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The Joy of Sweat: The Strange Science of Perspiration

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Sweating may be one of our weirdest biological functions, but it’s also one of our most vital and least understood. In The Joy of Sweat, Sarah Everts delves into its role in the body—and in human history. Why is sweat salty? Why do we sweat when stressed? Why do some people produce colorful sweat? And should we worry about Big Brother tracking the hundreds of molecules that Sweating may be one of our weirdest biological functions, but it’s also one of our most vital and least understood. In The Joy of Sweat, Sarah Everts delves into its role in the body—and in human history. Why is sweat salty? Why do we sweat when stressed? Why do some people produce colorful sweat? And should we worry about Big Brother tracking the hundreds of molecules that leak out in our sweat—not just the stinky ones or alleged pheromones—but the ones that reveal secrets about our health and vices? Everts’s entertaining investigation takes readers around the world—from Moscow, where she participates in a dating event in which people sniff sweat in search of love, to New Jersey, where companies hire trained armpit sniffers to assess the efficacy of their anti-sweat products. In Finland, Everts explores the delights of the legendary smoke sauna and the purported health benefits of good sweat, while in the Netherlands she slips into the sauna theater scene, replete with costumes, special effects, and towel dancing. Along the way, Everts traces humanity’s long quest to control sweat, culminating in the multi-billion-dollar industry for deodorants and antiperspirants. And she shows that while sweating can be annoying, our sophisticated temperature control strategy is one of humanity’s most powerful biological traits. Deeply researched and written with great zest, The Joy of Sweat is a fresh take on a gross but engrossing fact of human life.


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Sweating may be one of our weirdest biological functions, but it’s also one of our most vital and least understood. In The Joy of Sweat, Sarah Everts delves into its role in the body—and in human history. Why is sweat salty? Why do we sweat when stressed? Why do some people produce colorful sweat? And should we worry about Big Brother tracking the hundreds of molecules that Sweating may be one of our weirdest biological functions, but it’s also one of our most vital and least understood. In The Joy of Sweat, Sarah Everts delves into its role in the body—and in human history. Why is sweat salty? Why do we sweat when stressed? Why do some people produce colorful sweat? And should we worry about Big Brother tracking the hundreds of molecules that leak out in our sweat—not just the stinky ones or alleged pheromones—but the ones that reveal secrets about our health and vices? Everts’s entertaining investigation takes readers around the world—from Moscow, where she participates in a dating event in which people sniff sweat in search of love, to New Jersey, where companies hire trained armpit sniffers to assess the efficacy of their anti-sweat products. In Finland, Everts explores the delights of the legendary smoke sauna and the purported health benefits of good sweat, while in the Netherlands she slips into the sauna theater scene, replete with costumes, special effects, and towel dancing. Along the way, Everts traces humanity’s long quest to control sweat, culminating in the multi-billion-dollar industry for deodorants and antiperspirants. And she shows that while sweating can be annoying, our sophisticated temperature control strategy is one of humanity’s most powerful biological traits. Deeply researched and written with great zest, The Joy of Sweat is a fresh take on a gross but engrossing fact of human life.

