Review – The Spark of Life

Cover of The Spark of Life by Frances AshcroftThe Spark of Life, Frances Ashcroft

Since I’m in the middle of my female authors only month, I thought now would be a good time to get round to some of the non-fiction books I have by women, especially in the STEM field. I’d forgotten I had this one, which is a shame: it fits into my general theme of reading about neurology, and builds on a lot of the stuff about ion channels that I learnt in an introductory biology class on Coursera. I understood pretty much all the science without wanting or needing to look anything up, or letting anything wash over my head: in part, that’s because Ashcroft writes very accessibly, but I think it is also because this is stuff I know and love.

Some of it is a little too much towards the neurology end of things for me. I wanted more about electricity in the human body — more of the sparks — and less of the chemical messages (the soups, in that old scientific debate); this veered towards talking much more about the chemical parts of the process, especially toward the end. On the other hand, it’s the chemical processes that create the electrical potentials and make all of the electricity in the human body (and other animals too) possible, so it’s quite inextricable. It just felt like it wandered.

Calling the book The Spark of Life is a little misleading, perhaps. It talks about electricity in the body, yeah, but that’s too small a part of the process to be considered alone, and a lot of other factors have to be discussed at quite some length. Ashcroft uses good examples, and explains things clearly; there’s a section of notes in the back for those who want to get a little deeper into it.

Rating: 4/5

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