Sex and the Nose

Review by E W Fisher
Birmingham, UK

This book has 25 chapters with introductory sections and a summary and is very well indexed. The book is a synthesis of knowledge from the worlds of the practising adult and paediatric otolaryngologist (rhinology in particular), endocrinology, comparative anatomy and physiology, literature, poetry, medical history, social history and art – to list but a few. There are therefore many groups of readers that would find something of interest in this book, and I have not found any similar publication that is as well set out and referenced. The author is a multi-talented retired otolaryngologist who worked in North Devon during his career and has many interests, including poetry and history. He gave a lecture on this topic for many years as part of the rhinoplasty course at the Royal National, Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital, London. This course was organised by Mr Tony Bull and Mr Ian Mackay, and the book is dedicated to Mr Tony Bull, who died in 2016.

‘Sex’ is used in its widest sense, with much of the most useful material for the jobbing otolaryngologist being in relation to the effects of hormones on everyday clinical conditions such as rhinitis, epistaxis and olfactory function. My own experience of teaching trainees is that the more practically relevant subject matter is not well enough known (to the detriment of their patients) and this book covers the ground comprehensively. Topics such as Jacobsen’s organ (the vomeronasal organ), the terminal nerve (cranial nerve XIII) and pheromones in animals and humans are covered comprehensively with wide-ranging references.

The quality of the artwork, photographs and diagrams is high and there are some that might be considered ‘erotic’ but are always relevant and make the point well in the way that words alone could not. Art work goes well beyond Western Europe and includes relevant Japanese artwork. The text is liberally sprinkled with the author’s trademark humour. Professor Nick Jones, in his preface, suggests that some readers may find themselves blushing at some of the content. This is fair comment, but the content never crosses the line of acceptability. This is primarily an academic treatise and the author never loses sight of that.

The author’s use of the English language is carefully tailored to be intelligible to the layman as well as a medical or scientific reader. The cost of the hardback book is high, which is a great pity as the book could achieve better sales from the wider reading public, rather than languish in specialist libraries or the library of an ENT specialist with an interest in rhinology. The publishers may wish to consider the feasibility of a low cost paperback version which would fall within the budget of the general reader. The book is much too useful to be restricted to a narrow readership.