30 review for The Joy of Sweat: The Strange Science of Perspiration

  1. 5 out of 5

    Left Coast Justin

    I don't know what's happened to me. Before becoming engaged with Goodreads, 90+% of my reading was books like this one -- obscure-but-interesting topics written by scientists, physicians or science writers. Somehow I've been distracted off the scent by the infinite number of worthwhile fiction books out there and moved out of my comfort zone. Sarah Everts made me comfortable. Who knew that sweat could be so interesting? Can you imagine waking up one day and finding green, blue or red fluid trickli I don't know what's happened to me. Before becoming engaged with Goodreads, 90+% of my reading was books like this one -- obscure-but-interesting topics written by scientists, physicians or science writers. Somehow I've been distracted off the scent by the infinite number of worthwhile fiction books out there and moved out of my comfort zone. Sarah Everts made me comfortable. Who knew that sweat could be so interesting? Can you imagine waking up one day and finding green, blue or red fluid trickling down your torso (chromohidosis)? Or have you ever been, or known, somebody who's hands and face are literally dripping nearly all of the time (hyperhidosis)? This latter group in particular deserves our pity, in that they are perfectly healthy and there's nothing really wrong with them, but one can imagine that in our hypersterilized society they're treated like lepers. Did you know vultures shit all over themselves to cool off? Sarah Everts on Sarah Everts: During hot yoga, I surreptitiously peer at my neighbors' mats, looking for evidence that others are also dripping sweat on their mats when I should be focusing on my own downward dog. The utter absurdity of this scene--someone obsessing about their own perspiration during an intentionally sweaty activity that is ultimately supposed to leave one calm and grounded--is not lost on me. Sarah Everts on people in general: To borrow from the wine-tasting world, there a "top note" in human body odor. This dominant aroma is present in most of our perspiration; it's a stink we all have. In 1992, Preti and his colleagues discovered that the top note is a molecule called trans-3-methyl-2-hexanoic acid; most people describe it it as having a rather rancid goat-like stench with a hint of stinky cheese. I love you too. There were a few sections of this book that failed to enthrall -- a sort of speed-dating event in Russia in which people were paired off after anonymously sniffing one another's odors was surprisingly flat -- but Everts was wise enough to end the book after she'd run out of interesting things to say. You'd think that would be standard writerly behavior, but the evidence of the last few nonfiction books I've read does not support that. This was fun. Thanks to carol. for alerting me to this one

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jesse Keljo

    Hate sweating? This book will help you come to terms with this amazing biological imperative and maybe, just maybe, even to have some love for it. The chapter on saunas was a highlight for me since I grew up with them, but every chapter brought to light things I didn’t know or hadn’t thought of, giving me a new appreciation for perspiration. The audiobook was well-performed so give it a shot if that’s how you prefer to read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jason McCracken

    The writing is decent and the author clearly enjoys her subject but the only thing I really learnt is that I couldn't read more than a quarter of this book before realising i just didn't care enough about sweat to read more than 100 pages on the subject 😏 The writing is decent and the author clearly enjoys her subject but the only thing I really learnt is that I couldn't read more than a quarter of this book before realising i just didn't care enough about sweat to read more than 100 pages on the subject 😏

  4. 5 out of 5

    Hom Sack

    A delightful read. I don't know about "joy", but who knew how interesting sweat is. Topics like these reminds me of the books by Mary Roach. A delightful read. I don't know about "joy", but who knew how interesting sweat is. Topics like these reminds me of the books by Mary Roach.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tamar

    Feels too short and a lame title, but a good read for people who enjoy the likes of Mary Roach and Rose George.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Meg Savage

    I heard about this book on the Art of Manliness, and they usually have pretty solid book recommendations. This is a super comprehensive, well-researched book, covering the anatomy and physiology of sweat, cooling mechanisms of various animals, everything deodorant, hyperhydrosis, sauna culture, and I’m sure more, all written in an accessible, casual style. The conclusion of the book was one of the better-written conclusions I’ve come across in a nonfiction book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ann Hidayat

