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Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood

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An eye-opening exploration of blood, the lifegiving substance with the power of taboo, the value of diamonds, and the promise of breakthrough science Blood carries life, yet the sight of it makes people faint. It is a waste product and a commodity pricier than oil. It can save lives and transmit deadly infections. Each one of us has roughly nine pints of it, yet many don’t An eye-opening exploration of blood, the lifegiving substance with the power of taboo, the value of diamonds, and the promise of breakthrough science Blood carries life, yet the sight of it makes people faint. It is a waste product and a commodity pricier than oil. It can save lives and transmit deadly infections. Each one of us has roughly nine pints of it, yet many don’t even know their own blood type. And for all its ubiquity, the few tablespoons of blood discharged by 800 million women are still regarded as taboo; menstruation is perhaps the single most demonized biological event. Rose George, author of The Big Necessity, is renowned for her intrepid work on topics that are invisible but vitally important. In Nine Pints, she takes us from ancient practices of bloodletting to modern “hemovigilance” teams that track blood-borne diseases. She introduces Janet Vaughan, who set up the world’s first system of mass blood donation during the Blitz, and Arunachalam Muruganantham, known as “Menstrual Man” for his work on sanitary pads for developing countries. She probes the lucrative business of plasma transfusions, in which the U.S. is known as the “OPEC of plasma.” And she looks to the future, as researchers seek to bring synthetic blood to a hospital near you. Spanning science and politics, stories and global epidemics, Nine Pints reveals our life's blood in an entirely new light.


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An eye-opening exploration of blood, the lifegiving substance with the power of taboo, the value of diamonds, and the promise of breakthrough science Blood carries life, yet the sight of it makes people faint. It is a waste product and a commodity pricier than oil. It can save lives and transmit deadly infections. Each one of us has roughly nine pints of it, yet many don’t An eye-opening exploration of blood, the lifegiving substance with the power of taboo, the value of diamonds, and the promise of breakthrough science Blood carries life, yet the sight of it makes people faint. It is a waste product and a commodity pricier than oil. It can save lives and transmit deadly infections. Each one of us has roughly nine pints of it, yet many don’t even know their own blood type. And for all its ubiquity, the few tablespoons of blood discharged by 800 million women are still regarded as taboo; menstruation is perhaps the single most demonized biological event. Rose George, author of The Big Necessity, is renowned for her intrepid work on topics that are invisible but vitally important. In Nine Pints, she takes us from ancient practices of bloodletting to modern “hemovigilance” teams that track blood-borne diseases. She introduces Janet Vaughan, who set up the world’s first system of mass blood donation during the Blitz, and Arunachalam Muruganantham, known as “Menstrual Man” for his work on sanitary pads for developing countries. She probes the lucrative business of plasma transfusions, in which the U.S. is known as the “OPEC of plasma.” And she looks to the future, as researchers seek to bring synthetic blood to a hospital near you. Spanning science and politics, stories and global epidemics, Nine Pints reveals our life's blood in an entirely new light.

