Roll me up and smoke me when I die.

Nonfiction educates us, whether we want it to or not.

So I read Florence Williams's really fascinating book Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History almost entirely in the bathroom, and skipped around quite a bit among chapters, but I still enjoyed it. What I MOST enjoyed, however, was that Mr. CR evidently spent some time in the bathroom reading it as well. This is how his experiences with the book progressed:

The first day he came out of the bathroom and said, "Wow, breasts are really interesting."*

The second day he came out of the bathroom and said, "Thinking about what's all floating around in the environment, that's pretty weird."

The third day he came out of the bathroom and said, "I can't read that Breasts book anymore." And I think he really did stop reading it.

So what was the breaking point for Mr. CR? I think it was reading about all the chemicals and toxins in our environment, and how our bodies (womens' breasts, in particular) suck up and synthesize and deal with all those said toxins. But this book was about much more than just that.

I'd probably classify this book as popular science with a good dose of sociology thrown in: Williams discusses the anthropological and cultural history of our breasts, and also talks to a lot of scientists and researchers about their various studies, from the more sociological (male preferences for breast sizes) to the more genetic (including undertaking the chemical analysis of her own breast milk). I think that's the chapter where Mr. CR started to lose it, because you start to find information like this, on why flame retardants show up in everyone's breast milk:

"As one industry website proclaimed, 'Today, polyurethanes can be found in virtually everything we touch--our desks, chairs, cars, clothes, footwear, appliances, beds, the insulation in our walls, roof and molding on our homes.'

There's just one problem: it's highly flammable, earning nicknames like liquid gas and fatal foam. A typical home filled with polyurethane products can literally burst into flames in five minutes once the petrochemical gasses heat up enough. Much household and office foam is treated with flame-retardans designed to delay ignition. The substances, which include bromine, chlorine, and phosphorus versions, came into widespread use after 1975..." (p. 202.)

And that sort of information, coupled with the science of how breast tissue, more so than other body tissues, sucks up environmental ingredients and interacts with them, is what starts to freak a reader out.

Depressing subject matter notwithstanding, I really enjoyed this one.** I like a good science read that isn't completely dumbed down but which is still within my understanding, and Williams has a nice writing style. She reminds me a bit of Mary Roach, but I like her better--Roach seems (to me, anyway) to be becoming increasingly cutesy in her science writing.

So do give this one a try. If nothing else you'll probably be amused by the photos on the front and back covers. Very clever.

*This still makes me giggle. You think it's interesting reading about them, guys? Try walking around with the complex buggers.

*I know The Lesbrarian swears by Stacked, and I mean to read that one too, but I think I enjoyed the heavier emphasis on science topics that this book offered.