Monday, October 27, 2014

Book Review: Shocked, by David Casarett

Casarett, David. Shocked:  Adventures in Bringing Back the Recently Dead. New York: Penguin, 2014.

I was having a grumpy day last week. I must have sighed in exasperation about 50 times by 11:00; it was that kind of day. That night, I picked up a book by David Casarett, M.D. and my mood changed.

I never thought I'd laugh while reading about resuscitation techniques in 18th century Amsterdam, but I found myself giggling wildly when reading the first chapter of Casarett's book, Shocked: Adventures in Bringing Back the Recently Dead. From then on, my funk of a mood passed and I continued to laugh throughout parts of the book.

For the record, I'm not an excessively morbid person. Casarett, both a doctor and an excellent writer, covers a morbid topic: dead people, almost dead people, and people mistaken for dead. He traces the history of medicine and science and their ability to bring back people who are near death, whether it's from drowning or from heart issues. He explores CPR, cryogenics, hibernating mice, and a whole other host of discoveries.

The book was packed with scientific and medical information in a (mostly) accessible format. His writing is hilarious and his pursuit of research for the book is incredibly in-depth; his ridiculous episode of being tied, face-down, on a moving horse certainly highlights his willingness to test early resuscitation techniques!

This isn't necessarily a book for all to read. There are a few squeamish bits and I'll admit that even I checked out a bit on some of his descriptions of cell biology. However, for those interested in reading more about medical discoveries in keeping people alive from a book that has some hilarious moments and jaunty writing, it's a good one to pick up.

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