30 review for Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bill Gates

    Last year I highly recommended Bad Blood, about the rise and fall of the Silicon Valley blood-diagnostics company Theranos and its founder, Elizabeth Holmes. Since then, I watched the HBO documentary The Inventor, which covers the same story. I’m not alone in my interest. A lot of my friends and colleagues have read the book, watched the movie, or listened to a podcast called The Dropout. I think part of people’s fascination with the Theranos story has to do with the drama of it all. But personal Last year I highly recommended Bad Blood, about the rise and fall of the Silicon Valley blood-diagnostics company Theranos and its founder, Elizabeth Holmes. Since then, I watched the HBO documentary The Inventor, which covers the same story. I’m not alone in my interest. A lot of my friends and colleagues have read the book, watched the movie, or listened to a podcast called The Dropout. I think part of people’s fascination with the Theranos story has to do with the drama of it all. But personally, I’m also interested in the topic of blood and diagnostic tools that involve blood. I recently started making investments in blood tests that would help detect Alzheimer’s disease years or even decades before disease symptoms show up. I’m also involved with a company that’s trying to speed up the search for blood tests that can detect cancers. With this context in mind, you can understand why I decided to pick up the book Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood. (The title refers to the volume of blood in the average adult.) The author, an English nonfiction writer named Rose George, is interested in blood because of her own life story. She has a debilitating condition called premenstrual dysphoric disorder, which I knew very little about. Before George gets her period every month, PMDD causes her to writhe on the floor in pain and gives her such dark thoughts that she has to “avoid a nearby road bridge because I don’t have the defenses to stop myself from jumping off it.” The treatments for PMDD are terribly inadequate, in large part because there’s been so little funding for research (especially compared to conditions that primarily affect men). Nine Pints takes George all around the world. For example, she visits a plasma clinic in Saskatoon, Canada; an HIV clinic in the South African township of Khayelitsha; a rural Nepalese village where menstruating women are relegated to unheated sheds; and Indian communities benefitting from the work of an entrepreneur named Arunachalam Muruganantham, who developed a technique for manufacturing cheap sanitary pads for poor women. (I had a great time speaking on a panel with him a few years ago.) The book is packed with super-interesting facts that I had to work very hard not to share with unsuspecting friends and colleagues during social occasions. For example: - The Nazis’ ideology gave the Allies a surprising advantage: An unknown number of Nazi soldiers died of survivable wounds simply because Nazi doctors wouldn’t use “non-Aryan blood” for transfusions. - Trade in human and animal blood is worth more than $20 billion a year. Blood, which costs the equivalent of $67,000 a barrel, is the 13th-most-traded commodity in the world. - The blood flow in the modern human brain is 600 percent greater than it was in early humans. Even if these kinds of strange facts don’t capture your imagination, I suspect many of George’s stories will. Some of them will make your blood boil. For example, George writes about girls in poor countries having sex with older men simply so they can afford pads and tampons. “It’s called ‘sex for pads,’ and though it is hidden, it is common,” she writes, citing a report from a field officer in one African slum that 50 percent of the girls she encountered there had turned to prostitution to afford sanitary pads. But I don’t want to leave you with the impression that the book is all doom and gloom. Many aspects of the book were uplifting, especially the parts that reminded me of the life-saving innovations that emerge from a better understanding of blood and its component parts. Blood tests have already made it easier and faster to diagnose diseases and predict when a pregnant woman will deliver her baby. In the future, I hope we’ll find more ways to harness substances in our blood to reduce inflammation and promote healing. I’m particularly optimistic about the new ways we’re using immune cells in the blood to fight cancer. I also hope that stimulating the immune cells in our blood could eventually allow us to do a better job of attacking the proteins that have been implicated in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases. Nine Pints may not sound like a typical light summer book. But George is a great reporter and writer who makes it easy to follow along. And I think everyone wants to know at least a little more about this topic. After all, there is nothing that more people have in common than blood.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    ***NO SPOILERS*** (Full disclosure: book abandoned on page 145 [out of 289 pages].) Nine pints of blood--or more visually arresting: one gallon plus one pint. That’s roughly how much is in the human body. It’s facts like these that author Rose George shared in Nine Pints--but only in chapter one. There’s only so much one can say about blood itself. To fill out a book, George dedicated nine chapters to different sub-topics relating to blood in general. The sub-topics, however, are so disparate that ***NO SPOILERS*** (Full disclosure: book abandoned on page 145 [out of 289 pages].) Nine pints of blood--or more visually arresting: one gallon plus one pint. That’s roughly how much is in the human body. It’s facts like these that author Rose George shared in Nine Pints--but only in chapter one. There’s only so much one can say about blood itself. To fill out a book, George dedicated nine chapters to different sub-topics relating to blood in general. The sub-topics, however, are so disparate that this is, essentially, nine chapters that are the beginnings of nine separate books. To name a few, one chapter is on leeches, another on AIDS/HIV, another on hemophilia. This isn’t everyday information, and there’s much that’s fascinating. Leeches produce an anesthetic superior to anything scientists have been able to create. HIV sufferers now have to take only one pill to manage the illness, not eight, precisely timed pills a day. Knocking a knuckle causes “rush bleeding” in hemophiliacs followed by agonizing, debilitating pain. This is a dense, fact-heavy book that covers a lot of ground. George obviously was enthusiastic about writing Nine Pints and researched each part extensively, but that can work against a science writer who isn’t careful. She included too much information and veered off on tangents, sometimes abandoning the topic of blood entirely. In tone, Nine Pints swings from interesting to boring. Interesting sections are sharply focused and flow with a natural effortlessness. Boring sections are overlong, with the human element outweighed by the technical, factual, or historical. Mary Roach, the cream of the crop among pop science writers, endorsed Nine Pints with excessive praise right on the cover. An endorsement from Roach is unsurprising; the topic seems just like one she'd write about. It may be unfair to compare George to Roach, but it’s hard not to when George has written about this, and her previous books have been about dirt and human feces. Maybe she wants to emulate Roach or maybe she doesn’t, but George can’t compare. She lacks Roach’s wit and gift for making nonfiction science page-turning entertainment. George took the more academic route. In and of itself that’s fine, but with Nine Pints, she wasted an opportunity to do something exciting with a subject many don’t want to read about. Nine Pints is educational for sure, but its drawbacks mean some in-depth articles on this subject would be a better choice. NOTE: I received this as an Advanced Reader Copy from LibraryThing in August 2018.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sonja Arlow

