Flow: The Cultural Study of Menstruation
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St. Martin's Griffin, $27.99
Give this book to close friends or (female) relatives with a good sense of humor -- or an appreciation of irony.
The authors explore what they call "the ultimate taboo subject," highlighting the influence of language, religion's role in our attitudes, the biological transitions menstruation signifies, modern chemical changes, atypical blood flow and more.
Interspersed throughout are long-ago -- and not-so-long-ago -- advice and ads for menstruation-related pain relievers, deodorants, pads, belts and tampons galore. Some of these snapshots will amuse, and a few will appall. But together they offer a telling depiction of how our perceptions have evolved -- and how they haven't.
-- Tami Dennis
The Little Book of Pandemics
Dr. Peter Moore
Harper Paperbacks, $14.95
Because nothing says "Happy holidays!" like the horrific details of a pandemic that doesn't affect you, check out this little book. It predates the current swine flu pandemic, but some bookstores are now prominently offering it as great gift idea along the one-size-fits-all, stocking-stuffer line.
Divided into categories according to mode of transmission, each disease is described by origin, by symptoms and effects, and by treatments, with a bit of history thrown in.
Among the factual gems: Anthrax was first recorded in 1500 BC in Egypt and described as an outbreak of boils. Spongiform encephalopathies' first symptom often appears to be garden-variety depression. Gonorrhea causes symptoms in 20% of women but 90% of men. Lassa fever is very infectious with a high likelihood of severe illness and death but its bio-weapon potential is practically nonexistent.
-- Tami Dennis
The Intellectual Devotional: Health
David S. Kidder, Noah P. Oppenheim & Bruce K. Young MD
Rodale Press, $24 (hardcover)
Your husband is a health know-it-all. Your friend enjoys a daily inspirational read but isn't the religious sort. Your father-in-law is always on about his ailments and threatens to buttonhole your-friend-the-doctor for a little free advice. Your sister is a "House, M.D." fanatic.
For these and about anyone else I can think of, "The Intellectual Devotional: Health" is a perfect gift.