LEWISTON, Idaho – Ever wonder why human teeth tend to come in crooked, or why the arch in your foot can be such a tender area?
Lewis-Clark State College biology professor Alex Bezzerides offers answers to these questions and more with his first book “Evolution Gone Wrong: The Curious Reasons Why Our Bodies Work (Or Don’t).”
Bezzerides will launch his book Tuesday, May 18, in conjunction with the Moscow bookstore BookPeople of Moscow virtually on Zoom at 6:30 p.m. The meeting is free and open to the public. The BookPeople of Moscow Facebook page contains more information about the event.
The book focuses on the evolutionary origins of the aches and pains of the human body and how they have evolved over time. Each chapter explores a different problematic part of the body and why they can give a person trouble. The first section of the book includes chapters about the head and neck with topics like choking, snoring, nearsightedness, and the tooth/jaw mismatch explored in detail. The middle chapters focus on musculoskeletal issues like why so many people blow out their ACLs or have sore backs or sore feet. The book concludes with chapters on reproduction covering everything from the evolution of menstruation in humans, to the unique difficulties humans experience with fertility, to the pains of childbirth.
“The idea for this book was actually born out of a class I was teaching,” Bezzerides said. “There was a picture of a mouth in an anatomy and physiology textbook and the image showed all the teeth fitting perfectly. I asked the class a few questions about their teeth and came to realize that only two students in the entire class had perfectly fitting teeth with no history of pulled wisdom teeth or braces.”
The discussion in class made Bezzerides wonder why teeth don’t fit very well in a human mouth and he started to research it to explain it better. His curiosity grew and he started examining other parts of the body that seem to consistently give humans trouble.
Bezzerides said he worked on compiling ideas for the book over a couple of years and dedicated each Thursday to research and writing. The book, which took about six years from initial idea to finished product, has both humor and surprises.
As he was writing the book, Bezzerides began to look for an agent. He reached out to Rick Broadhead, who is the agent of another science writer, Sam Kean. Broadhead told Bezzerides to send him a proposal.
“Honestly, that was one of the biggest hurdles – making that connection to an agent,” Bezzerides said. “Then things took off. That was about four years ago and it took me a couple of more years to finish a draft. About 10 drafts later, we finished it.”
Harper Collins is the publisher for the book, which also will be sold in Canada. Bezzerides said there are plans for the book to come out in paperback at a later date.
Bezzerides said his goal was to write a book about the evolution of the human body that is relatable and engaging. He said he hopes everyone can find some type of personal connection with something he writes about.
“This is not a textbook, but a book for everybody,” he said. “I wrote in a way that both high school kids and older adults can sit down and enjoy it.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the year even more interesting for Bezzerides and his wife Julie, who is an associate professor in the Humanities Division at the college. They both took sabbatical leaves from the college this school year and have been in Mexico. Julie teaches Spanish at LC State and wanted to spend time where she could speak both English and Spanish.
“It’s been fun, interesting and a little weird this year with everything,” Alex said. “Just trying to work on the launch of the book has been challenging being here because the internet is pretty spotty. But I was able to get it done.”
Alex said he’s been tossing around an idea for a new book, but his focus is on the current launch.
“I hope people enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it,” he said. “It’s a fun book.”