Title: Mother Nature Is Trying to Kill You
Author: Dan Riskin
Publisher: Touchstone Books
March 4, 2014
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.
Mother Nature Is Trying to Kill You is full of amazing, curious facts about the plant and animal worlds. And it’s set up in humorous way: Each chapter covers one of the seven deadly sins. I love that Dan Riskin includes YouTube links in many of the footnotes, so I could go see what he’s describing.
However, Riskin is really into the “meat robots” idea: the idea that the way we behave, the way we respond to one another, the way we feel, is all merely a result of our DNA. We are pre-programmed to respond in the ways we do, nothing more. But Riskin used the term “meat robot” so often, it grated on my nerves until I was sick of hearing about it.
This concept creates a conflict for the author as a new, first-time father, and this becomes the foundation upon which the book is built: “Even though it feels like magic when Sam . . . looks me in the eyes and smiles, it’s all just biology. I know that no matter what it felt like in those first six minutes, the emotions I felt the day he was born were really no more special than the hormones that guide a bird through building her nest.”
I appreciate that Riskin often brings up the ways in which the word “natural” have been twisted and turned into a false ideal, as if it always means “healthy” or “beneficial” or “safe.” I also like that he points out the fallacy in using examples found in nature as a justification for human behavior.
Riskin is obviously very passionate about his topic, and I picked up some fascinating trivia while reading it. However, Mother Nature Is Trying to Kill You fell a little flat for me.