Best-seller owner's manual illustrates body care

A surgeon and an anesthesiologist use fun and facts in an understand-yourself guide to better health.

By Damon Adams — Posted Dec. 19, 2005

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You'll have to forgive Michael Roizen, MD, if he sounds a little giddy with excitement when he talks about his book, You: The Owner's Manual.

Since its release in May, it has reached the No. 1 spot on the and Barnes & book lists. It led to an appearance by Dr. Roizen and co-author surgeon Mehmet Oz, MD, of New York, on "Oprah." More than 1.4 million copies have been sold.

"We knocked Harry Potter from the top for about 17 days," said Dr. Roizen, who is chair of the division of anesthesia, critical care medicine and comprehensive pain management at the Cleveland Clinic.

You: The Owner's Manual, published by HarperResource, is an informative and entertaining journey through the body, a sort of do-it-yourself handbook for keeping your body healthy. The major organs and systems are covered, from the brain and the nervous system to the immune and digestive systems.

"It's trusted physicians writing in a way that makes the science very accessible and makes the whole thing fun," Dr. Roizen said.

Readers learn how muscles work, if sweat really stinks and what works to stop diarrhea. The pages are filled with myth-busters on medicine and all kinds of factoids. For example, 54% of men think about sex several times a day, compared with 19% of women.

"What we wanted to do was create something that shared the joy of medicine," said Dr. Roizen, author of the best-seller RealAge: Are You As Young as You Can Be. "We wanted to move from knowledge to understanding."

There's even a cartoon elf who enlivens illustrations: He naps on the soft palate, rides a unicycle inside the brain and puffs a cigarette in the lungs.

Dr. Roizen said he used to show sketches of the elf when he traveled on airplanes to gauge response to the character. Apparently, he was not worried about attracting female readers, but something was needed to help lure men.

"We stooped so low as to put [cartoon strips] in it so we could get guys to read it," he joked.

Dr. Roizen said the traditionally formal tone of medical writing does not go over as well with patients, and he hopes physicians will use the book to help describe the body and illnesses in a way patients will understand.

"It's an easy way for physicians to talk to patients," Dr. Roizen said. "I use it all the time to motivate patients."

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