The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other curiosities from the History of Medicine by Thomas Morris
Publisher: Bantam Press (October 18, 2018)
Print Length: 400 pages
Audiobook Length: 9 hrs and 7 mins
Narrator: Thomas Morris, Ruper Farley
A mysterious epidemic of dental explosions, a teenage boy who got his wick stuck in a candlestick. A remarkable woman who, like a human fountain, spurted urine from virtually every orifice.
These are just a few of the anecdotal gems that have until now lain undiscovered in medical journals for centuries. This fascinating collection of historical curiosities explores some of the strangest cases that have perplexed doctors across the world.
From seventeenth-century Holland to Tsarist Russia, from rural Canada to a whaler in the Pacific, many are monuments to human stupidity – such as the sailor who swallowed dozens of penknives to amuse his shipmates, or the chemistry student who in 1850 arrived at a hospital in New York with his penis trapped inside a bottle, having unwisely decided to relieve himself into a vessel containing highly reactive potassium. Others demonstrate exceptional surgical ingenuity long before the advent of anaesthesia – such as a daring nineteenth-century operation to remove a metal fragment from beneath a conscious patient’s heart. We also hear of the weird, often hilarious remedies employed by physicians of yore – from crow’s vomit to port-wine enemas – the hazards of such everyday objects as cucumbers and false teeth, and miraculous recovery from apparently terminal injuries.
While The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine has all the makings of a bizarrely entertaining foray into the history of medicine, the too quick chapters and repetitive nature brought down the experience.
Before we get into the things that I didn’t like about The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine, we should first talk about the things I did like. I enjoyed many of the medical stories Morris chose to include. Considering I am an avid listener of This Podcast Will Kill You, as well as a procurer of non-fiction books depicting the more zany side of history, I enjoyed finding more cases that I hadn’t yet already knew about. I also appreciated Morris’ humorous interjections about said cases. You can tell by reading that he is genuinely enamored by the subject matter he is writing about. Plus, if you listen to the audiobook, he is one of the narrators so you get to hear the inflections he intended when stringing the book together.
Now, for the reasons I couldn’t rate this book higher. Four hundred pages was just way too long for this anthology. I feel that if Morris chose to narrow the cases featured in The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine, I would have both found myself learning more while also not finding my mind slipping in and out of the narrative. If this was done it would have also helped with the disorganized nature of the book, bringing some much needed order to a seemingly ‘throwing pasta at the wall’ type of book.
Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
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And those are my thoughts on The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine by Thomas Morris. Have any non-fiction recommendations you think I should check out? Leave them as a comment below and help my TBR grow.