The author and activist’s sharp critique of what she calls an ‘epidemic of overdiagnosis’ is a joyous celebration of life

You may view your body as a temple – particularly if you exercise ferociously, detox regularly, desist from alcohol, tobacco, sugar and all processed foods and positivity seeps out of every pore – but the indefatigable Barbara Ehrenreich has news for you. No amount of mindfulness, self-discipline and denial can spare you from your macrophages, the large white blood cells in your tissues that are found especially at the site of infection. They are out to get you. If they so choose, you will depart this world early and possibly painfully; control is an illusion.

Ehrenreich is a socialist, activist and fighter for universal healthcare, women’s rights and economic justice; she is a multi-award-winning investigative journalist and author of more than 20 books, including the seminal bestseller Nickel and Dimed: Undercover in Low-Wage USA (2001). She also has a surgically precise way with words, a sense of humour and a PhD in cellular immunology. So when, in Natural Causes: Life, Death and the Illusion of Control, she describes the civil war within our bodies that macrophages may wage – encouraging cancer cells to spread, apparently for no reason other than they can – it may persuade you to rip up your gym membership and eat nothing but cream buns for what’s left of your time on Earth. But that’s not Ehrenreich’s intention.

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