Skeleton Keys

The Secret Life of Bone
Narrated by: Will Damron
Length: 6 hrs and 56 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (37 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"A provocative and entertaining magical mineral tour through the life and afterlife of bone." (Wall Street Journal)

Our bones have many stories to tell, if you know how to listen.

Bone is a marvel, an adaptable and resilient building material developed over 500 million years of evolutionary history. It gives our bodies their shapes and the ability to move. It grows and changes with us, an undeniable document of who we are and how we lived. Arguably, no other part of the human anatomy has such rich scientific and cultural significance, both brimming with life and a potent symbol of death. 

Brian Switek is a charming and enthusiastic osteological raconteur. In this natural and cultural history of bone, he explains where our skeletons came from, what they do inside us, and what others can learn about us when these wondrous assemblies of mineral and protein are all we've left behind. 

Bone is as embedded in our culture as it is in our bodies. Our species has made instruments and jewelry from bone, treated the dead like collectors' items, put our faith in skull bumps as guides to human behavior, and arranged skeletons into macabre tributes to the afterlife. Switek makes a compelling case for getting better acquainted with our skeletons, in all their surprising roles. Bridging the worlds of paleontology, anthropology, medicine, and forensics, Skeleton Keys illuminates the complex life of bones inside our bodies and out.

©2019 Brian Switek (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Smart, lively, and hugely informative, Skeleton Keys is the ideal guide to the bones around us and in us.” (Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction)

“Brian Switek writes with remarkable grace about the natural world. In Skeleton Keys, he looks inward, making us keenly aware of the marvels of the bones that give us the scaffolding we need to survive. Every chapter has some surprise, told in elegant tales, that you will repeat to your friends.” (Carl Zimmer, author of She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity)

“A cheerful popular-science romp through the matter that makes up our skeleton...leaves the beaten path to deliver a fun explanation of the history, function, and cultural meaning of bone.” (Kirkus Reviews)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Awesome Book, Read Very Well

My only quibble with this book is the subtitle, "The Secret Life of Bone." I was expecting a book that focused more on bones in a medical way, as was looking forward to that.

However, a more apt subtitle would be "The History of Bones." Once I realized, quite quickly, that this book was more of an historical look at bones--it starts with dinosaurs--I was all in, as the book is fascinating.

There is some medical information, but this book is more of a hybrid anthropological/sociological/historical look at bones. What we can surmise about people from their skeletons. as far as gender, race, etc., was very interesting, as was everything about the acquisition of skeletons--mostly Native American--and the valid controversies surrounding this practice.

Fossils, shrunken heads, selling skulls, racism, --there is a lot in this book, which makes it both educational and entertaining.

I also enjoyed the performer. His tone was great--he was serious when necessary and light when the topic called for that. I never felt like a student sitting in an anatomy class!

Overall, I recommend this book.

5 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Great insight to my historical ancestry.

Narrated with interest in the subject. Author has a lovely sense of humor and writes in such a manner that a mere plebe as myself finished the book with much learned. Cheers!

1 person found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars

us politics,not science

thought it would be a scientific/story book...started espousing American PC prayers 1h in.

I'd love to get my money back.

1 person found this helpful