    Every 3 seconds, somewhere in the world, a person receives a stranger’s blood. Its become so commonplace that we have forgotten how magical this actually is. The very first attempt at a blood transfusion was in the 17th century with disastrous results. No wonder, as animal to human transfers are never a good idea. It was only during WW1 that blood transfusions became something viable. The book also addresses all the superstitions and folk tales about blood and its powers. Some believed that your s Every 3 seconds, somewhere in the world, a person receives a stranger’s blood. Its become so commonplace that we have forgotten how magical this actually is. The very first attempt at a blood transfusion was in the 17th century with disastrous results. No wonder, as animal to human transfers are never a good idea. It was only during WW1 that blood transfusions became something viable. The book also addresses all the superstitions and folk tales about blood and its powers. Some believed that your spirit was transferred along the fluid, others think that blood types have specific personality traits (kind of like biological astrology). There is even a chapter on vampire lore and myths. These days blood is big business and whole blood (straight from the vein) gets processed into many different products. If you are a woman living in the UK then sorry, your plasma is no good. Apparently, the presence of contraceptives and other hormonal treatments can turn plasma green so in the UK at least, they chuck female donor plasma. There is also an extensive look at the taboos and traditions around menstrual blood. To this day 58% of women in Nepal’s western region isolate themselves in what can only be described as a dog house each month to prevent bad juju. There is also a chapter set in my own country, South Africa, talking about the impact of HIV management and education under the youth. There were a few chapters that felt as if they were wafting on unnecessarily but overall, this was a wonderful and interesting look at something we all have, and take for granted.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Nine Pints dives deep into the science and cultural history of blood. George’s journalistic tenacity keeps her pushing through the statistics to find the human stories that animate the book. In the first chapter we track the journey of a pint of blood that she donates in her hometown of Leeds. I was particularly interested, if morbidly so, in the chapter on leeches and bloodletting. Other sections journey further afield, chiefly to South Africa and India, to explore AIDS and menstruation taboos. Nine Pints dives deep into the science and cultural history of blood. George’s journalistic tenacity keeps her pushing through the statistics to find the human stories that animate the book. In the first chapter we track the journey of a pint of blood that she donates in her hometown of Leeds. I was particularly interested, if morbidly so, in the chapter on leeches and bloodletting. Other sections journey further afield, chiefly to South Africa and India, to explore AIDS and menstruation taboos. The style can be choppy and repetitive, given to short sentences and identical paragraph openers, and there are a couple of places where the nine-chapter structure shows its weaknesses. While Nine Pints is quite uneven, it does convey a lot of important information about the past, present and future of our relationship to blood. See my full review at Shiny New Books.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    A fantastic book that gave me about 100 ideas for stories in the first chapter. Each chapter is a self-contained essay relating to blood in its various forms, including a chapter on menstruation which I would give 5/5 stars and think should be required reading for all humans as well as the chapter on hemophiliacs and the American blood trade. Still, some essays were weaker than others, some didn't feel as tight, and while they were always interesting George would start on an idea and drop it enti A fantastic book that gave me about 100 ideas for stories in the first chapter. Each chapter is a self-contained essay relating to blood in its various forms, including a chapter on menstruation which I would give 5/5 stars and think should be required reading for all humans as well as the chapter on hemophiliacs and the American blood trade. Still, some essays were weaker than others, some didn't feel as tight, and while they were always interesting George would start on an idea and drop it entirely without ever-circling back. That would have annoyed me less, except that a few times it was something that I thought sounded incredibly interesting. I rounded to 4 from 3.5 because it was quite good and the dedication of talking about HIV and menstruation with the forthrightness she did deserves its own star.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David

