Nourishing reads for World Health Day

Investigating health from the scale of our planet to the microbiome in our bodies

When we think about health, what typically comes to mind is our physical well-being– how well we eat, sleep, drink, and move our bodies– but health exists on many scales. On this 75th World Health Day, we invite you to consider how the earth around us, our interactions with others, and the habits we build all come to influence health both big and small.

Methuselah’s Zoo: What Nature Can Teach Us about Living Longer, Healthier Lives by Steven N. Austad

Opossums in the wild don’t make it to the age of three; our pet cats can live for a decade and a half; cicadas live for seventeen years (spending most of them underground). Whales, however, can live for two centuries and tubeworms for several millennia. Meanwhile, human life expectancy tops out around the mid-eighties, with some outliers living past 100 or even 110. Is there anything humans can learn from the exceptional longevity of some animals in the wild? In Methuselah’s Zoo, Steven Austad tells the stories of some extraordinary animals, considering why, for example, animal species that fly live longer than earthbound species and why animals found in the ocean live longest of all.

“Brilliantly insightful and wonderfully hopeful.” —Emma Teeling, University College Dublin

Botanicum Medicinale: A Modern Herbal of Medicinal Plants by Catherine Whitlock

Remedies derived from plants are the world’s oldest medicines. Used extensively in China, India, and many African countries, herbal medicine has become increasingly popular in the West along with other holistic and alternative therapies. Botanicum Medicinale offers a modern guide to 100 medicinal plants, featuring beautiful, full-color botanical illustrations and informative, engaging text.

Botanicum Medicinale brings the garden inside—in all its soothing, healing glory.” —Washington Post

Bridging Silos: Collaborating for Environmental Health and Justice in Urban Communities by Katrina Smith Korfmacher

Low-income and marginalized urban communities often suffer disproportionate exposure to environmental hazards, leaving residents vulnerable to associated health problems. In Bridging Silos, Katrina Smith Korfmacher examines ways that communities can collaborate across systems and sectors to address environmental health disparities, with in-depth studies of three efforts to address long-standing environmental health issues: childhood lead poisoning in Rochester, New York; unhealthy built environments in Duluth, Minnesota; and pollution related to commercial ports and international trade in Southern California.

Bridging Silos offers hope at a time of federal inaction on pressing environmental and public health issues.” —Gina McCarthy, former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator

Fertility Technology by Donna J. Drucker

In the late 1850s, a physician in New York City used a syringe and glass tube to inject half a drop of sperm into a woman’s uterus, marking the first recorded instance of artificial insemination. From that day forward, doctors and scientists have turned to technology in ever more innovative ways to facilitate conception. Fertility Technology surveys this history in all its medical, practical, and ethical complexity, and offers a look at state-of-the-art fertility technology in various social and political contexts around the world.

Touch by Tiffany Field

Although the therapeutic benefits of touch have become increasingly clear, American society, claims Tiffany Field, is dangerously touch-deprived. Many schools have “no touch” policies; the isolating effects of Internet-driven work and life can leave us hungry for tactile experience. In this book Field explains why we may need a daily dose of touch.

“If you’re numb to the power of touch, you will not be once you read Tiffany Field’s book. She masterfully integrates not only the seminal contributions in the field, but the state-of-the-art science as well.” —Matthew J. Hertenstein, coeditor of The Handbook of Touch and author of The Tell

Action, Mind, and Brain: An Introduction by David A. Rosenbaum

This engaging and accessible book offers the first introductory text on the psychology and neuroscience of physical action. Written by a leading researcher in the field, it covers the interplay of action, mind, and brain, showing that many core concepts in philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and technology grew out of questions about the control of everyday physical actions. It explains action not as a “one-way street from stimuli to response” but as a continual perception-action cycle. The informal writing style invites students to think through the evidence step by step, helping them develop general thinking stills as well as learn specific facts. Special emphasis is placed on the role of underrepresented groups.

“David Rosenbaum’s richly illustrated book is an exceptionally engaging, educational, and encompassing primer to brain, cognition, and behavior.” —Edward Wasserman, University of Iowa; author of As If by Design

The Exquisite Machine: The New Science of the Heart by Sian E. Harding

Your heart is a miracle in motion, a marvel of construction unsurpassed by any human-made creation. It beats 100,000 times every day—if you were to live to 100, that would be more than 3 billion beats across your lifespan. Despite decades of effort in labs all over the world, we have not yet been able to replicate the heart’s perfect engineering. But, as Sian Harding shows us in The Exquisite Machine, new scientific developments are opening up the mysteries of the heart. And this explosion of new science—ultrafast imaging, gene editing, stem cells, artificial intelligence, and advanced sub-light microscopy—has crucial, real-world consequences for health and well-being.

“Exquisitely packed with facts, this book relates all you need to know about the heart and shares a scientist’s crystal ball of future treatments.” —Roy Taylor, University of Newcastle; author of Life Without Diabetes

Gut Feelings: The Microbiome and Our Health by Alessio Fasano and Susie Flaherty

We are at the dawn of a new scientific revolution. Our understanding of how to treat and prevent diseases has been transformed by knowledge of the microbiome—the rich ecosystem of microorganisms in and on every human. These microbial hitchhikers may hold the keys to human health. In Gut Feelings, Alessio Fasano and Susie Flaherty show why we must go beyond the older, myopic view of microorganisms as our enemies to a broader understanding of the microbiome as a parallel civilization that we need to understand, respect, and engage with for the benefit of our own health.

“In Gut Feelings, Fasano and Flaherty provide a comprehensive and compelling portrait of the ‘bugs’ that shape us from early childhood through old age and their role in human health.” —Mark Hyman, New York Times best-selling author of Food Fix; Head of Strategy and Innovation at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine

Sign up for our newsletter to hear more updates from the Press