    The Joy of Sweat is one of the book that is unique enough to catch my interest. There are many books about human body, health, diet, but none talk about a specific and the most human thing that we take for granted, sweat. This is not a book that everyone would like, so I'm not recommending it for people who is not interested in, uh-oh, sweat. The amount of detail and journey that the author has taken to write this book is incredible. She participated as well in some event, such as odor-date (?). The Joy of Sweat is one of the book that is unique enough to catch my interest. There are many books about human body, health, diet, but none talk about a specific and the most human thing that we take for granted, sweat. This is not a book that everyone would like, so I'm not recommending it for people who is not interested in, uh-oh, sweat. The amount of detail and journey that the author has taken to write this book is incredible. She participated as well in some event, such as odor-date (?). Peculiar but the more you think about it, the more reasonable it became. For some part when author tells her journey from her perspective, I found a little bit boring since I don't quite like fiction-like writing. But the reason I kept the rating to 5/5 is because it connected to the analytical conclusion after the narrative ends. Thus, it's worth to read until the end. I appreciate the process of sweat better after I know the mechanism and the reason behind it. Human is the most efficient animal on cooling our body, by sweating. Other animal cool their body by different ways that some are disturbing enough if we, human, cool our body like other animal (throwing up stomach liquid, rolling the body on its own urine, and so on). Then, after the author talks about the mechanism, the journey continue on body odor and how most Americans spend our money to eliminate body odor (temporarily). The most disturbing fact that I learn on this is that deodorant success is caused by a smart advertisement that use gender insecurity in social setting. Meanwhile it is true that some body odor or even excessive sweat prevent us to do our daily task, most of our body odor was not quite harmful as we thought. I enjoy this book and appreciate the amount of knowledge that I learn from this book alone. It's a very detail narrative and not too intimidating at the same time.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Sarah Everts fascinating work of research, albeit could perhaps be reviewed in any order, has a wealth of interesting facts: How we sweat, why we sweat and even how sweat attracts. This brings any movie about Scent of a ..... to a whole new empirical level. Although some of the facts seem intuitive, the research backs up what we may sniff out ourselves. A few instances in beginning of book where attempts made to make the book currently relevant for some social justice perspective- really is a di Sarah Everts fascinating work of research, albeit could perhaps be reviewed in any order, has a wealth of interesting facts: How we sweat, why we sweat and even how sweat attracts. This brings any movie about Scent of a ..... to a whole new empirical level. Although some of the facts seem intuitive, the research backs up what we may sniff out ourselves. A few instances in beginning of book where attempts made to make the book currently relevant for some social justice perspective- really is a distraction in book and seems contrived by the editor and unnecessary for the outstanding merit of the research and history the book offers. Especially interesting the history of the development of antiperspirant and the long term effects and study of aluminum that are present determined not significant. Can say for sure true to the books prediction, scent a powerful attraction among those we love or do not. One woman’s subtle or heady aroma for sure the most intoxicating match regardless of the circumstances, be it freshly showered or deeply sweaty in southwestern near desert heat, the dead of winter next to a fireplace, or simply her hair as she slept on my chest- hands down was deeply euphorically intoxicating, her sweat pure joy. The science of sweat brought to a deep and rich understanding in Everts book of scents. Truly it makes sense of scents. One that will lead you no doubt to either breathe deeply or sigh. From Finland saunas to our early ancestors, even what people subconsciously can be observed doing in video after they encounter others, there ample evidence in what the nose knows and looks for in appeal. Enjoyable book, dripping with entertaining and enlightening facts of both perspiration and olfaction.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    This book is so funny and quirky and full of popular science - right up my alley. The author talks about the science of sweating and I learned a lot. It was kind of fascinating to know that horses sweat but dogs pant and some other critters pee on themselves etc to keep them cool. People sweat and we're supposed to. There's some weird stuff in here - the sauna theatre was super-weird. I have no interest in a sauna but I thought it was interesting about the stones and the smoke, that people don't This book is so funny and quirky and full of popular science - right up my alley. The author talks about the science of sweating and I learned a lot. It was kind of fascinating to know that horses sweat but dogs pant and some other critters pee on themselves etc to keep them cool. People sweat and we're supposed to. There's some weird stuff in here - the sauna theatre was super-weird. I have no interest in a sauna but I thought it was interesting about the stones and the smoke, that people don't sweat toxins, and that a certain temperature actually kills germs (still not getting in the hot tub, thanks very much). The attempts to help people who sweat too much and the dangers for a person who has a genetic issue that means they can't sweat were all very interesting. The smell-dating thing was weird but fascinating. And, the cultural issues and differences are really fascinating and important. I loved loved loved this book and especially the author's game-for-anything voice. The narrator was great too. I finished listening to this while sweating away on a hot day weeding the garden and that seemed appropriate.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cade

    This book is boring. I say that as a man who had read and enjoyed books about sand, rust, and pencils. I say that as a man who read a thousand page college textbook about dinosaurs cover to cover. That alone isn't enough to give this book one star as there are still interesting tidbits. The one star is for actually irritating me with the writing style. The things the author thinks are important or interesting or piquant are just not the things I find to be such. This book is extremely reminiscent This book is boring. I say that as a man who had read and enjoyed books about sand, rust, and pencils. I say that as a man who read a thousand page college textbook about dinosaurs cover to cover. That alone isn't enough to give this book one star as there are still interesting tidbits. The one star is for actually irritating me with the writing style. The things the author thinks are important or interesting or piquant are just not the things I find to be such. This book is extremely reminiscent of Mary Roach books in almost every way except with much lower quality of execution. If you like Mary Roach and have low standards, read this immediately.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Gordon Jack