    Q. Explain why you believe that reading this book makes you a fine of example of enlightened modern manhood. A. It has two longish chapters about largely about menstruation, a topic which is not, as the cool kids say nowadays, in my wheelhouse. Q. What do you want, some kind of medal? A. Yes, please, and a certificate with a red ribbon, attached with a grommet. And an ice-cream sundae, too, because there was also a chapter on leeches. I enjoyed this book but believe that people without sufficient kn Q. Explain why you believe that reading this book makes you a fine of example of enlightened modern manhood. A. It has two longish chapters about largely about menstruation, a topic which is not, as the cool kids say nowadays, in my wheelhouse. Q. What do you want, some kind of medal? A. Yes, please, and a certificate with a red ribbon, attached with a grommet. And an ice-cream sundae, too, because there was also a chapter on leeches. I enjoyed this book but believe that people without sufficient knowledge of British culture might find the barrage of UK-specific information a little difficult to comprehend. While hardly an expert myself, I had the good fortune to live in England a long while ago, and, despite the intervening years, acquired enough knowledge to avoid frequent trips to the Google while reading. Among my fellow colonials, the amount of knowledge of British culture varies wildly, especially as people who have never set foot in the Scepter'd Isle have sometimes consumed an impressive amount of Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife. I propose the following one-question test to determine if you, a non-British person, have sufficient cultural knowledge to enjoy this book. (It represents only one of the many potentially baffling culture references in the book, but I feel that this particular bit of information can stand in for the whole.) Question: What qualities are often associated with the stereotypical Yorkshire-person? In case you want to know the answer, a search by keywords “stereotypical Yorkshireman” (sorry ladies) will get you many opinions. The best single short answer, I thought, was here. If you can answer this question correctly, then you, a non-British person, can enjoy this book. Otherwise, the experience might be a little like listening to people gossip about someone you don't know. New topic: there is some disagreement on the Internet about how much blood a person actually has, but I am going with the many websites that say between 8 and 12 pints. I will assume that the population is distributed along a so-called “normal curve”, with the average at 10 pints, and perhaps 2/3rds of the population between 9 and 11 pints. Photos of the author show a somewhat diminutive British lady, so when she decided to use nine pints as the amount of blood she was lugging around, I think she came by this number honestly. On the other hand, if I had written this book, I probably would have had to think of two more blood-related topics to write chapter-length essay/investigations about. This is only another example of how short people, in spite of the impressive amount of complaining that often can be heard in the proximity of their tiny little bodies, get off easy. Another new topic: I am always search for a book that hits the sweet spot where intellectually stimulating overlaps with serenity. At first, I thought this was a book that was going to firmly occupy that spot in the Venn diagram, as there is a nice calming chapter about how, generally speaking, a fairly well-organized program of volunteer blood donation became the norm in most developed countries and beyond. It seems that some people with the right idea at the right time were able to advance what, in retrospect, seems a completely reasonable and obvious system. They overcame institutional conservatism and apathy to make the right thing happen. Isn't that nice? Calming, right? Evidence that, occasionally, the whole world doesn't completely suck, right? I love books like that. Well, it turns out we are just being set up for a sucker punch to the gut. And I mean that as a compliment. The blood business is apparently awash (best not to think about that image too much) with dirty dealing, bureaucratic oafishness, and people's lives being ruined so that somebody far away can make a dirty buck. As is often the case in situations like this, my fellow Americans are in the vanguard. As usual, I wondered how people like this can sleep at night, but then again the groaning non-prescription sleep-aid shelf at my local pharmacy probably supplies an adequate answer. Later, the heat comes off the excesses of wretched capitalism for a while as a chapter explores the lunatic oppression that women on the Indian subcontinent are subjected to because they have the bad judgment to menstruate. In case you, O Westerner, were planning to feel smug and self-satisfied about our superior treatment of the menstruating, hard of the heels of this chapter is another long one (see Q and A above) largely about tampons, in which our own talent for unreasonable behavior comes in for a thorough examination. The book sometimes reads like a series of long-form journalism articles, connected to each other only that they all have some connection to blood and blood products. I enjoy long-form journalism, so that's OK with me, but your mileage may vary. I received a free electronic advance review copy of this book via Netgalley and Metropolitan Books, distributed in the USA by Macmillan.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    I gave my first pint of blood at the age of 18. There were two reasons for doing so, I had just started riding a motorcycle and thought I would make a moral deposit just in case and the other reason was that I could get 45 minutes off as they came to my workplace. I have given fifty pints before stopping for a variety of reasons. Several armfuls, in the words of Hancock. Blood is the stuff of life. We have around nine pints of it flowing endlessly and continuously around our bodies for our entire I gave my first pint of blood at the age of 18. There were two reasons for doing so, I had just started riding a motorcycle and thought I would make a moral deposit just in case and the other reason was that I could get 45 minutes off as they came to my workplace. I have given fifty pints before stopping for a variety of reasons. Several armfuls, in the words of Hancock. Blood is the stuff of life. We have around nine pints of it flowing endlessly and continuously around our bodies for our entire life. It carries our immune system, oxygen and waste products around the body and yet for some people the very sight of it outside our skin can make them faint. Removing blood from bodies to cure has been going on for centuries, doctors would think nothing of bloodletting people in the vain hope of finding a cure. A more repulsive way of removing blood is by using leeches, something that I thought had stopped ages ago, but they are still in use by medical professionals today. Her first visit on this bloody tour is to a leech farm in Wales where she meets the man breeding them for use today. It turns out that they are pretty much essential is operations where body parts have been reattached, if the microsurgeon is having trouble with the veins then he will use a leech; the way that they draw blood through to the reattached helps decongest veins. George head back to her Oxford College, Sommerville to discover more about Dame Janet Maria Vaughan. It was because of her that blood transfusion, that removal of blood from someone else and passing it onto another person with the hope of saving their life became a standard practice. As well as giving life, infected blood can make the recipient of the donation ill. To see how it affects people she heads to the township of Khayelitsha in South Africa. She is there to try to understand why being a young black woman in Africa is a death sentence. The killer here is HIV and at the time the book was written South Africa had increasing rates of infection. One of the more useful parts of blood is plasma. Unlike blood where a match in blood groups is needed it can be transferred between any two people. This makes it very useful and because of that, it gives it a high a value. In the UK we do not get paid for donations, this is considered the gold standard, but elsewhere money is offered for donations of blood and plasma. It is found that those that donate this way are sometimes less than truthful about their past medical and sexual history. There are lots of haemophiliacs who were passed infected plasma and now carry with them HIV. It is quite a scandal and it has really been brushed under the table. Each and every month women menstruate. Even though there are TV adverts for various products for women in the UK, it is a taboo subject. In other parts of the world, women who are menstruating are banned from participating in normal family life and are seen as unclean until it has passed. She meets Arunachalam Muruganantham in India who saw what was happening to women at that time of the month and has developed a really cheap pad that women of all castes there can afford to buy. There are lots of other things that George talks about in this very readable and endlessly fascinating book. Not only is it well written, but it comes across as well researched without feeling dry and academic. Quite a sizable chunk on menstrual blood – which is good, this subject should not remain hidden and shameful. If you like reading non-fiction books that explore subjects that you wouldn’t normally consider, then this, like her book, Deep Sea and Foreign Going about the container shipping industry, then this might be for you.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lily Nesbitt

