Listen free for 30 days

The Body

A Guide for Occupants
Narrated by: Bill Bryson
Length: 14 hrs and 47 mins
Categories: Non-fiction, Biology
4.5 out of 5 stars (181 ratings)

£7.99/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime

Listen to clips from the audiobook

Discover what makes human tears unique
Learn how the vestibular system functions
Explore the biology of teen sleep

Now playing

  • The Body by Bill Bryson
  • Discover what makes human tears unique
  • The Body by Bill Bryson
  • Learn how the vestibular system functions
  • The Body by Bill Bryson
  • Explore the biology of teen sleep

Behind the scenes

Watch our exclusive interview with the best-selling author as he reveals the inspiration behind The Body.
0:00

Editor reviews

“Between the mysterious, the unexpected, the unknown and the undiscovered The Body: A Guide for occupants takes us through all the weird and wonderful parts of the human body with humour, historical anecdotes and some truly jaw-dropping facts. Somehow, with all that jam packed in, listening to it still feels like an entertaining coffee with an old friend. I have loved many of Bill Bryson’s books but I think this one may have just jostled its way to the top of my list of favourites. Definitely take a listen if you’ve ever wondered why or how your body does what it does, or, if not, take a listen for the multitude of amazing facts you can pull out at your next awkward dinner party.” (Alex, Audible Editor)

“In this illuminating history of the human form, Bill Bryson presents scientific research in an accessible way, introducing a host of individuals including the world’s first kidney transplant recipient and the Nobel Prize-winning Peter Medawar. Covering everything from sleep to immunity, I came away from listening to the audiobook with a newfound appreciation and respect for my body. A perfect listen for new and existing Bill Bryson fans alike.” (Jess, Audible Editor)

The life and times of Bill Bryson


Born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951, Bill Bryson now resides in the UK. His best-selling, wry-humoured books cover travel, the English language, history and popular science.
In 1972, longing to experience the wider world, Bryson left his home state and toured Europe, delighting in its strangeness. Returning the following year, he took a job at a psychiatric hospital before embarking on a career in journalism. His first published book, The Lost Continent (1989), recounts a tour of America, though he’s claimed this wasn’t a travel book. “It was more sociological” he says. “I was looking at this country that I’d grown up in and seeing how it had changed – and how I had changed.”

Summary

'We spend our whole lives in one body and yet most of us have practically no idea how it works and what goes on inside it. The idea of the book is simply to try to understand the extraordinary contraption that is us.’  

In the best-selling, prize-winning A Short History of Nearly Everything Bill Bryson achieved the seemingly impossible by making the science of our world both understandable and entertaining to millions of people around the globe.  

Now he turns his attention inwards to explore the human body, how it functions and its remarkable ability to heal itself. Full of extraordinary facts and astonishing stories, The Body: A Guide for Occupants is a brilliant, often very funny attempt to understand the miracle of our physical and neurological makeup.

©2019 Bill Bryson (P)2019 Audible, Ltd

What members say

Average customer ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    134
  • 4 Stars
    25
  • 3 Stars
    8
  • 2 Stars
    5
  • 1 Stars
    9

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    108
  • 4 Stars
    17
  • 3 Stars
    6
  • 2 Stars
    5
  • 1 Stars
    6

Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    102
  • 4 Stars
    19
  • 3 Stars
    7
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    5
Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Bill Bryson at his best.

This is Bill at his best, full of wonder and the ability to put across scientific information in a sometimes humorous but concerned and hopeful way,
His audiobooks are always enhanced when he reads them himself, this is no exception. You can listen to an abridged version on BBC Sounds radio 4, but I encourage you to get the full version it will become a go to textbook for healthcare personnel and members of the public and educational establishments.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Avril
  • Cinderford, United Kingdom
  • 09-10-19

An early review.Do not start this book at bedtime!

I always fall upon Bill Bryson books as soon as they are published. This one is utterly enthralling from the first word. Read by Bill Bryson himself (what a lovely voice) the narrative kept me awake and thoroughly engaged until I was forced by tiredness to pause it at 4am. If I wasn’t so busy I’d be listening again now., my head is bursting with very interesting facts about the mysterious and wondrous human body,and I’m sure I will reread many times in future.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Sending me to sleep

I love Bill Bryson's books - but he should have got a professional actor/reader to narrate this. Bill's soft monotone keeps sending me to sleep. Given it three goes of the first two chapters, but just can't listen anymore. I'm going to have to return this audio and maybe get a print copy.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Entertaining travelogue journey into the body

I do like reading and listening to Bill Bryson's witty travelogues and enjoy the stories of his journeys around the England and the United States. This latest book "The Body" is a bit different. It is a guide for the occupants of the human body explaining in great detail what each part is for and what it does. Other books have, of course, been written on the subject of human anatomy and biology but seldom has anyone been able to portray this with anything other than academic earnestness. Bill Bryson takes a semi light hearted approach to the subject.

