Marketplace of the Marvelous News

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It’s been a busy few weeks bringing the stories of irregular healing and 19th century medicine to the airwaves and print. Some highlights:

I love history books (no surprise) and here are a few I recommend in this “Just Read It” feature.

Salon ran an excerpt from the conclusion while The Atlantic ran an excerpt from the phrenology chapter (a personal favorite).

Loved talking with Simon Moncrieff on Newstalk Ireland from Dublin (if only I could have done the interview in studio).

Doctor Radio with Dr. Ira Breite on Sirius XM was a lot of fun.

The Wisconsin State Journal ran a nice Q&A with me at the end of January.

And Madison’s alt-weekly Isthmus ran a profile under the headline “Textual Healing,” which cracked me up. Should I have called the book that instead?

You can hear me talk about the book on The Larry Meiller show on Wisconsin Public Radio.

The Boston Globe featured the book in their nonfiction book briefs.

 

This week, I’ll be speaking at Boswell Books in Milwaukee on Tuesday, February 11th at 7PM. And on Sunday,  February 16th, I’ll be at one of my favorite places, Arcadia Books in Spring Green, speaking at 2PM. Hope to see you there!

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Meet the New Book: Marketplace of the Marvelous

It’s been a busy week here at Marketplace of the Marvelous world headquarters (aka my treadmill desk in the guest room). My new book hit bookstores last Tuesday. I’ve been giving interviews and had my launch at A Room Of One’s Own in Madison Thursday. And perhaps most exciting of all, a section of the book on phrenology was excerpted in The Atlantic – read it here.

I love sharing this quirky medical history. There’s much more to come so stay tuned.

 

Marketplace

19th Century Health Resolutions for the New Year

Resolutions to be healthy and fit are among the most common this time of year. Only two days in to the new year, we’re all still winning our resolutions (good news!). In honor of my soon to be released book Marketplace of the Marvelous: The Strange Origins of Modern Medicine, here are some 19th century tips for living healthy and well:

1. Drink water, the colder the better. Nature’s purest drink was the health beverage of choice for hydropaths, who promoted the benefits of regular bathing, soaking, and imbibing at least eight (and often a lot more – one guy claimed 30 glasses before breakfast!) glasses of cold water a day to wash out disease.

2. Think positive. Phineas Parkhurst Quimby believed that the cause of all disease was wrong thoughts. Replacing bad thoughts with good thoughts led to happiness and health.

3. Go natural. Samuel Thomson was a self-taught American herbalist who believed that nature knew best. He devised his own system of healing known as Thomsonism that relied on remedies made from the plants growing out your backdoor.

4. Move. Outside, if possible. Between drinking water and bathing, hydropathic patients went on long walks in the woods. The fresh air, trees, and other plants made for particularly restorative forms of exercise. On rainy days, patients juggled, danced, or chopped wood – anything to move more.

5. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other spirituous substances. Homeopaths believed that certain foods and drinks inhibited healing. The movement’s founder, Samuel Hahnemann, even cautioned against drinking coffee, claiming it could lead to impotence, sterility, and mental and physical “degeneration.” But even Hahnemann couldn’t deny its pleasures, particularly in the morning: “In the first moments or quarters of an hour after waking, everyone who is not living completely in a rude state of nature, has a disagreeable feeling of not thoroughly awakened consciousness, of confusion, of laziness, and want of pliancy in the limbs,” Hahnemann wrote. Coffee “removes this disagreeable situation” and makes drinkers “completely alive” with each sip.

L0025612 R.T. Claridge, Hydropathy, or the cold water cure...

 

My new book is only days away from its release into the world (January 7th!). It’s about health and sickness and how Americans throughout the 19th century struggled and embraced a variety of ways to be well before we knew about things like germs. They even got a few things right.

 

 

 

Favorite History Reads of the Year

Lists of top ten this or that are common in December. In the midst of holiday shopping and feting, we feel compelled to sum it all up before launching in to another year filled with all new items (or variations on a theme) to categorize, list, and rate.

I’m certainly not immune to the ranking and collecting. I eagerly click on just about any list of top books of the year put out by anyone on any topic while keeping my local library system website cued up in another window for easy additions to my library request/hold list. And I certainly love those collected works of Best that come out around this time of year – best food writing, nature and science, short stories, essays.

