so vulnerable?

In this informative and highly entertaining account, intrepid science reporter Florence Williams sets out to uncover the latest scientific findings from the fields of anthropology, biology, and medicine. Her investigation follows the life cycle of the breast from puberty to pregnancy to menopause, taking her from a plastic surgeon's office, where she learns about the importance of cup size in Texas, to the laboratory, where she discovers the presence of environmental toxins in her own breast milk. The result is a fascinating exploration of where breasts came from, where they have ended up, and what we can do to save them.

©2012 Florence Williams (P)2012 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"[A] remarkably informative and compelling work of discovery." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (98 )
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4.1 (89 )
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  •  
    aaron los angeles, CA, United States 06-01-12
    aaron los angeles, CA, United States 06-01-12 Member Since 2008

    Let's face it, these authors aren't paying me, so there's no need to lie!!

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    "Every Person with Boobs Should Read This!"

    Every woman should read this, ESPECIALLY if you're going to have children. It goes into great detail about the environmental and dietary pollutants that can poison breast milk. Tells you the things you should stay away from. It also discusses the benefits of different tests you can have done on your breasts, blood, and breast milk.

    If you're a guy (like me) and your wife is pregnant, it wouldn't be a bad idea to read this, just to familiarize yourself with all the options out there. It touches briefly on male breast cancer, which I found fascinating--- and scary. In all honesty, if you're a guy, you probably won't enjoy this book. However, it's best to take the approach that you'll be reading it more as a favor to your significant other.

    The reader is very good. It's a science book, but written more like satire, which should hold your interest.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steve from MD 08-14-12
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    "Lacking Research"

    I enjoyed parts of the book which were less science and more trivia. Lots of talk about toxins and measuring these toxins in people. Little science to show any real problem despite all the inuendo. Overall it seemed like some one with an agenda who took the word of research she felt had truthiness. I am not saying it might not be true but a more balanced view would be nice, or at least stating how she tried to find alternate opinions but these views were held by a small fringe.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Zack Whitehouse Station, NJ, USA 06-21-12
    Zack Whitehouse Station, NJ, USA 06-21-12 Member Since 2006
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    "Interesting Book but Overall Unsatisfying"

    This book presents a lot of great information, but overall lacks the cohesion to make it a great read. Although the author does an excellent job grabbing the readers attention in the beginning of the book, she slowly departs from the main topic and leaves the reader wondering where she is going. Everything she speaks about is loosely relevant to breasts but in certain parts, she focuses far too much on the sub-topics and only touches on how they relate to breasts. While this provides the reader with a great deal of information on topics such as fire retardant materials and plastics, it takes time and attention away from the main topic.

    Kate Reading is an interesting choice for narrator. While she is one of my favorite female readers, having her read this book is like talking about breasts with a favorite aunt, slightly awkward.

    I believe that the information on breast cancer alone makes this book worth reading. The books agenda in promoting awareness of breast cancer is admirable and a great plus. Unfortunately the chaotic and loosely organized structure of the book bring it down from a great book to simply mediocre.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paula United States 10-20-13
    Paula United States 10-20-13 Member Since 2010

    I want to read books that take me to a "place and/or time" I've never been. On the other hand, I love reading about places where I HAVE been.

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    "All about mammary glands"

    Comprehensive and scientific without being overly clinical. Extremely well researched and informative. Lots of funny anecdotes. Completely engaging and highly recommended for any person with breasts.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Swallowtail Maine 06-17-13
    Swallowtail Maine 06-17-13 Member Since 2010

    Say something about yourself!

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    "Many Interesting Facts but not the Whole Story."

    I learned some interesting facts about the plethora of environmental threats to breast health, and I was very pleased that Williams included men's breast cancer in her discussion, but I was surprised that her research did not go beyond the Women's Health Initiative (a flawed study that is 11 years old) when it came to conclusions about the risks/benefits of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). She spoke only about Premarin and glibly dismissed bioidentical hormone replacement in one short sentence, despite the fact that there are some (admittedly, early) data out there.

    Kudos to Williams for taking a critical look at mammography and for exploring some alternative breast cancer detection technologies, but why did she completely ignore thermography--a detection method that does not zap us with radiation (like mammography), is not time consumptive (like the ultrasound method that she discusses), and is not hugely expensive (like MRIs)?

    Interesting, scary, but--ultimately--disappointing.

    Kate Reading read the book like an adventure/romance novel; she's no Malcolm Gladwell, that's for sure. And, really, Camp "LejuRne"?

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Glen D. Elliott Now in Boise, ID 05-18-14
    Glen D. Elliott Now in Boise, ID 05-18-14 Member Since 2006
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    "Fascinating and Informative"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Breasts to be better than the print version?

    The narrator is exceptional. Her voice inflection underscores the narrative and enhances understanding and enjoyment of the text.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    The fact that we live day to day with unregulated chemicals that are affecting not only breasts, but everything around us.


    Any additional comments?

    I recommend this book to anyone interested in health related environmental causes. This is an important and accessible book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. Mitchell Montana USA 04-10-14
    C. Mitchell Montana USA 04-10-14 Member Since 2009
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    "Interesting, but a tough listen in the car"

    This is an interesting book, though scattered in its presentation. It ranged from being very detailed and scientific to casual and flip. (Isn't it the female XX chromosome and not the XX gene?) I listen to books in my car to and from work and this book didn't hold my attention very well. I would find my mind wandering and then would have to rewind to catch up. The attempts at humor were short and seemed out of place. I don't know if the author was trying to emulate Mary Roach's books, but it just doesn't fly. I'm sure the narrator is good at what she does, but this being a non-fiction book, I didn't see the need for her to change her voice/accent when quoting researchers. It took away from the experience. I can't say I will recommend it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christine A. Strand Portland, OR 12-31-13
    Christine A. Strand Portland, OR 12-31-13 Member Since 2007

    Chris

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    "Breasts are the canary in the coal mine..."
    What made the experience of listening to Breasts the most enjoyable?

    This book is non fiction, scientific and profound


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Breasts?

    The science behind breast cancer, premature puberty and wieght issues are presented with startling clarity throughout this book. I recommend it to everyone I know, everyone I meet and now to strangers. DO NOT HESITATE to read this book. Consider giving as a gift to all of those who ask "why is there so much more breast cancer?" Why didn"t 'they' tell us?


    What does Kate Reading bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    You can't skim like you might with a print book when the information becomes uncomfortable.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Breasts, the Canaries in the Coal Mine, a Documentary


    Any additional comments?

    Often a title might put someone off, please don't avoid this book because the title isn't catchy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Silvia Oakland, CA, USA 02-11-13
    Silvia Oakland, CA, USA 02-11-13 Member Since 2006
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    "Keeping Abreast of the Breast"

    Americans are obsessed with breasts as sexual signifiers. As a result, their real beauty and purpose become obscured. This delightful, well-written, and carefully researched book examines many facets of our breasts including breast enhancement and the real role of the breast--feeding our young. I particularly enjoyed Williams study of the environmental hazards that we are exposed to on a daily basis. Finally, the narrator's matter of fact reading invited the listener to pause and consider that maginificent orb--the human breast.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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