    I've got to say, when this book was first proposed for my book club, I was excited. Sweating is something like burping or farting for me: a natural bodily function that becomes socially awkward if done in public. I enjoyed the information and some anecdotes here, but the subject seemed better suited for a chapter in a book rather than a whole book unto itself. There were a lot of tangential topics here (German sauna theater for example) that made the discussion longer than it needed to be for me I've got to say, when this book was first proposed for my book club, I was excited. Sweating is something like burping or farting for me: a natural bodily function that becomes socially awkward if done in public. I enjoyed the information and some anecdotes here, but the subject seemed better suited for a chapter in a book rather than a whole book unto itself. There were a lot of tangential topics here (German sauna theater for example) that made the discussion longer than it needed to be for me.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ralph Cooper

    Made sense to read this on on the honest day of the year. Author's style enables a smooth read and while there are seeming detours off on other topics, they always come back around to the relationship with sweat. . Joy of Sweat by Sarah Everts Ocean City NJ Library 12 Aug 2021 http://saraheverts.com ‘The Joy of Sweat’ will help you make peace with perspiration Science journalist Sarah Everts’ new book revels in the science and history of sweat Review By Bethany Brookshire JULY 13, 2021 https://www.sc Made sense to read this on on the honest day of the year. Author's style enables a smooth read and while there are seeming detours off on other topics, they always come back around to the relationship with sweat. . Joy of Sweat by Sarah Everts Ocean City NJ Library 12 Aug 2021 http://saraheverts.com ‘The Joy of Sweat’ will help you make peace with perspiration Science journalist Sarah Everts’ new book revels in the science and history of sweat Review By Bethany Brookshire JULY 13, 2021 https://www.sciencenews.org/article/j... ##

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ainsley

    A fun and well-written book on the science of sweat; I was pleasantly surprised at how many interesting stories the author included in the book and learnt a lot about human and animal biology as well. As someone with hyperhidrosis I also appreciated the goal and discussion of de-stigmatizing sweat and heralding its many benefits. The examination of how deodorant and antiperspirant came to be was especially noteworthy!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Luciano Elementi

    Well researched by the author, the science of sweat is far more interesting than anyone thinks. There are then many subjects of study that will be nice to dig deeper into. The book debunks myths and highlights the important things (biologically speaking). It comes to compelling arguments about our human actions and conclusion to which you may not disagree. Truly enjoyable

  15. 5 out of 5

    Moira Burke

    Interesting series of essays on sweat — how it’s produced, historical attempts to deodorize, chemicals in fingerprints, surgery to mitigate excessive sweating, the usefulness of fake sweat, and art exhibitions. It was less about how the body works than I was hoping, but the account of the naked sauna theater world championship won me over.

  16. 5 out of 5

    glassglow

    I like that it makes no leaps outside of the science. This is very responsible writing, but the downside is that it is only a little interesting. However, I would rather have a not so interesting book I can trust than one with outlandish claims that I cannot. 4/5 stars for the restraint!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea Pretz

    A fun informational book that makes me want but sweat. Some studies the author cited we lacking in replication but it highlights the need for more research around sweat.b

  18. 4 out of 5

    Carrie

    Both engaging and educational.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dwight C

    TMI. I did not read thoroughly, just skimmed.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ngaio

    This book is the definition of ‘the more you know.’ I’m pretty sure I could have gone my whole life without knowing any of this and been fine. And yet, it’s oddly fascinating. 3.5 stars

  21. 4 out of 5

    S C

    Interesting but probably more appropriate for a blog than a book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Will

    There's a lot of answers about sweat in here, but I couldn't find the answer to my.main sweat question: why didn't Roger Federer sweat in his 20s? There's a lot of answers about sweat in here, but I couldn't find the answer to my.main sweat question: why didn't Roger Federer sweat in his 20s?

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa

    4.5 stars, who knew sweat was so interesting? The tone and humor with which this book was written made it very enjoyable.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Pat Little

    Was a fun read on a day with the temp and humidity combining to feel 102 degrees.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cecilia

    4.25/5

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tom Kammerer

    Not quite as fun and interesting as expected; seems padded a bit to reach book length

  27. 5 out of 5

    mm

    walrus walrus

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brent

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kate Medynskaya

  30. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

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