Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood
“There is nothing like blood to grab the attention,” said Dwight Garner in The New York Times. Author Rose George has just written an entire book on the subject, and because she’s Rose George, your attention to all 350 pages will be rewarded. Her 2008 book about human waste, The Big Necessity, ranks “among the best books of this still newish century,” and she brings the same gifts to this project: “a no-nonsense briskness on the page, a forensic zeal, a potent moral sensibility.” Blood, we learn, can unlock insights into biology, medicine, and the many ways humans can be either heroic or cruel. But George never smothers her findings in erudition. “She rips open her topics as if they were a bag of chips.”
She also makes her journey to the heart of blood a personal one, said Susan Lederer in Science magazine. She opens the first chapter describing the workings of the circulatory system while making a blood donation, and we learn as she drills deeper into her subject that she’s fighting menopausal depression and a uterine disorder that become emblematic of the special burdens women bear because society has been squeamish about blood. Subsequent chapters take George to a Welsh leech farm, where leeches are bred to be used on skin-graft patients, and to Delhi, where she encounters poor people offering to sell their blood outside hospitals. That elicits an impassioned argument against the sale of blood or plasma, a practice that she says always results in exploitation of the poor and extra risk to patients.
Her survey finds plenty of other outrages as well, said Sarah Ditum in TheGuardian.com. In Nepal, one of many countries where taboos trump reason, women and girls are exiled to remote shacks each month during menstruation, exposing them to potential attack by sexual predators. Despite such madness, George can’t keep her questing optimism in check for long. “Blood is not done teaching us what it can do,” she writes. “More wonders will come.” Her latest book, fittingly, is “a wonder in its own right.”