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Vanity, Vitality and Virility – John Emsely ***

This is one of those “seemed like a good idea at the time” titles. It’s a glance behind the scenes at all those chemicals that influence our appearance and health, from the materials that make lipstick shimmer to the mechanism behind Viagra. In principle this should be fascinating, and Emsley does his usual good job of putting the message across in an approachable way – but the whole package looks dull and simply doesn’t entice the reader in.
It should be a good book – it’s by a good writer on a potentially interesting topic – but there’s just something about the topic that makes it less than a sum of its parts.

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Review by Brian Clegg

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