“The Sawbones Book” by Dr. Sydnee McElroy & Justin McElroy

Buy, Borrow, or Skip?

Skip. If you’re interested, listen to the podcast.


This is a non-fiction book about medical history, adapted from the podcast “Sawbones” by the hosts. It covers a handful of medical mishaps in a light tone, with illustrations, and asides.

Content Warnings:

It’s a book about the types of weird, reckless shit we used to do/still sort of do to each other in the name of medicine- I find it to be fairly tame, but the human body has a lot of gross things going on and people can be inventive in their cruelty so, you know. Keep that in mind.

Impressions, Comments, and Personal Beefs:

Someone has done Dr. Sydnee Mcelroy and her husband Justin dirty, y’all. This book is badly laid out and poorly proof-edited.

I like to think I’m fairly mistake-friendly, but the typos and abrupt changes where a sentence was revised were so frequent as to be jarring.

In an effort to mimic the tone of the podcast, the book makes frequent use of asides, contained in green boxes that interrupt the main text. It is probably possible to do this well, but frequently the asides aren’t particularly close to the piece of information that they’re in response to- it’s common for them a few paragraphs away, in either direction. Or, in a different column, or a few times not even on the same physical page, all of which leave the reader to try and work out where or if they should stop to read an aside, if at all.

There were illustrations throughout – some made custom for the book and others sourced elsewhere. I found the ones that were taken from stock to often be poorly placed, being only superficially related to the topic, and distracting, taking time away from figuring out how to read the asides while I tried to figure out if the illustration was intended to convey some piece of information to me.

I found the most readable parts of the book to be in between chapters. There would often be a spread with some information which was not lengthy enough to fill out its own chapter and these are well-presented, well laid out, and very readable.

But, this is unfortunately not true of the book at large. I do not recommend this book- listen to the podcast, instead.