Oliver Sacks, meet your match. Melanie Thernstrom’s Pain Chronicles is a wonderful meld of science, memoir, history, and mystery. Thernstrom interweaves her own struggle with chronic pain with amazing research tracing the concept of pain in history—from ancient Babylonian pain-banishing spells to modern brain imaging. Think of it: pain, though universal, in many ways is invisible; when we stub a toe, there is nothing to reflect the pain we feel other than our behavior to it (in the toe-stubbing case, much hopping and hollering). But pain—that thing that travels and channels and blooms and dissipates—what exactly is it? Thernstrom’s research is masterful at making the invisible visible; her detailed writing, and ever-readable stories, offer insight and meaning as a way to transcend suffering and make it known.