SKINTILLATING : A review of SKIN-a biography
Don’t judge a book by its cover- in this case I would ask you to disregard the advice, the textured jacket evoking the sense of touch is just an apt covering for a full bodied book on the largest organ of the human body.
For us, coming from a country which puts undue emphasis on the colour of skin or to be more scientifically accurate, lack of the same, this book is a reality check of the first rate. The author, Cutaneous Oncologist and Surgeon, Sharad Paul is also a novelist. In Skin, he skilfully weaves evolutionary biology, anthropology, history, folk mythology and contemporary experiences into a rich tapestry. Bear with the sometimes long winded scientific sections, there are rich rewards at the end.
Watch out for the quotes and anecdotes liberally used in the book; from the classics, archaeology, literature, spirituality and even contemporary fashion practices. There are some incredible human stories which Paul brings us- the one about Zeng Bailiang’s art classes is one such that has stayed with me.
The illustrations by the author himself, lends a personal ‘one on one’ feel to some of the didactic explanations. Linked to this is also a minor quibble with the book- some of the analogies used to illustrate scientific facts seem a tad forced. On the other hand, the writing fairly sparkles when describing events and experiences- a gift of observation that obviously enriches the writer’s twin passions of research and writing.
The test of a true ‘scientific bestseller’ is that it informs, provokes thought and entertains. Skin ticks all these boxes. From a healthcare professional’s perspective, Skin brings much more than a good informative read- it makes us look at our own ‘niche’ spaces with a new curiosity and respect. Thank you for that, Sharad Paul.