How to Remove A Brain: and other bizarre medical practices and procedures by David Haviland

How to Remove A Brain: and other bizarre medical practices and procedures by David Haviland, 154 pages, Thistle Publishing, August 10th 2017, Genre: Reference/Trivia/Curiosities and Wonders.

Review by Leigh Holland.

How to Remove A Brain is a delightful, if sometimes gross and indelicate, read covering some of the oddest and quirkiest medical practices throughout Western history. The book is organized into ten chapters into which trivia is organized by time and/or topic, such as “The Wisdom of the Ancients”, “Disgusting Diseases”, and “Dodgy Diagnosis”.

Each chapter starts with a quote from a famous individual regarding medicine. My favorite quote was under Chapter Four, Curious Cures: “He’s the best physician that knows the worthlessness of most medicines.” -Benjamin Franklin. The trivia is set up in question and answer format for an engaging read. Examples of some of the questions you’ll find the answers to in this work are:

Why was urine used to wash battlefield wounds?

Was Adolf Hitler addicted to crystal meth?

Which disease was thought to be cured by leading the patient three times around a pig sty, while wearing a donkey’s halter?

Why was Edward Jenner rejected by the College of Physicians?

Who was the real Sherlock Holmes?

Was a derided female scientist the true discoverer of the structure of DNA?

Was Abraham Lincoln poisoned?

Why is it that so many murderers are doctors?

Perhaps one of my favorite topics in this book was “How accurate is the presentation of medicine on TV and in films?” True, it isn’t as fun as finding out if Hitler was addicted to crystal meth, but I found the answer quite informative nonetheless. I also enjoyed learning trivia about bras and boobs. Yes, bras and boobs, that’s what I said. If you’re fascinated by the quirks of medicine and its trivia, you’ll love this book. So if you want to find out what a paraffinoma is or what diseases the Elephant Man really suffered from, pick up this tome of medical trivia.

You can find this book at How to Remove A Brain.

Other reviews of this book can be seen at:

Fangfreakintastic Reviews

Book Description:

“Hilarious, and sometimes stomach-turning, vignettes.”

New Scientist

“I never thought a book titled How to Remove a Brain would be so incredibly brilliant. David Haviland, I don’t know you, or why you create books like this and Why Dogs Eat Poop, but you are clearly smarter than your maturity level.”

Kick Ass Book Reviews

“I’m not going to lie, I read this book with unabashed joy, and in the process I truly feel I learned a lot. Granted, I’m not sure when the information I learned will ever come into play (How many times a day does Hitler’s potential Crystal Meth addiction come into play?) but it’s still all interesting to know, and certainly fun to read, thanks to Haviland’s ability to be both educational and whimsical at the exact same time.”


“Any fan of the absurd and/or obscure is sure to delight in this strange (and slightly stomach-turning) book. I love trivia and this book delivers.”

As the Page Turns

“Delightfully disgusting.”


“Haviland once again proves ideally suited for this sort of writing. His style is simultaneously breezy and matter-of-fact, bringing each vile vignette to amusing, engaging life. And it’s clear that this is a guy who does his homework. These subjects, as weird and disgusting as they might be, have been pretty thoroughly researched. It creates a reading experience that is both entertaining and – God help us – educational.”

The Maine Edge

“Contains fascinating insights into medical history, in spite of its off-beat title.”

Irish Medical Times

“A hilarious look at medicine throughout history… a painstakingly researched compendium of bizarre facts from the world of medicine, administered with a healthy dose of humour… a must for fans of the bizarre, and perfect prep for livening up dull dinner party conversations.”


“A GP Christmas stocking must… From the ‘Wisdom of the Ancients’ through to diseases, diagnoses and cures, this rip roaring journey through the wonders of medical advancement misses little. The content is without doubt one of the funniest recaps of the great, good and unbelievable of medicine. 9/10”


“Very interesting and a little gross at times.”

Of Beauty and Nothingness

“Love the science, love the history. A fun/interesting/trivia filled read. I am a professional scientist, working in healthcare and I am not at all ashamed to admit I learned several things from this book which I’d never heard before (like the origin of the word ‘toady’ ). Cool stuff.”

Non-Stop Reader

“This is a wonderful book devoted to dragging up every weird and wacky idea in medical science from times ancient to present. Well written with a pen dipped in sarcasm, you’ll find yourself laughing and groaning. I thoroughly enjoyed it!”

Ellen Whyte

“I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s basically a collection of cool/interesting/funny medical anecdotes. Loved the brief stories about medicine throughout history, and all the weird (and gross) things that have been done throughout time and across many different cultures.”

The Nerd Herd

•How was history changed by a single Soho water pump?

•Which condition was treated by trapping a child inside a tree trunk?

•Where is the soul found?

•How long does it take to digest chewing gum?

•What are hiccups for?

•Did the Gauls brush their teeth with urine?

•Does organ theft actually happen?

•Is it safe to fly with breast implants?

•Did Christopher Columbus import syphilis to Europe?

•Was King George V killed by his doctor, in order to meet The Times’ deadline?

Taking in everything from the outrageous (yes, Hitler was addicted to crystal meth) to the eye-watering (such as the renowned surgeon who accidentally cut off his patient’s left testicle) to the downright disgusting (like the ‘cure’ for toothache used by the Egyptians involving dead mouse paste), this book proves that medical science is not for the faint-hearted, lily-livered or weak-stomached!

About the Author:

David Haviland is a bestselling author, ghostwriter, and journalist. He lives in London, England. For more amusing trivia, you can check out his website at


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