But I’ve noticed a glaring omission – at least to my eyes. Where’s the Best American History Writing? If anyone is reading, I volunteer to be the series editor.

Here, in no particular order and definitely not comprehensive, are some history stories I enjoyed this past year. It’s an eclectic bunch but then, I’m interested in just about anything if told well.

“The Prodigal Daughter: Writing, History, and Mourning” (New Yorker) by Jill Lepore
A fascinating story that brings together Lepore’s own life story (and particularly that of her mother) with the life of Jane Franklin, Benjamin Franklin’s sister. It’s a stunning blend of memoir and history.

“The Earliest Libraries-on-Wheels Looked Way Cooler than Today’s Bookmobiles” (Smithsonian blog)
A fun pictorial look at book mobiles past.

“A Skillful Horsewoman’: A Brief History of Royal Childhoods” (The Atlantic) Olga Khazan
I’m an Anglophile through and through so I loved reading this short history of royal children (sounds miserable)

A Theology of Wild Apples” (Apple Orchard blog)
Having written a book on apples myself and gone to grad school to study colonial America, I could scarcely resist this look at Puritans and wild apples.

Voice Hero: The Inventor of Karaoke Speaks” (The Appendix)
The charming story of the invention of karaoke from the inventor himself.

“Busker Rhymes” (The Pirate Omnibus)
Buskers have been annoying people on public transportation for a long time.

 

Don’t even get me started on history books I loved…

Christmas Comes Early: My Advance Copies Have Arrived

My husband lifted two boxes inside the front door when he came from work on Friday. “Something for you,” he said. My mom had warned that she’d sent presents and not to open them so I paid little attention to the boxes and left them sitting by the door. Until the next morning when I happened to glance at the return address, fully expecting to see my mom’s name but instead saw: Beacon.

My books!!

The official publication date isn’t until January 7 but here’s some visual proof that this thing is real. At this time last year, I was tearing my hair out finishing the draft, rewriting, deleting, questioning everything, undoing that previous deletion, writing, deleting, repeat. Repeat.

This year is much better.

Books

New Book! Marketplace of the Marvelous: The Strange Origins of Modern Medicine

Self promotion is not something at which I excel. When my first book came out in 2007 (Odd Wisconsin), some of my friends only learned I was even writing a book when I invited them to my book launch at Barnes and Noble. Epic writer fail.

I’m much better now.

Marketplace

I have a new book coming out! In January! And even though you have to wait just a little bit longer to get your hands on it, some of the first reviews are starting to come in, including this gem from Publishers Weekly:

Janik (Apple: A Global History), series producer for Wisconsin Public Radio’s Wisconsin Life, offers a particular perspective on 19th-century medicine with this survey of “irregular” treatments that Americans embraced as they turned away from standard medicine. Little changed for two centuries, standard medicine’s “heroic” and often deadly offerings were eschewed for practices like heat and herb therapy, hydrotherapy, phrenology, and homeopathy. Janik reveals the significant role women played in the development of these treatments and spread of do-it-yourself medical books, almanacs, and family recipes for healing salves, prophylactics, and popular herbal remedies. Americans loved anything that “gave them the power to treat themselves,” Janik notes—and 19th-century alternative systems did just that. Bottles of ready-to-use homeopathic remedies came in home kits, and Lydia Pinkham’s medicinal brews not only brought neighbors flocking to her door in the 1870s, but her secret vegetable compound is still on the market in at least two variations. Janik argues that “complementary” and “alternative” therapies are just a 20th-century update of irregular medicine—and recognition by Congress, the Mayo Clinic, and major universities proves “the willingness of regular medicine to consider or at least tolerate the merits of their competitors, an almost unimaginable idea less than a century ago.” She’s delivered a must-read for medical history buffs, whether mainstream or maverick.

 

A “must read?” How awesome is that?

In the dark depths of researching and writing, it can be hard to stay mindful of the big picture. Your inner critic (mine is really, really mean and just never shuts up) can’t see beyond the clunky sentence that’s far from poetry or the argument that could be so much stronger if only… if only you had made a different choice. Or were smarter. Or had any talent at all. There’s so many of those. But you have to keep going and believing in your project despite what your inner critic says. She does keep you humble but then when the book finally comes out, it’s time for that critic to be quiet and celebrate a bit.