Release Date: October 17, 2017
What won’t we try in our quest for perfect health, beauty, and the fountain of youth?
Well, just imagine a time when doctors prescribed morphine for crying infants. When liquefied gold was touted as immortality in a glass. And when strychnine—yes, that strychnine, the one used in rat poison—was dosed like Viagra.
Looking back with fascination, horror, and not a little dash of dark, knowing humor, Quackery recounts the lively, at times unbelievable, history of medical misfires and malpractices. Ranging from the merely weird to the outright dangerous, here are dozens of outlandish, morbidly hilarious “treatments”—conceived by doctors and scientists, by spiritualists and snake oil salesmen (yes, they literally tried to sell snake oil)—that were predicated on a range of cluelessness, trial and error, and straight-up scams. With vintage illustrations, photographs, and advertisements throughout, Quackery seamlessly combines macabre humor with science and storytelling to reveal an important and disturbing side of the ever-evolving field of medicine.
I’m going to start by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed reading through this book. I laughed and cringed all the way through. It looks as though Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen have an interest in history that closely matches mine, but with a sense of humor, too. Obviously, a sense of humor is much needed when writing a book about all of the ways humans have tried to cure what ails them and most of the ways in which they have failed miserably. Who would have thought bloodletting was a bad idea?
Quackery is available in Kindle ($9.99) and Hardback ($15.60) on Amazon and Hardback ($16.29) from Barnes & Noble. As of now, it is only a pre-order, so by the time we come to the actual release date that may change. Typically I don’t add this information so soon in a review, but I feel like, in this case, there may be a lot of readers interested in buying this as a gift for someone else, including me, actually. Not only is the book great to just read it yourself for entertainment value, but it could also be used as a reference, coffee table book, or (in my opinion) great to use as a book club read because it’s a good conversation holder.
The pages inside the book are fantastically designed. There are a lot of pictures with great captions and, for a book of this sort, they are absolutely a wonderful pairing with the text. Though much of the subject matter is hilariously horrifying (for lack of a better description), it’s an odd comfort to have a photo of some of the cures because, with them, a reader can try and imagine being ill, having someone with a knife come and cut you open for absolutely no good reason. It’s frighteningly mad.
The writing, aside from the pictures and subject matter, is frank and to the point. Those of you who are not new to my reviews will realize that I am not a fan of writing that meanders and “lollygags” around. If I have to put a star rating to this book–and for the sake of Amazon and Goodreads, I’m sure I’ll have to–I give Quackery a four.