“I didn’t realize until I read it that it’s the book I’ve been wanting to read for 30 years. Everything you might want to know, or have wondered about, or didn’t even consider about how we speak and listen, exchange information, and the musicality behind all of it is here … and then some. I couldn’t put it down.” –DANIEL LEVITIN, author of THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON MUSIC
A New York Times bestselling writer explores what our unique sonic signature reveals about our species, our culture, and each one of us.
There’s no shortage of books about public speaking or language or song. But until now, there has been no book about the miracle that underlies them al: the human voice itself. And there are few writers who could take on this surprisingly vast topic with more artistry and expertise than John Colapinto. Beginning with the novel — and compelling — argument that our ability to speak is what made us the planet’s dominant species, he guides us from the voice’s beginnings in lungfish millions of years ago to its culmination in the talent of Pavoratti, Martin Luther King Jr., and Beyoncé — and each of us, every day.
Along the way, he shows us why the voice is the most efficient, effective means of communication ever devised: it works in all directions, in all weathers, even in the dark, and it can be calibrated to reach one other person or thousands. He reveals why speech is the single most complex and intricate activity humans can perform. He travels up the Amazon to meet the Piraha, a reclusive tribe whose singular language, more musical than any other, can help us hear how melodic principles underpin every word we utter. He heads up to Harvard to see how professional voices are helped and healed, and he ventures out on the campaign trail to see how demagogues wield their voices as weapons.
As far-reaching as this book is, much of the delight of reading it lies in how intimate it feels. Everything Colapinto tells us can be tested by our own lungs and mouths and ears and brains. He shows us that, for those who pay attention, the voice is an eloquent means of communicating not only what the speaker means, but also their mood, sexual preference, age, income, even psychological and physical illness.
It overstates the case only slightly to say that anyone who talks, or sings, or listens will find a rich trove of thrills in This Is the Voice.
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Calgary Public Library
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
“We should aspire to Colapinto’s stellar journalist example: listening carefully to the circumstances of those who are different rather than demanding that they conform to our own.” — Washington Post
The true story about the “twins case” and a riveting exploration of medical arrogance, misguided science, societal confusion, gender differences, and one man’s ultimate triumph
In 1967, after a twin baby boy suffered a botched circumcision, his family agreed to a radical treatment that would alter his gender. The case would become one of the most famous in modern medicine—and a total failure. The boy’s uninjured brother, raised as a boy, provided to the experiment the perfect matched control. As Nature Made Him tells the extraordinary story of David Reimer, who, when finally informed of his medical history, made the decision to live as a male.
Writing with uncommon intelligence, insight, and compassion, John Colapinto sets the historical and medical context for the case, exposing the thirty-year-long scientific feud between Dr. John Money and his fellow sex researcher, Dr. Milton Diamond—a rivalry over the nature/nurture debate whose very bitterness finally brought the truth to light.
A macabre tale of medical arrogance, it is first and foremost a human drama of one man’s—and one family’s—amazing survival in the face of terrible odds.