According to Jablonski, skin today functions in much the same way as it did for our earliest ancestors. The skin of early vertebrates was also protective and sensitive, with a similar cellular structure.
Much of the book is devoted to cultural and psychological aspects of skin, how it is an important representation of our selves. From body art, to language and even sexual intimacy, Jablonski makes a compelling argument for the impact of skin on our human experience. A chapter on touch -- defined by the author as "stimulation of the skin by mechanical, thermal, chemical or electrical means, resulting in a sensation of pressure, vibration, temperature or pain" -- is especially interesting.
This book is eminently readable. Photographs and diagrams add a lot to the readers' experience. While this book discusses issues of skin health and disease, it is certainly not a textbook of dermatology. It is, however, a scientifically sound and fascinating look at the body's largest organ.
For a good, classic dermatology text, take a look at "Sauer's manual of skin diseases" (9th edition; Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2006). Sauer's contains information on the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of skin conditions. The book addresses dermatology fundamentals, inflammatory and infectious skin diseases, skin tumors, structures associated with skin (i.e. hair, nails and mucus membranes), and other specialized diseases.
There are more than 400 color photographs that graphically illustrate skin lesions. They are useful but graphic and not for the faint at heart. The latest edition includes new chapters on malignant melanoma, bioterrorism, sports medicine, and psycho-dermatology.
There are many more excellent skin health resources at the Stanford Health Library, including books on specific dermatological conditions and disorders, information packets and research assistance. More information is available at http://healthlibrary.stanford.edu/resources/internet/bodysystems/skin_intro.html.
Branches of the Stanford Health Library are located at the Stanford Shopping Center near Bloomingdales'; on the third floor of Stanford Hospital or on the main level of Stanford's new Cancer Center. Contact the Health Library at 650-725-8400, http://healthlibrary.stanford.edu or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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