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Written by Lawrence Hill

Series Title: CBC Massey Lectures

  • 272 Pages
  • 9781770893245
  • SCIENCE / Life Sciences / Human Anatomy & Physiology
  • SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General



Publication Date September 28, 2013

Selected for The Globe 100 Books in 2013.

With the 2013 CBC Massey Lectures, bestselling author Lawrence Hill offers a provocative examination of the scientific and social history of blood, and on the ways that it unites and divides us today.

Blood runs red through every person’s arteries and fulfills the same functions in every human being. The study of blood has advanced our understanding of biology and improved medical treatments, but its cultural and social representations have divided us perennially. Blood pulses through religion, literature, and the visual arts. Every time it pools or spills, we learn a little more about what brings human beings together and what pulls us apart. For centuries, perceptions of difference in our blood have separated people on the basis of gender, race, class, and nation. Ideas about blood purity have spawned rules about who gets to belong to a family or cultural group, who enjoys the rights of citizenship and nationality, what privileges one can expect to be granted or denied, whether you inherit poverty or the right to rule over the masses, what constitutes fair play in sport, and what defines a person’s identity.

Blood: The Stuff of Life is a bold meditation on blood as an historical and contemporary marker of identity, belonging, gender, race, class, citizenship, athletic superiority, and nationhood.

Selected for the Globe and Mail Top 100 Book 2013


Lawrence Hill
Lawrence Hill is the author of several novels and works of nonfiction, including Some Great Thing, Any Known Blood, and the award-winning national bestseller The Book of Negroes. He also wrote the memoir Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada and co-authored, with Joshua Key, The Deserter’s Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq.


"Transparent and comelling. The book is as enthralling as it is informative. The reasons for Hill's success as a writer are apparent throughout." Publisher's weekly

"The book is enlivened by Hill's personal and familial experiences with blood... he affirms the humanist and scientifically accurate description that we are all part of the unfolding diversity of the human family. Amen!" Blog From the Bookstory

"Where Blood shines (glistens?) is in the many places where Hill exposes and explores the contradictions and liminal spaces of a topic that — whether we like it or not — unites us all." Toronto Star

"...elegantly argued lectures." Maclean's

"The book is chock full of fascinating statistics, anecdotes and arguments about blood and ranges in topics...It's entertaining, shocking and informative; the lectures should be both challenging and engaging." Vancouver Sun

"...Hill is a wonderful storyteller, and it’s the stories – his own in particular – that absorb and resonate." Globe and Mail

"...a comprehensive and powerful social history of blood and its myriad implications for the ways we view ourselves." The Province

"...Hill is a commanding storyteller..." Quill & Quire

"Brilliant and evocative... This is a history of life and of death, of health and sickness, of science, superstition and religion, of the very building block of family, ancestry and inheritance." Marlon James, author of The Book of Night Women

"A book of magisterial scope and breath-taking intimacy… Hill not only reveals the wisdom of our bodies, but also forces us to confront our prejudices and re-evaluate the meaning of our lives. Blood is biography at its best." Mark Jackson, Professor of the History of Medicine, University of Exeter

"A beautiful and erudite biography of that which courses through us all – I was totally captivated." James Davies, author of Cracked: Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm Than Good

"With compelling stories from history, science and his own family, Lawrence Hill shows the physical and metaphorical value of this liquid that we all share, yet which is so often used to divide us." Hugh Aldersey-Williams, bestselling author of Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements

"A rich volume... Part autobiography, part medical history and part cultural reflection, Hill dissects the many meanings of blood, in all times and all cultures, including our own." William Bynum, Professor Emeritus of the History of Medicine, UCL and author of The History of Medicine: A Very Short Introduction

"Passionately written and deeply informative." Siddhartha Mukherjee, Author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, and winner of the Guardian First Book Award