Breath Taking - What Our Lungs Teach Us About Our Origins Ourselves and Our Future
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Breath Taking is a vivid, original narrative journey into our most vital, and yet most under-appreciated, organ—our lungs—at a time when COVID-19 has made them more vulnerable and visible than ever before.
Combining human stories from Dr. Michael Stephen’s medical practice and those from medical and scientific history, written in clear and appealing prose, Breath Taking will appeal to readers of writer-physicians like Siddhartha Mukherjee and Atul Gawande.
Dr. Stephen is an academic, researcher, and clinician in pulmonary medicine. He is an associate professor at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and director of the Adult Cystic Fibrosis Center, one of approximately one hundred specialized accredited centers in the country. Eloquent and charismatic, he is a perfect candidate to write op-eds upon publication and to do television and radio spots.
Breath Taking will appeal to readers of Mary Roach’s popular and accessible books on the body, such as Gulp, which has sold almost 120,000 copies in all formats, and Giulia Enders’s Gut, which has sold over 80,000 copies.
We breathe from the moment we emerge from the womb to the second we die—on average some 600 million times in a lifetime—and yet compared to other organs, we don’t think about our lungs until we’re forced to. Even the lungs of healthy people are constantly threatened by lifestyle and environmental factors, and by international medical emergencies like COVID-19. Breath Taking contains updated material reflecting on the global pandemic from the perspective of a pulmonary specialist who has been on the front lines caring for COVID-19 patients.
Breath Taking offers inspiration on several levels. Understanding the miracle the lungs provide every minute will enhance our appreciation of them—you’ll never take another breath without awareness of the extraordinary activity going on inside your body with every inhale and exhale. On another level, understanding the impact that various diseases have on the lungs—eloquently presented by Dr. Stephen—makes us more aware of the causes and the potential for prevention.
The many fascinating aspects of the book include the history of oxygen on Earth; why birds’ lungs are more efficient than those of humans; how lung transplants—the most difficult by far—were finally achieved; and the chance discovery that led to treatment for tuberculosis.