    A wonderful book! It tackles a range of social issues and at times is infuriating. I’m amazed at how far blood science has come in a relatively short period of time and look forward to seeing what comes next

  9. 4 out of 5

    Grumpus

    The grumpus23 (23-word commentary) Interesting, but was overwhelmed as 25% of the book was spent on menstruation and ancillary hygiene products. Would have loved more on diseases.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Zane

    Honestly - I did not know what to expect when starting this book. Book contains 9 chapters, each devoted to specific blood-related topic. I'm writing a small summary for each chapter that I don't think give too much away, but if you don't want to know the topics covered, feel free to skip next paragraphs. (view spoiler)[ You get to know about the history of blood transfusion, motivation behind donating blood, why paying for blood isn't working as well as it should in theory. Then follows the most Honestly - I did not know what to expect when starting this book. Book contains 9 chapters, each devoted to specific blood-related topic. I'm writing a small summary for each chapter that I don't think give too much away, but if you don't want to know the topics covered, feel free to skip next paragraphs. (view spoiler)[ You get to know about the history of blood transfusion, motivation behind donating blood, why paying for blood isn't working as well as it should in theory. Then follows the most surprising chapter to me - about leeches. Because - why not? :D Well, I surely got to know a lot about them! History of how to store and provide blood needed for transfusion is covered, as well as highlighting the people who made it work. A journey to places on Earth where HIV and AIDS are still very alarmingly high (though you can nowadays live with HIV without transmitting it or having any ill effects, the cost - always being on medicine). Plasma - part of blood that has been so crucial for lots of people suffering different kind of illnesses, but which made them even worse due to no control over the plasma quality. It's such a sad story - where people hope for the best (and cures), but get even more nightmares and deaths. If HIV/AIDS story wasn't jarring enough, you're taken to places where women are being strongly discriminated while on their period - for week each month they live outside their homes in a shack, because if they touch anything, it will rot. WHAT!? Off we go to the places where school for girls is still a novelty and looked upon with frown. But the fact that they don't have access to sanitary pads and use rags.. Sometimes even decide to drop school altogether because they don't have the privilege of privacy (bathroom stalls or even sink) to change/wash their rags. Oh, wow. This hurts me. Back to high-developed countries, where new kind of trauma treatments are being worked out. Non-standard approach to trauma victims, which makes us wonder what else can we do differently. How much room to grow we have in the future! And to top it all off - a look in the future. Will we be able to replicate blood in a lab? Would infusing younger blood into older generation could help fight Alzheimer's and other "old people" illnesses? (hide spoiler)] It's a great book with lots of novelty to learn. Go ahead - it's worth the time to read this!

  11. 5 out of 5

    msleighm

    Andiobook. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this book exceeded all! So informative. U.S. readers may be put off by the author being from the UK, but there are plenty of anecdotes from all over the world, especially from the U.S. and Canada, to make this interesting and accessible for all readers. Andiobook. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this book exceeded all! So informative. U.S. readers may be put off by the author being from the UK, but there are plenty of anecdotes from all over the world, especially from the U.S. and Canada, to make this interesting and accessible for all readers.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lea

    When I told my friend I was reading a book about blood, she shook her head and asked why. "Because my boyfriend gave it to me as a present." "But why?" "Because he knows that's the kind of stuff I'm interested in..?" Sometimes I forget that not everyone jumps up at the idea of learning new things about stuff as important and vital as blood! I was super thrilled to dive into this book, and the first chapter really delivered - then my interest started to wane a little. See, where I had hoped this wo When I told my friend I was reading a book about blood, she shook her head and asked why. "Because my boyfriend gave it to me as a present." "But why?" "Because he knows that's the kind of stuff I'm interested in..?" Sometimes I forget that not everyone jumps up at the idea of learning new things about stuff as important and vital as blood! I was super thrilled to dive into this book, and the first chapter really delivered - then my interest started to wane a little. See, where I had hoped this would be a book about blood, it is instead a book about different topics related to blood. There's one chapter on leeches and their usage in medicine (super interesting), one about the taboo of periods, one about HIV... None of which are boring, not at all. It was just a bit like reading different articles that were loosly connected through the topic of blood. It's worth a read and easy to follow, but now I'm on a hunt for a good book on blood itself.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    I have been an RN since forever and have worked in an assortment of acute, rehab, and chronic care settings, so my views are not unbiased nor uninformed. Perhaps if I give one example from each chapter it might be useful to those who speak medicalese and those who don't. 1. The changing understanding of blood though millennia including the relatively recent divisions of typing, and the development of blood storage and accessibility. 2. The medical use of leeches from antiquity to the present wel I have been an RN since forever and have worked in an assortment of acute, rehab, and chronic care settings, so my views are not unbiased nor uninformed. Perhaps if I give one example from each chapter it might be useful to those who speak medicalese and those who don't. 1. The changing understanding of blood though millennia including the relatively recent divisions of typing, and the development of blood storage and accessibility. 2. The medical use of leeches from antiquity to the present well past the time of blades or scarification such as brought about the demise of former President Washington. 3. The incredible contributions of Dame Janet Maria Vaughan of the women's college at Oxford in the mid twentieth century. 4. The greatest cause of HIV/AIDS around the world is donating blood in Africa and Southeast Asia. 5. The treatment perils for hemophilia. I value the people mentioned, but am very unhappy that Arthur Ashe went unmentioned even though he came from the country whose pharmaceutical companies denied culpability in the deaths of so many unique people. 6. The practices of derision and blame placed upon women in many countries which also have almost no clean water or sanitary facilities simply because the women are having menstrual bleeding. 7. Beginning with the man who endured verbal abuse from nearly everyone while researching the manufacture and distribution of affordable sanitary napkins and tampons in India and developing nations where women could not afford them and were forced to use some methods from antiquity. 8. Trauma Medicine in civilian hospitals and in war areas and the changes in the use of blood and blood products. 9. The history of vampirism and the search for synthetic products as well as blood as a fountain of youth. There is an extensive bibliography following these chapters. I found it to be well written, educational, and enjoyable. I requested and received a free ebook copy from Metropolitan Books courtesy of NetGalley. Thank you! In 2019 I purchased the audio version.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Clara

