Bookworm: Missing ‘Joy of Sweat’ would be the pits

‘Craigslist Confidential’ is simply a book you must see

Terri Schlichenmeyer

“The Joy of Sweat: The Strange Science of Perspiration”

  • By Sarah Everts
  • c. 2021, Norton
  • $26.95, $35.95 Canada; 285 pages

Everybody raise your hand. Go ahead, high in the air. Raise your hand if you like ice cream, vacations, French fries, good dogs, or free snacks. Put ‘em up if you can remember your mom’s birthday, the name of your First Love, and all the words to “The Star Spangled Banner.” Read “The Joy of Sweat” by Sarah Everts and wave your hand over your head if you.... no, wait. Never mind.

“The Joy of Sweat: The Strange Science of Perspiration” by Sarah Everts.

It’s hot outside, and just walking from home to car is enough to put a sheen on your face, a trickle down your spine, and hooo-weee under your arms. Nearly everybody sweats, but we Earthlings spend some $75 billion on substances to help us pretend that we don’t.

You’re sweating right now, in fact. Humans are “always sweating, at least a little bit,” says Everts, but get physical, and things get critical. On a hot day or after any kind of overexertion, “your internal temperature could easily reach life-threatening levels” without some sort of cooling-off. Sweat, in a sort of collaboration with bipedalism, is evolution’s way of protecting you from heat stroke.

Be thankful for it: some creatures use urine, feces, and vomit to keep cool.

Nope, you’re in luck: eccrine sweat glands cover most of your body and are responsible for rushing sweat to the surface of your skin so the sweat can evaporate for a “net cooling effect.” Apocrine sweat glands are found along hair follicles, such as on your groin, armpits, or scalp; they’re larger than your eccrine glands and are responsible for “chemical communication” and sexual selection. Where you have apocrine glands is where you have a “stink zone.”

But sweat isn’t just a smelly, wet, potential embarrassment. It can tell scientists what foods and medicines you consume and diseases you might have; it can make you manipulatable, and it can help solve crimes via fingerprints (which are basically just “sweatprints”).

More than anything, though, sweat is “just a body trying its best to do its thing, to stay alive.”

Welcome to mid-summer, and you’ve already done that old raise-your-arm-over-your-head-take-a-whiff thing and wrung out two t-shirts. Isn’t it time to get “The Joy of Sweat” in your wet, clammy hands?

It is, because author Sarah Everts turns what might be an embarrassment into a SuperPower, helping readers to see why we should welcome that mid-afternoon sheen or post-workout wetness. Along the way, she takes us into laboratories and boardrooms, perfumeries and sauna theatre to see the future of sweat and, most surprisingly, how it’s perceived remotely.

There’s just enough science here to inform a reader, a few answers to some sweaty questions and a big maybe, just enough eeeeeuuuwww to entertain, a bit of humor to make you forget your disgust, and a whole lot of fun.

It almost makes you want to go outside today and do something.

That something may be to go find this book and get more appreciation for your perspiration. Because, really – missing “The Joy of Sweat” would be the pits.


Sweat’s cool and so is air conditioning but there’s a price to pay. In “After Cooling: On Freon, Global Warming, and the Terrible Cost of Comfort” by Eric Dean Wilson, you’ll see how we (finally!) learned to control the climate of our rooms and homes, and how our comfort might be hurting our planet. This book might not completely change minds, but it might alter a few habits ...

More:Bookworm: The call of the great outdoors

“Craiglist Confidential: A Collection of Secrets from Anonymous Strangers”

  • By Helena Dea Bala
  • c. 2021, Gallery Books
  • $26, $35 Canada; 247 pages

I see. Literally or otherwise, to affirm or aver, you see what someone’s saying. You tell them so when you understand their point of view, their body language, their facial clues, whether you know someone well or not. And in “Craigslist Confidential” by Helena Dea Bala, you see all the way into their hearts.

“Craiglist Confidential: A Collection of Secrets from Anonymous Strangers” by Helena Dea Bala.

Helena Dea Bala had no reason to complain; she even admits it. She was gainfully employed by a lobbyist in Washington D.C., she was well-educated, healthy, and she had a place to live. She had everything most people could ever want – none of which quashed that “empty” feeling she had, or the alienation, or the isolation-in-the-middle-of-a-crowd sense she felt.

And then she spent her lunch hour one day with a homeless man she saw outside her office almost daily. She listened to his story – really listened – and it changed her life.

She went home and posted an ad on Craigslist

“Tell me about yourself,” it said.

And people did.

Edie told Dea Bala about her daughter, who spent her first years battling one major health crisis after another before there was a happy ending. Zarah explained the strength it took to deal with an arranged marriage, and the fear she has for a younger sister who’ll have those struggles one day soon. Federico proved that true love includes a “story ... as crazy as mine.”

“Craiglist Confidential: A Collection of Secrets from Anonymous Strangers” author Helena Dea Bala.
Gallery Books

Conversely, divorce is hard, as Sam explains – especially when you’ve got to blame yourself for a part of it. Kurt told Dea Bala about the joy of transitioning, followed by the crushing grief of his wife’s death.

Frank talked about his wife’s Alzheimer’s disease.

Jane addressed the problems she has with a manipulative and mentally ill son. George may or may not be a hoarder. Raven’s mother allowed her to be sexually abused. Patrick confessed that “Mogadishu was the beginning of the end for me.” Kate claims to be a victim of the justice system. And David talks about racism when he was a boy, and what it’s like now...

There’s a certain feeling of voyeurism that you get when reading “Craigslist Confidential.” It’s like eavesdropping in a crowded waiting room with a chatty stranger in the seat behind you and hearing a story that seems outlandishly embellished but totally believable. Like being caught in the middle seat of an airplane and Mr. Aisle Seat needs to talk to somebody.

In this case, though, you’ll be glad you surreptitiously pried. Author Helena Dea Bala’s forty discovered stories are wry and funny, loving and aspersion-casting. They’ll give you a sense of schadenfreude, and proof that bad decisions are often the results of a sad past. You’ll see a mother’s love in action, as well as a mother’s indifference; and you’ll be shocked at how some of these tales leave you dangling off a high, shaky cliff.

The humanity in these stories is irresistible, addicting, and sometimes heart-wrenching and fans of Humans of New York shouldn’t wait to find it. “Craigslist Confidential” is simply a book you must see.

More:Bookworm: Two books for quick fixes, fast answers, conversions, or recipes

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.