The Geography of Madness: Penis Thieves, Voodoo Death, and the Search for the Meaning of the World's Strangest Syndromes

Melville House. Apr. 2016. 256p. notes. ISBN 9781612193724. $25.95. TRAV
This book's subtitle is what may draw readers in, the use of "penis thieves" in particular standing out, and a great part of the book is focused on the author's search for the elusive penis thieves around the world, traveling from Nigeria to Singapore. This book is not, however, a graphic or sensationalized travelog. Instead, Bures (Harper's Magazine) focuses on the definition of culture and how this might affect different diseases, epidemics, and syndromes around the world. It's also the story of his travels, including to Italy and China, as he attempts to understand the finer points of such conditions as depression and epidemics of voodoo death worldwide, as well as penis thieves. A little bit of everything—travelog, history lesson, statistical discussion—the book is not specifically any one thing, which is perhaps its downfall. This well written book features interviews with doctors who have dealt with these epidemics, creating a compelling read. The author's travels, however, though giving context, are almost a distraction.
VERDICT Enjoyable for anyone with interests in cultural differences or the history of medicine.
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