    I really enjoyed the first chapters, but the later ones got a bit repetitive or were really jumping between different points

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andy Klein

    This is one of my favorite types of books. Pick an unusual narrow topic and then explore it from every angle. And this book was well done, well written, generally entertaining, and largely informative. What it wasn’t for me was scientific enough and exhaustive in its scope. And it focused too much on HIV which required shoehorning to fit it into this topic, but nothing on leukemia, which is far more relevant. I wanted more. A lot more. For example, there was nothing about mosquitoes, but there w This is one of my favorite types of books. Pick an unusual narrow topic and then explore it from every angle. And this book was well done, well written, generally entertaining, and largely informative. What it wasn’t for me was scientific enough and exhaustive in its scope. And it focused too much on HIV which required shoehorning to fit it into this topic, but nothing on leukemia, which is far more relevant. I wanted more. A lot more. For example, there was nothing about mosquitoes, but there was a ton on leaches (very interesting). There was nothing on medieval “barbers” but lots on bloodletting. There was no discussion about the history of the common bandaid much less compression bandages, dissolving sutures, etc. We heard about that excellent Indian man who persevered against all odds and his culture to invent a machine that made affordable pads for women, but while implied, we didn’t learn just how effective and wide-spread it became. Lots on plasma but not much on plasma treatment for arthritis. Some mention of abuses of blood products in sports, but no explanation of how Lance Armstrong used blood to cheat and how it worked. She didn’t really explain the differences between blood types—something I’ve always wondered about. Nothing on diving and the bends. Not much on the blood’s main function, oxygenation, and how the blood finds it’s way back to the heart. Little on veins, arteries, and capillaries. What is a bruise? Or how about arterial spray from a severed artery, nope. Did she cover the brain-blood barrier? Afraid not. Shockingly, nothing on arterial blockages, or worse yet one’s pulse. What the heck are those two numbers on a blood pressure check and how does a sphygmomanometer work, and why is it called that? And maybe I missed it but there wasn’t much about platelets and what they do. And on and on. Comedians often quip that it’s best to leave them wanting more, which the author did here, but that aphorism doesn’t and shouldn’t apply to books. One final note. The author seems to have a thing against DOs—doctors of osteopathy-implying that they aren’t real, or at least are lesser medical doctors. That’s not true by miles. DOs receive the same training as MDs but also learn manipulative therapy.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Iona Sharma

    Fascinating book with huge breadth despite the fact that blood initially seems a narrow focus. I was particularly struck by the chapters on contaminated blood and clotting factors given to haemophiliacs in the 1980s and on trauma surgery in London. The chapter on menstrual taboos in Nepal is a little eyeroll-inducing, though very interesting and meticulously researched as all the rest of the book is. In certain rural villages, young girls are excluded from the family home when menstruating, whic Fascinating book with huge breadth despite the fact that blood initially seems a narrow focus. I was particularly struck by the chapters on contaminated blood and clotting factors given to haemophiliacs in the 1980s and on trauma surgery in London. The chapter on menstrual taboos in Nepal is a little eyeroll-inducing, though very interesting and meticulously researched as all the rest of the book is. In certain rural villages, young girls are excluded from the family home when menstruating, which is awful, I quite agree with the author while wondering if she had to express quite so much contempt for the girls and women she writes about. Also, young Nepalese girls spend a lot of time playing on their phones just like nearly everyone else on the planet, but the authorial aside ("Poor people have phones too!") was a bit much.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Linden

    The author is British, so the book starts out describing blood banking in Britain, and about Janet Vaughan, the woman who basically started blood banking. There’s a chapter on leeches and bloodletting, both the history, and current uses today. Another chapter discusses HIV in South Africa, which seemed oddly irrelevant. Canadian for-profit blood banks, trauma surgery, vampires, and menstrual blood are all discussed. I found the stereotyping of Americans (“the Canadian border official has been ta The author is British, so the book starts out describing blood banking in Britain, and about Janet Vaughan, the woman who basically started blood banking. There’s a chapter on leeches and bloodletting, both the history, and current uses today. Another chapter discusses HIV in South Africa, which seemed oddly irrelevant. Canadian for-profit blood banks, trauma surgery, vampires, and menstrual blood are all discussed. I found the stereotyping of Americans (“the Canadian border official has been taking demeanor lessons from the Americans. He is icy, underwhelming, as solid as his shape”) annoying. On the whole, I was quite disappointed in this book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rob Adey

