One of Smithsonian's 10 Best Science Books of 2021
A taboo-busting romp through the shame, stink, and strange science of sweating.
Sweating may be one of our weirdest biological functions, but it’s also one of our most vital and least understood. In The Joy of Sweat, Sarah Everts delves into its role in the body—and in human history.
Why is sweat salty? Why do we sweat when stressed? Why do some people produce colorful sweat? And should you worry about Big Brother tracking the hundreds of molecules that leak out in your sweat—not just the stinky ones or alleged pheromones—but the ones that reveal secrets about your health and vices?
Everts’s entertaining investigation takes readers around the world—from Moscow, where she participates in a dating event in which people sniff sweat in search of love, to New Jersey, where companies hire trained armpit sniffers to assess the efficacy of their anti-sweat products. In Finland, Everts explores the delights of the legendary smoke sauna and the purported health benefits of good sweat, while in the Netherlands she slips into the sauna theater scene, replete with costumes, special effects, and towel dancing.
Along the way, Everts traces humanity’s long quest to control sweat, culminating in the multibillion-dollar industry for deodorants and antiperspirants. And she shows that while sweating can be annoying, our sophisticated temperature control strategy is one of humanity’s most powerful biological traits.
Deeply researched and written with great zest, The Joy of Sweat is a fresh take on a gross but engrossing fact of human life.
About the Author
Sarah Everts holds a master’s degree in chemistry, and has written for Scientific American,Smithsonian, New Scientist, and the Economist. She teaches journalism at Carleton University and lives in Ottawa, Canada.
An entertaining and illuminating guide to the necessity and virtues of perspiration…Everts is a crisp and lively writer. — Jennifer Szalai, New York Times
Everts’ plunge into sweat is full of energy, and her open curiosity about our much-maligned bodily secretion leaks onto every page. — Bethany Brookshire, Science News
A glowing, revelatory account that belongs on the same shelf with works by Ed Yong and Carl Zimmer. — Oprah Daily
This beach read is both an ode to sweat and a call to arms to celebrate, rather than spurn, this miraculous process…[A] cheerful, unabashed deep dive into the dank world of sweat and stink. — Emily Cataneo, Undark
[A] well-researched, zesty study. — Andrew Robinson, Nature
[A] whole lot of fun…[M]issing The Joy of Sweat would be the pits.
— Terri Schlichenmeyer, The Bookworm Sez
Entertaining. — Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon
Delightful. — Kerri Miller, Minnesota Public Radio
A fascinating account of an involuntary bodily function that turns out to be as unique as a fingerprint. — Irina Dumitrescu, Times Literary Supplement (UK)
Everts has charm and enthusiasm, writes breezily and, along the way, effectively debunks a number of enduring myths…[F]un, entertaining and full of interesting facts. — Simon Humphreys, The Mail on Sunday (UK)
Everts has an easy hand with demystifying myths associated with sweat…Packed full of information and unexpected tidbits, this is hard to put down. — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Fascinating. — Kirkus Reviews
Entertaining…As she tackles a subject that some people deem taboo or even gross, Everts incorporates interesting historical facts, market research and scientific discoveries, skillfully turning science into poetry. — Bookpage (starred review)
A witty, informative, and quirky consideration of this bodily fluid…Perspiration is cooler than you'd ever imagine. — Booklist
Engaging popular science that will spark the interest of anyone curious about this unique bodily function. — Library Journal
The Joy of Sweat is meticulously researched, delightfully told, and—whether we like it or not—universally relatable.
— Alex Hutchinson, best-selling author of Endure
Sweating makes us human and in The Joy of Sweat, Sarah Everts explains the fascinating science behind this remarkable physiological function. Perspiration doesn’t just keep us cool, it also reveals a lot about us—everything from the flavor of potato crisps we eat to the bugs in our microbiome. Everts debunks loads of sweat-related bunk and takes readers on fascinating adventures to explore how sweating helps us adapt to our environment and navigate our social networks. The Joy of Sweat provides riveting lessons about physiology, hormones, sociology, and even love.
— Christie Aschwanden, best-selling author of Good to Go
It makes us stink, it makes us stand out, it makes us shy—is there anything worth saying about sweat? Turns out, yes. Sarah Everts' sensitive, clever, funny inquiry into perspiration leads us on a tour through privacy, technology, history, sexuality, and ultimately the mysteries of being human. — Maryn McKenna, author of Big Chicken