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Thursday, March 11, 2021

Review: Breath-taking

 Breath-taking seems to be a very topical book - a book about lungs and respiratory diseases, of which COVID19 is one. The book, however, seems like a mish-mash reprints of columns published in a magazine, rather than a coherent and cogent exploration of our lungs.

It starts, for instance, with a brief discussion of mindful breathing, but doesn't actually go into the clinical studies or scientific evidence. Then it jumps into a discussion of the history of our understanding of lungs, some of which is actually enlightening, such as the exploration of cells that generate surfactants that enable us to breathe.

We get an exploration of the history of lung transplants (the success rate is improved but the long term survival rates are abysmal - only 6-7 years), and the challenges they face, and then a pivot into the politics and ethics of transplant recipients' prioritization. There's a brief chapter on smoking (I was very surprised by the statement that 13% of Americans still smoke, as I would have thought the rates were much lower now --- then did a double check and discovered that 35% of Germans between 18-25 smoke, a much higher proportion than I would have thought, so my social circle is simply not representative).

There's a section on asthma, on asbestos (the book mentions that we still import asbestos from Russia, since a court overturned the asbestos ban, but no deeper dive into what we're still using it for, and why the overturn occur'd).

I really wanted to like the book, and I did learn stuff from it, but found that I couldn't really overcome all of its faults to give it a recommended rating.

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