Skip Navigation

Book Report

Sights Unseen

By Bret McCabe

For the Benefit of Those Who See

Rosemary Mahoney
Cover of For the Benefit of Those Who See
Will Kirk

“I imagined being totally blind forever and how unbearable that would be and began to panic a little. To be blind would be to become one of those people I had always pitied and slightly feared, one of those people who through no fault of their own had been deprived of their vision and, thus, the real enjoyment of life, their effectuality, their potential.”

Nearly two miles above sea level, Rosemary Mahoney is given pragmatic advice on how to know where she is: “When we feel the ground coming different under our feet, we know where we find ourselves.” At that moment, Mahoney is blindfolded and being led around Lhasa, Tibet, by two blind teenage girls, Yangchen and Choden. When Mahoney asks Yangchen how she knows it’s cloudy outside, you can almost hear the implied “duh” in the young woman’s tone: “I do not feel the sun on my nose.”

Mahoney is a travel writer fond of solitary excursions to unusual and sometimes remote places. The above scene comes from For the Benefit of Those Who See (Little, Brown, 2014), her latest adventure, for which she tries to rob herself of her most trusted tool: sight. The book is informed by two teaching stints, one at Braille Without Borders, a training center for the blind in Lhasa, in 2005; the other at its sister facility, the International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs in Trivandrum, India, in 2009.

Throughout her story, Mahoney tries to understand sightless reality, and she does it with such blunt tenderness that it lends her writing a shambolic glee. Though she alludes to secondary sources—philosophical considerations of blind- ness, medical accounts of sight being restored to blind patients—it’s her experiences that make Benefit so thoughtful. In her introduction she con- fesses that she once considered blindness worse than death; later, she speculates that her students have a fundamental connection to the world that she doesn’t. In between, For the Benefit of Those Who See documents what happens when a well-trained observer begins to hear, smell, and touch the world as individually as she sees it.


Cover of Confronting Chronic Pain

Confronting Chronic Pain: A Pain Doctor's Guide to Relief 

Steven H. Richeimer, MD, with Kathy Steligo

A comprehensive guide to help people who suffer from chronic pain. Steven Richeimer, an associate professor of anesthesiology and psychiatry at the University of Southern California, answers fundamental questions about what causes persistent pain and how to get relief from physical, social, and emotional suffering. 
cover of Field Guide to the Natural World of Washington, D.C.

Field Guide to the Natural World of Washington, D.C.

Howard Youth

A guide to the natural wonders of the nation’s capital. Naturalist Howard Youth offers a tour of the city’s flora and fauna as he hikes through Rock Creek Park and along the Potomac and Anacostia rivers. Drawings by Carnegie artist Mark A. Klingler and photography by Robert E. Mumford Jr. illustrate the journey.
cover ofBipolar Disorder: A Guide for Patients and Families

Bipolar Disorder: A Guide for Patients and Families

Francis Mark Mondimore, MD

A completely updated third edition of Johns Hopkins psychiatrist Francis Mark Mondimore’s best-selling book. Initially published in 1999, this splendidly written, compassionate, and comprehensive text has sold more than 150,000 copies in paperback alone. The simplicity of style makes this an exceptionally valuable book for individuals with bipolar disorder and their families.

5 Picks

Linda Bunyard

Illustration of Linda Bunyard

Nutrition expert Linda Bunyard offers her top five picks for anyone trying to manage their weight. 


  1. Thinner This Year

    Chris Crowley and Jen Sacheck, PhD
    Workman Publishing Company (2013)
  2. The Beck Diet Solution

    Judith S. Beck, PhD
    Oxmoor House (2009)
  3. The End of Overeating

    David A. Kessler, MD
    Rodale inc. (2010)
  4. Nutrition for Life

    Lisa Hark, PhD, RD, and Darwin Deen, MD
    DK publishing (2007)
  5. Betty Crocker: The 1500 Calorie a Day Cookbook

    General Mills
    John Wiley & Sons (2012)

Other Departments

  • Expert Advice
    What can our skin tell us about our health?
  • Survey
    New findings in health, including diet soda's downside, why you should stop taking vitamins, and how to successfully age in place.
  • Breakthroughs
    News from the cutting edge of research: treating brain cancer with fat cells, getting ahead of flu virus mutations, and a chemical to forget fear.
  • Just Curious
    Do brain fitness games really work?
  • MedTech
    From low-tech to high-tech, our roundup of simple medical tools and sophisticated gadgetry.
  • Viewpoint
    Adam Sheingate on why our food is still not safe.
  • Experience
    First person: Charlene Rothkopf on her journey to recovery.
  • Ten Things
    10 Must-Haves for Your Kitchen Pantry