Pump: A Natural History of the Heart
By Bill Schutt
[Thank you to NetGalley and the author for the advanced ebook copy in exchange for my honest and objective opinion which I have given here.]
One of my undergraduate degrees is in Biology/Human Anatomy and Physiology and as a requirement of the bachelor’s degree, I had to take Comparative Anatomy.
At the time, I didn’t really enjoy the course but as I read more and more books on various Human Anatomy and Physiology subjects, the more I appreciated what I had learned in the course.
Pump: A Natural History of the Heart takes the reader through the anatomy and some physiology of the heart. Not just human, but all critters — vertebrate and invertebrate — because no matter what kind of critter you are, you need to get sustenance to your various cells and organelles. To do this, all your cells need to either directly access the substances or have a circulatory system of some kind to get stuff to your individual cells.
I was particularly taken with the story of the beaching of a blue whale and the fascinating efforts of scientists to harvest the heart, which was huge! There is an illustration of the author sitting next to the displayed heart and he is dwarfed by its size. Since I mentioned the illustration, the book is full of great pencil illustrations by Patricia J Wynne. These drawings really helped me understand the points that Dr Schutt was making (and brought me back to my undergrad days). The rest of the book is just as enchanting.
This isn’t to say that this book is a hard read. Not at all. Dr Schutt takes the complex subject of showing the reader how various species pump or diffuse blood and nutrients throughout the body culminating on how the human heart pumps blood as well as the various instruments that doctors use to monitor and keep the human heart healthy. And he does all these heavy discussions with a liberal dose of humor. (As a side note, I wish I had taken biology courses with Dr Schutt as just about all my teachers in college were dour.)
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the subject, even those, like myself who have had advanced schooling. Dr Schutt is a really gifted writer who took a complex subject and made it fun to read and when you add the illustrations, it made it a joy to read and I suspect, you’ll enjoy it too.