    I wouldn't normally read a book on this topic due to medical phobiaishness, but Rose George is such a good writer I thought I'd risk it (still had to skip a couple of chapters, though). And it's great stuff: lots of info packed into superior prose, with wit and passion (within a few pages I'd signed up to donate blood for the first time). I wouldn't normally read a book on this topic due to medical phobiaishness, but Rose George is such a good writer I thought I'd risk it (still had to skip a couple of chapters, though). And it's great stuff: lots of info packed into superior prose, with wit and passion (within a few pages I'd signed up to donate blood for the first time).

  19. 4 out of 5

    Taylor Sands

    I found this book to be absolutely fascinating and I find myself retelling the facts I learned to anyone who will listen. I especially love how the author is so passionate about dismantling stigma around periods. The only struggle I found was some of the language used. There were some outdated terms in this book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Leah K

    A fascinating look at the history and science of blood. A little disjointed at times. A fairly quick read at 287 pages.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I really enjoyed reading this book and learned a lot about blood! I also had my eyes opened to the importance of blood when dealing with HIV,AIDS and the cultural practices surrounding periods which was really interesting. I did end up skimming through one chapter which wasn’t as interesting but overall I liked it! George is clearly very well travelled and her experiences and her interviews are fascinating.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lane

    Chapter 1 - My Pint Chapter 2 - That Most Singular and Valuable Reptile Chapter 3 - Janet and Percy Chapter 4 - Blood Borne Chapter 5 - The Yellow Stuff Chapter 6 - Rotting Pickles Chapter 7 - Nasty Cloths Chapter 8 - Code Red Chapter 9 - Blood Like Guinness: The Future This book talks about the nine pints of human blood we have in each of us, adults at least. Though most of the content is focused around the medical uses of blood, it also takes the cultural perspective on how blood, in certain contexts, Chapter 1 - My Pint Chapter 2 - That Most Singular and Valuable Reptile Chapter 3 - Janet and Percy Chapter 4 - Blood Borne Chapter 5 - The Yellow Stuff Chapter 6 - Rotting Pickles Chapter 7 - Nasty Cloths Chapter 8 - Code Red Chapter 9 - Blood Like Guinness: The Future This book talks about the nine pints of human blood we have in each of us, adults at least. Though most of the content is focused around the medical uses of blood, it also takes the cultural perspective on how blood, in certain contexts, can be either sacred or profane. For example, chapters 6 and 7 are centered around cultural views of menstruation. The author focuses mostly on the views of it in India, where due to long-standing religious tradition and poor education, is seen as taboo. Due to this stance, women and girls do not get adequate reproductive education nor easy access to feminine hygiene products. Here, due to context, blood is seen as wrong. The first three chapters are on the history and processes of blood transfusions, voluntary and paid blood donation, the use of donated blood to save lives, and how all of that got started, both from the historical and medical side. Also leeches. That's a fun chapter. Chapters 4 and 5 are about blood-transmitted diseases like HIV and the problems that occur with blood that has not been screened for pathogens that gets used on people anyway. Chapter 8 takes place for the most part in an emergency room. It talks about how vital blood is to our bodies, what it does to our bodies when it's there and when it isn't. Chapter 9 is a bit of a catch-all. Yes, there are vampires in this one. But she also mentions experiments with blood revitalization (injecting blood from a younger person into an older one), the Jehovah's Witnesses rule of not getting transfusions, blood experiments and the possible new blood technologies of the (hopefully near) future. I very briefly summarized the chapters, there's a lot more to each. Overall this was a great read, I highly recommend it. It was very, very informative about blood in a non-technical, layman's style way, as well as rather funny at times, similar to the style of author Mary Roach (Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers). I ended up finding this book a lot more interesting that I thought I would, I learned a lot. Thank you Rose George, great book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    I've never read Rose George before (her Ninety Percent of Everything came out right as I had started another book also about, basically, shipping containers), but I'll now definitely go back and check out that one and her one about human waste, because Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood is terrific. George reminds me of Mary Roach, who I also like (though George is British, adding an additional layer of charm to my ears), in that she's smart, engaging, clea I've never read Rose George before (her Ninety Percent of Everything came out right as I had started another book also about, basically, shipping containers), but I'll now definitely go back and check out that one and her one about human waste, because Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood is terrific. George reminds me of Mary Roach, who I also like (though George is British, adding an additional layer of charm to my ears), in that she's smart, engaging, clear in her thinking, tacvkles a huge topic in an interesting, coherent way, and combines historical research with in-the-field reporting. She's also really good at the thumbnail character sketch of the people she meets, and can't resist the witty aside, most of which actually are, in fact, funny... even though her subject matter very much often isn't. There's a solid look at bloodletting through the ages and at how leeches are used today. Her history of blood donation is great, especially the portrait of the amazing Janet Vaughan who, among other accomplishments, set up Britain's mass donor system during the Blitz (George has contempt for privatized blood (and plasma) buyers and resellers). Her AIDS report from South Africa, where the disease remains rampant, especially among young poor black women, is as grim as you'd expect. And her lengthy chapter on menstruation and the infuriating stigma and embarrassment still so present, is brilliant, the best chunk of the book. It gets a little too science-y in parts for me, but overall a fun, mostly fascinating read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rita Ciresi

