Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Review: How to Remove a Brain by David Haviland

Genre: Non-Fiction


“•How was history changed by a single Soho water pump?

•Which condition was treated by trapping a child inside a tree trunk?

•Where is the soul found?

•How long does it take to digest chewing gum?

•What are hiccups for?

•Did the Gauls brush their teeth with urine?

•Does organ theft actually happen?

•Is it safe to fly with breast implants?

•Did Christopher Columbus import syphilis to Europe?

•Was King George V killed by his doctor, in order to meet The Times’ deadline?

Taking in everything from the outrageous (yes, Hitler was addicted to crystal meth) to the eye-watering (such as the renowned surgeon who accidentally cut off his patient’s left testicle) to the downright disgusting (like the ‘cure’ for toothache used by the Egyptians involving dead mouse paste), this book proves that medical science is not for the faint-hearted, lily-livered or weak-stomached!”


David Haviland is a journalist and author based in London, England.


This is a collection of short vignettes that answer such burning questions as “Did Christopher Columbus import Syphilis to Europe?” or “Did President Harrison die of a cold because he refused to wear a hat during his inauguration?” Some have a historical slant, as with the above, others are more contemporary. Some of those questions aren’t likely to pique your interest based purely on the question. “What was unusual about Dr James Barry?” is an example that didn’t grab me. What ties all these vignettes together is they touch on some medical subject.

Although some of the questions might not grab your attention, even the most boring questions might have an interesting or amusing answer. For example, Dr Barry is a trailblazer as the “first British surgeon to perform a successful Caesarean section in which both the mother and child survived.” Doctor Barry is also interesting as a trailblazer in other ways which were a secret until the good doctor’s death. Haviland’s dry wit creeps into many answers, adding a touch of humor. If you’re interested in trivia or discovering which things that many believe to be true aren’t, you should find How to Remove a Brain an entertaining read.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK


A small amount of adult language.

UK spelling conventions, etc.

Format/Typo Issues:

My review copy was a pre-release ARC, so I can’t gauge the final product in this area.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words


Laurie Boris said...

Sounds like fun!

BooksAndPals said...

At least for a nerd like me, it was a fun read, Laurie. :)