E- and audiobook reviews: non-fiction

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 August, 2013, 4:54pm

Drugs for Life
by Joseph Dumit (read by John Brancy)
University Press Audiobooks (audiobook)
4 stars

If you are on prescription medication despite not feeing sick and if you wonder when, if ever, you can stop taking those drugs, read this book. By Joseph Dumit, who subtitles his work How Pharmaceutical Companies Define Our Health, it shows that whereas doctors 60 years ago dispensed drugs to cure diseases, the meaning of "health" has changed to mean risk reduction through screens and pills. Citing historian Robert Aronowitz, who called this the preventive revolution, Dumit argues against the industrialisation of clinical trials funded by pharmaceutical companies whose objective is to "maximise the number of new prescriptions" and to ensure drug users continue with their medication for as long as possible. Although Dumit uses examples mostly from the US - the average American buys between nine and 13 prescription-only drugs a year - his arguments should resonate with anyone who has come to accept that treatment is prevention. Drugs for Life will make you question the pills you pop to remain "healthy".

Odd Couples

by Daphne Fairbairn
Princeton University Press (e-book)
3.5 stars

Evolutionary biologist Daphne Fairbairn's aim is to spark our curiosity about animals that are neither similar nor familiar to us, by emphasising the enormous diversity of animal life and ways in which they carry out their sexual roles. She profiles eight species that fulfil her aim of underscoring the extreme differences between the sexes, among them blanket octopuses and bone-eating worms. Whereas, among humans, men may be about 20 per cent heavier than women, in other species, she writes, females weigh thousands of times more than their male counterparts, which may be "tiny parasitic dwarfs". Indeed, although some males protect or support their mates, in species such as great bustards males seem to offer nothing apart from their genes. Fairbairn engages the reader with personal stories that lend interest to her work, showing how research into deer mice in Canada led to her fascination with males and females in various populations. Odd Couples will not only fill you with odd facts but also a deeper respect for the animal kingdom.