Book Review

Monty Lyman.

The Remarkable Life of the Skin. An intimate journey across our surface. Bantam Press. Published 2019

Priced £20.00 Amazon price £12.99. Hardback. Black and white. 242 pages. References and glossary plus index takes the volume to 283.


Whilst travelling to the gym one morning I heard a passage from this book being read on radio 4. The reader was the author and he was talking about skin. Entranced with the subject, if not the narrative, I vowed to buy the book. I was not disappointed.

Dr Lyman is a junior doctor but seems to have a wealth of knowledge having travelled globally to collect his stories covering skin. He has put this abundance of material to effective use in recounting skin disease from across a broad stage of conditions. 

It may seem a hackneyed expression, but I wish that I had had this book whilst at college. For a student, or someone with a passion for skin, this book is a must for the podo-dermatologist, if not, dare I say, all serious podiatrists. We spend our life dealing with skin and so knowledge of the cellular activity is important.

Ten chapters are deliciously divided into headings that make you want to read further. ‘The Swiss Army Organ’ is the first chapter and tells us of the diverse role of each part of the epidermis and then dermis. Each cell is explained, not with the calibre of a school text book, but engaging with nuggets of information spread liberally with historical anecdotes. This style is repeated for each chapter and beautifully written with an economy of illustrations which offer clarity over some of the figures represented in dermatological literature.

As you read through the book you are drawn deeper into the cavernous hallways of knowledge that consider the skin more than just a barrier. Aging skin, psychological skin, spiritual skin may all seem bizarre but they all have effective stories to tell, and speak about how we consider skin so important to the story of life. There are sad tales, bizarre tales, and tales of joy when a cure was found. From Africa to the Southern states of America, from India to the far east. Australia and Maori New Zealand, then back to home in the UK and Europe.

Melanocytes to Meissner’s corpuscle. Each important ingredient is described in a way anyone with a modicum of comprehension of human biology could follow. Who were the scientists who managed to break the code of life and allow us to understand the physiology of the skin so well? By the time you have read the chapter on Skin safari and Gut Feeling you realise that this is not a text book; it is a bible, a novel and an A-Z wrapped all into one. I give it five stars, not least because I could not put it down.

Easy to read? It was read over 2 days and during one airplane flight.


Thanks for reading ‘The Remarkable Life of the Skin’ review by David R Tollafield

 November 2019 by Busypencilcase Communications Ltd