    Nine Pints is less an overview of blood (as promised by the opening chapter) and more a collection of essays on diverse topics relating to blood. Some are more interesting than others, but all are informative and tinged with a dry humor that makes Rose George the UK's answer to her more raucous American counterpart, Mary Roach. I admire the way both authors write about complex medical issues for a lay audience. Nine Pints is less an overview of blood (as promised by the opening chapter) and more a collection of essays on diverse topics relating to blood. Some are more interesting than others, but all are informative and tinged with a dry humor that makes Rose George the UK's answer to her more raucous American counterpart, Mary Roach. I admire the way both authors write about complex medical issues for a lay audience.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Betty

    What an interesting read. Each chapter looks at a particular aspect of blood, the history and the current practice. I really liked the chapters on leeches, and on the establishment of blood banks and free donations of blood. Some fascinating information in this text, written in a very accessible manner.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Chaitali Narla

    Feel like donating blood after reading this! I really loved reading this! The author gives a wealth of knowledge in an engaging way and presents both sides of the coin. I had new appreciation for the power of blood and especially donating it!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    Interesting book on everything you ever wanted to know about blood. The book is an anthropological, economic, and biological examination of subjects such as HIV, Hemophilia, menstration, tranfusions, blood banks, and Vampirism. Although not a page turner I learned a great deal.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Wilhelm Henning

    Blood - it’s in all of us Really thought provoking book. Was really intrigued by the chapter on HIV in South Africa. Expected a chapter on leukemia, but not a topic covered in this book. Easy reading, well researched. Heard about the book from Bill Gates’ reading list.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Veronica Lyne

    Dear Halimz, I have been randomly sprinkling facts I learned through this book into conversation since finishing it. The plasma chapter in particular has really stayed with me.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chris Demer

    This is a fascinating and really well-written book about blood. Everything you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask! Blood is mysterious (still) and is both a tissue and an organ required for life. George traces the history of the development of the use of blood transfusions to save lives, from crude experiment with animal blood, through direct transfusions (patient to patient), to the use of blood banks and mobile units for use on or near the battlefields. She discusses the development o This is a fascinating and really well-written book about blood. Everything you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask! Blood is mysterious (still) and is both a tissue and an organ required for life. George traces the history of the development of the use of blood transfusions to save lives, from crude experiment with animal blood, through direct transfusions (patient to patient), to the use of blood banks and mobile units for use on or near the battlefields. She discusses the development of identifying the various blood types and the importance of typing and matching in transfusions. There is a chapter on leeches and their use in both ancient and modern medicine. They are particularly useful in re-grafting of amputated fingers, ears, etc., preventing venous buildup, swelling and consequent tissue death. There is a chapter on Janet Vaughan, a brilliant Welsh woman who was pivotal in developing blood banks in Britain. Then there was (is?) a down side of transfusions: the transmission of blood-borne infectious diseases, including hepatitis C and HIV. George visited townships in South Africa (Capetown) a community of high unemployment and poverty, where she worked with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) to learn about the clinics there. They are working to introduce medications for the infected and safe sex practice. There is a great deal of interesting information about HIV and it history, including the fact that former President Mbeki refused to believe that HIV caused AIDS, and recommending folk "cures" allowing its easy spread in South Africa. The author discusses plasma (blood with the cells removed) and the fractionation producing Factor VIII, a clotting factor missing in hemophiliacs, which , early on, the transmission of HIV to these patients from the life-saving factor pooled from hundreds of donors, There is an interesting few chapters on menstruation and the many cultural beliefs, taboos and practices surrounding it. This includes isolation of menstruating women in cold dark huts in Nepal, concepts on uncleanness and untouchability. There is a serious lack of sanitary products in many arts of the undeveloped world. George identifies organizations working to educate the populace and provide supplies at a reasonable cost. A wonderful chapter is about Muruga- a man in India sensitive to his wife's issues with her period. He was determined to produce pads at a lower cost than those from big corporations. Ultimately, he invented a simple machine to make them and these machines have been shipped all over India and other poorer countries. The author discusses controversies around paying blood donors, as well as current discussions related to the possible advantages of transfusing whole blood, after decades of using mostly component: packed cells, plasma, platelets, factor VIII, Factor IX. Today, more blood is given to cancer patients than to those suffering trauma.Cancer chemotherapy can attack bone marrow (where blood cells are formed) and these patient need blood components. But current thought is that for trauma, whole, fresh blood may be the best. I learned a lot from this book and highly recommend it!

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