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Book Review: Our Bodies, Ourselves - Revised, Updated 40th Anniversary Edition

Introduction

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Updated October 27, 2011

Cover of Our Bodies, Ourselves

Our Bodies, Ourselves

The Boston Women's Health Book Collective

The now classic Our Bodies, Ourselves isn't just a book. It represents a shift in how society regards women, and how women regard themselves.

It looks like a health book. It calls itself "America's bestselling book on women's health." But to believe that is ALL it is, does the book an injustice. OBOS, as its contributors call it, is, instead, empowerment at its finest. First published in the 1970s, the latest edition of OBOS is a comprehensive empowerment bible for teaching women how to be confident physically, mentally and emotionally. As confident women, they will be strong advocates for themselves and able contributors to society.

Overview of Our Bodies, Ourselves

If you are interested in any aspect of a female's being, this book will teach you something you did not know.

Physical body: A complete, illustrated description of a woman's body when it is healthy, and when it is diseased (with an emphasis on female diseases), which takes the mystery out of female bodies and their functions. It covers everything from menstruation to menopause and aging, letting readers delve into the mechanics and plumbing that makes women's bodies work the way they do.

Mental and emotional (combined with physical): Relationships, body image, sexuality, birthing choices, parenting, infertility, childbirth losses, violence and domestic violence, politics and activism - this book presents a factual, unbiased view on the circumstances that affect women, and the choices they can make to embrace, or overcome them.

New in the 2011 Edition

The world has changed in many ways since the first edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves was published in the late 1960s, and the content of the book has changed along with it.

Granted, women's anatomy hasn't changed much. What research has taught us about that anatomy and how it functions has changed, though. Further, the things we do to our bodies -- ranging from the drugs and foods we ingest, to the mechanical means we employ for birth control, to the ways we keep bodies healthy -- have certainly changed. This new edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves reflect those changes.

New sections of the book acknowledge many of those changes as their own subjects for review. An entire chapter on Relationships and Sexuality reflects online conversations that took place over the course of a month with three dozen women.

The world, and how we interface with that world, has changed, too. New chapters in the book would never have been considered 40 years ago. Navigating the healthcare system wasn't the challenge it is today, so one section of the book takes a look at ways of making smart choices for that navigation. Social networking and online health support groups have come into their own in the last decade, providing incredible resources for women in all the subjects of this book. Needing to know how to find objective, credible health information on the Internet wasn't even conceived until the past 20 years. Today it's imperative, and it's covered in OBOS.

One of the most influential topics addressed in the new edition is the Politics and Activism of Women's Health. From healthcare reform to research funding, from culture shifts, to gender marriage equality and abortion rights - society and attitudes change over time. OBOS reflects those changes, too.

The book is global in its reach as well, having been published in 25 languages, plus digital editions (Kindle).

Book Details - Our Bodies, Ourselves

  • Author: The Boston Women's Health Book Collective
  • Publisher: Touchstone / Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN: 978-1439190661
  • Year Published: 2011
  • Available in hardcover, Amazon Kindle version also available
  • 944 pages
  • Find more information at the Our Bodies, Ourselves website.
Pros

• Our Bodies Ourselves is evidence-based. It's not about opinions, it's about the latest research results and helping readers understand how that research affects them.

• Our Bodies Ourselves is inclusive, reflective of our global society.

• OBOS presents pros and cons for times when women have choices to make. An example is its discussion of IUDs (a form of birth control) where it talks about risks, benefits, side effects, the ability to get pregnant later and much more.

• OBOS is very clear and easy to understand. It is written for every level of comprehension. Many areas of the book are as comfortable as conversation, even if they are very straightforward. Even those we would consider to be "difficult" topics are addressed objectively and with clarity.

• This book belongs on every woman's bookshelf as a reference guide to any physical, mental or emotional health information she may need.

Cons

• The book is enormous. To sit down and read 994 pages requires weeks, if not months of commitment. Yet, every word is worth reading.

• It's not searchable, unless you have a digital copy of the book. In these days of search engines, it's a difficult shift to make to have to use the Table of Contents or the Index, then skim the pages looking for what you wish to find.

A copy of this book was provided for free to the reviewer, Trisha Torrey, the About.com Guide to Patient Empowerment. Trisha was a contributor to the book, but is not being compensated in any way for that contribution.

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