Yes this book is stuffed with facts as you would expect such as the length of the intestines and the surface areas of the lungs that you would find in any biology text book, he adds an extra dimension in his tales of the pioneers of medicine, some were geniuses, some were lucky and some were fraudsters; they were all fascinating. He also has some interesting thoughts on diseases and life expectancies across the ages and in different counties that are thought provoking and terrifying at the same time.

All in all, Bill is, as you would expect, good company along this journey and my knowledge of human biology has been enhanced in an enjoyable and entertaining listen that I would recommend to anyone. There is also some "bonus material" to the audible version of this book in which five people discuss sound and what it means to them.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

One of those brilliant obvious ideas....

To take a tour round the fascination of the human body, interlaced with serious and amusing historical facts and figures, while at the same time demolishing lots of myths. What is especially informative is what a golden age of knowledge we are living through (many medical discoveries I had assumed were made years ago are quite recent). I'm not sure how the reviewer who claimed to have listened to this in a day managed without sleep though....

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Sends me into a sleep slumber whilst educating

Don’t know what it is but there is something very soothing about Bill Bryson’s voice that is just perfect to listen to before sleep. I set my timer for 30 mins and more often then not I’m asleep by 20 minutes. I repeat the books to make sure I listen to the whole book and cover the bits I drifted off to!

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent listen.

Very good listen. Interesting, informative and well told. Bill's voice provides a very soothing listen.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Not one of Bryson's best...

I was counting down the days to the release of this book, as I am a huge fan of Bill's books; then devoured it in one day. Alas, all I was left with was a slight feeling of indigestion, not a lasting feeling of fullness. it feels like a slightly rushed summary of high school level biology spiced up with a few truly interesting morsels. it lacks Bryson's usual personal experiences, anecdotes and insights. I will, of course, buy his next book, and maybe try nibbling on it first, instead of swallowing it whole...

15 of 23 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great to hear Bill's voice: Audible version review

I'm glad to hear that the author, the guy who did the research, compilation and whatever else these guys do to put a book together, actually reads his work to you. He has a soft, caring and intellectual tone with an accent that washes from Atlantic shore to shore: a pleasure to listen to.

My head is literally bulging with new facts that have been injected there with great skill.

My sense of self has been augmented with wonderful awe and respect for all the bits that make me that I wasn't aware of. I just found myself mentally expressing gratitude, in a Kondo-esque way, to all the little atoms that were along with me for the ride as I wished them farewell and watched them disappear down the urinal.

I am currently part way through chapter 2.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

The Body beautiful - a miracle of life

Extensively researched, entertainingly written, and wonderfully read; it is constantly interesting - another classic from the pen of Bill Bryson. It is a different style from his more conversational books - more facts and less humour, but you can feel his passion for the topic and his joy in sharing so many mind-popping facts with us.

10 of 16 people found this review helpful

Sort by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
  • Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
  • 07-10-19

Average, really needs a professional narrator,

It's great when certain authors narrate their own works, as you can really feel their enthusiasm for the subject, but boy is this not one of those cases. Bryson manages to sound monotone, unexcited and borderline out of breath throughout.

I've read many of Bryson's earlier books, this is the third one of his that I've read with a scientific theme read after "A Short History..." and "At Home". He's still not quite capturing what made "A Short History..." great. This books a mixture of scientific fact, anecdotes and personal observations.

Sometimes there's a great mix of those, but more often than not the science suffers because too much time is taken on some personal observation or anecdote that that isn't all that interesting, or some other mixture of the three.

Finally, for a book that's partly trying to explain a technical subject it contains an infuriating mismatch of differing systems of units of measure. Sometimes Bryson will refer to length in feet, or meters, or weight in kilos, pounds or stones, he might provide conversions, or he might not. Unless you're comfortable in metric, imperial and the UK's various quaint units of measure you'll find yourself pausing to do the conversions yourself.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful