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Review of Skin: A Natural History by Nina G. Jablonski

A very readable overview of your body’s single largest organ and what it means for our lives. Our skin is approximately two square metres in size and weighs around four kilograms. It never fails and is constantly being renewed. Our naked skin sets us apart from other animals, although apart from the lack of hair it is otherwise remarkably similar (being hairless allows sweat to evaporate quickly).

Skin comes in a wide range of colours, mostly reflecting our exposure to ultraviolet radiation (and our ancestor’s history of exposure). Increasingly we use our skin as a canvas to decorate our bodies too, acting as an advertising billboard (from cosmetics to tattoos and piercings).

Skin has a range of important roles, including being the home of the senses which keep us connected with the world around us. Arguably all our senses are all “specialisations” of skin with none more important than touch. This is reflected in our language: “keep in touch”, “how touching”, and “I am touched”.

This book is full of insights into our history, culture, biology and psychology seen through the prism of skin. Highly recommended.

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