I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes within Us and a Grander View of Lifeby Ed Yong
New York Times Bestseller
Joining the ranks of popular science classics like The Botany of Desire and The Selfish Gene, a groundbreaking, wondrously informative, and vastly entertaining examination of the most significant revolution in biology since Darwin—a “microbe’s-eye view” of the world that reveals a/b>/b>/b>/b>
New York Times Bestseller
Joining the ranks of popular science classics like The Botany of Desire and The Selfish Gene, a groundbreaking, wondrously informative, and vastly entertaining examination of the most significant revolution in biology since Darwin—a “microbe’s-eye view” of the world that reveals a marvelous, radically reconceived picture of life on earth.
Every animal, whether human, squid, or wasp, is home to millions of bacteria and other microbes. Ed Yong, whose humor is as evident as his erudition, prompts us to look at ourselves and our animal companions in a new light—less as individuals and more as the interconnected, interdependent multitudes we assuredly are.
The microbes in our bodies are part of our immune systems and protect us from disease. In the deep oceans, mysterious creatures without mouths or guts depend on microbes for all their energy. Bacteria provide squid with invisibility cloaks, help beetles to bring down forests, and allow worms to cause diseases that afflict millions of people.
Many people think of microbes as germs to be eradicated, but those that live with us—the microbiome—build our bodies, protect our health, shape our identities, and grant us incredible abilities. In this astonishing book, Ed Yong takes us on a grand tour through our microbial partners, and introduces us to the scientists on the front lines of discovery. It will change both our view of nature and our sense of where we belong in it.
British science journalist Yong succeeds in encouraging readers to recognize the critical importance of biological microorganisms. He argues that humans must move past the belief that bacteria are bad and need to be eradicated, and adopt a deeper understanding of the positive role they play in the lives of most organisms. Yong makes a superb case for his position by interviewing numerous scientists and presenting their fascinating work in an accessible and persuasive fashion. Throughout, he takes a holistic ecological perspective, contending that it makes no sense to examine bacteria in isolation. As in all ecological systems, context is everything, and the complex community structure of the microbiome does much to determine the effects of various bacteria. Yong demonstrates that this more inclusive view has led to a reconceptualization of how the immune system might work, how microorganisms can shape the development of organ systems, how bacteria might play a role in autism, and how the microbiome may influence an organism’s propensity for obesity. He also shows that scientists have moved beyond the theoretical by successfully performing “ecosystem transplants” of human gut microorganisms, and he envisions a future that includes “artisanal bacteria” designed to perform specific tasks. Yong reveals “how ubiquitous and vital microbes are” on scales large and small. (Aug.)
Most people associate bacteria with the bad germs that cause infection and disease, but symbiotic bacteria are crucial to life as we—and many other species—know it. Yong, a science journalist who writes for the Atlantic, examines the bacteria vital to the digestive, immune, and reproductive health of species as diverse as humans, squid, woodrats, and wasps. Even sap-sucking aphids rely on symbiotic microbes to provide them with the amino acids they can't make on their own. He concludes this fascinating study with a look at the brave new world of synthetic biology, where scientists hope one day to bioengineer "designer" bacteria equipped with the right genes to destroy pathogens, eliminate cancer cells, and alter neurotransmitters. (Originally published in Great Britain, this book retains British spelling, punctuation, and expressions.) Yong's readable and entertaining style is appropriate for the nonspecialist, though occasionally the author gets carried away with the use of metaphor and other figurative language. VERDICT Highly recommended for general science readers interested in the complicated relationships between microbes and their hosts.—Cynthia Lee Knight, Hunterdon Cty. Historical Soc., Flemington, NJ
The microbiome is one of the most talked-about topics in modern science, but it's a complex and evolving field with important nuances often missed by the media. Atlantic science writer Yong refines the natural history of these microscopic wonders and breaks down the cutting-edge science that may soon result in revolutionary medical advances.Simply put, the microbiome (or "microbiota") is the vast collection of bacteria, viruses, and other microscopic organisms that live in and on the bodies of animals. While scientists have long been aware of the presence of some microbes, their abundance and significance have only been truly understood with the advent of tools that reveal their genetic identity. As a result, specialists around the world are focusing on exactly how microbes affect the health of their hosts. In this sweeping and meticulously researched book, the author introduces many of these pioneering researchers, and through their experiments, he elucidates microbes' astonishingly wide-ranging roles. Prepare to meet some weird animals and weirder microbes, as Yong guides us through the animal kingdom to explain how microbes facilitate digestion, reproduction, and other functions integral to the survival of a species. In humans, microbes have been shown to regulate inflammation, an immune response linked to dozens of chronic conditions. In fact, in the absence of symbiotic microbes, life as we know it would quickly collapse—and yet it was only recently that microbes were understood to be more than disease-carrying bugs and more recently still that scientists have begun to understand their potential medicinal power. The author excels at objectively navigating the large body of research related to the microbiome without overselling its curative potential or sacrificing any of the deliciously icky details, and he delivers some of the finest science writing out there in language that will appeal to a wide audience. An exceptionally informative, beautifully written book that will profoundly shift one's sense of self to that of symbiotic multitudes.
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date:
- Sales rank:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.30(d)
Meet the Author
Ed Yong is an award-winning science writer on the staff of the Atlantic. His blog Not Exactly Rocket Science is hosted by National Geographic, and his work has appeared in The New Yorker, Wired, the New York Times, Nature, New Scientist, Scientific American, the Guardian, the Times, Discover, Slate, and other publications. He lives in London and Washington DC.
- Date of Birth:
- December 1981
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