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I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life (2016)

by Ed Yong

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9232416,416 (4.12)79
This book lets us peer into the world of microbes -- not as germs to be eradicated, but as invaluable parts of our lives -- allowing us to see how ubiquitous and vital microbes are: they sculpt our organs, defend us from disease, break down our food, educate our immune systems, guide our behavior, bombard our genomes with their genes, and grant us incredible abilities. While much of the prevailing discussion around the microbiome has focused on its implications for human health, Yong broadens this focus to the entire animal kingdom, prompting us to look at ourselves and our fellow animals in a new light: less as individuals and more as the interconnected, interdependent multitudes we are. I Contain Multitudes is the story of extraordinary partnerships between the familiar creatures of our world and those we never knew existed. It will change both our view of nature and our sense of where we belong in it. --… (more)

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» See also 79 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
I read several science nonfiction books in 2017 and most of them fell short. This book was such a welcome break from that negative trend. This book is interesting and light. It introduces the topic, without "dumbing down" or viewing the reader's ignorance with contempt. The book builds on each new topic with a sense of wonder that draws the reader in.

On the subject matter, I'll admit, I'm biased. I dreamed of being a microbiologist or virologist if I didn't get into vet school. Still, I think the places this book goes will appeal to anyone. ( )
  lclclauren | Sep 12, 2020 |
I tried. Just too much about bacteria (yes - that is what the book is about). Didnt grab me. Didn't finish. ( )
  bermandog | Aug 8, 2020 |
3.5 stars ( )
  natcontrary | Jun 22, 2020 |
Man, seriously, this book.

What a fascinating world that is detailed in depth within this book. Ed Yong is to science writing what Tom Holland is to history. He takes what I worried could end up being a quite dull topic and turning it into something both wonderful and educational. I very much recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in the topic. ( )
  JonOwnbey | May 28, 2020 |
You may think that we are just made from muscles, blood cells, bones and a fair bit of DNA, but in between the gaps are microbes. Billions and billions of them. There are the odd rogue ones, but most of them are useful and make up an essential element of our being. Without them we could not live. They help us in countless ways, sculpting our organs, protecting us from disease and feeding and nourishing us; our gut contains a complete ecosystem that ensure that we extract all the energy we need.

Microbes work equal miracles in other animals too, providing the ethereal light that disguises a squid as they hunt, ensuring that koalas are able to digest the unpalatable eucalyptus leaves and the weevil that uses bacteria to make its shell before killing them. The modern worldview of eliminating all microbes is causing as much harm as it is good; people nowdays have a revulsion of all things bacterial, hence the raft of cleaning products that are designed to scour all surfaces and hands clean of these unwanted intruders. However, as Yong successfully argues in this book that not only we might be missing a trick, but our bacterial ecosystem is essential for our survival. A good example of this is in hospitals; the modern view is that all windows have to be locked shut to keep rogue microbes out, but the effect of this is that patients sit in their beds stewing in a lethal mix of micro-organisms. This hazardous situation can be simply solved by opening a window, this allows the dispersal and dilution of the potentially lethal ones. Simple, but very effective.

It is a fascinating account of the unseen creatures that live within and all around us. Yong takes us on this journey through the microscope to discover the most recent research from scientists all round the world and tell us of the secrets that are being discovered about microbes. Some of the treatments being developed have the potential to make people’s so lives much better; one example is RePOOpulate – as unappealing as it sounds! However, this treatment has worked miracles with a 94% success rate and no side effects, a success rate not seen in many other cures. Yong writes with an engaging and eloquent style and makes the science in here really accessible. Well worth reading. 4.5 stars. ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
Ed Yong is a talented British science writer, a staff writer for The Atlantic and the author of a wonderful blog, Not Exactly Rocket Science, hosted by National Geographic. “I Contain Multitudes,” his first book, covers a huge amount of microscopic territory in clear, strong, often epigrammatic prose. Yong has advanced degrees in biology, and he is remarkably well informed; he includes descriptions of many studies that are still unpublished, and even a few original ideas for new experiments. He is infectiously enthusiastic about microbes, and he describes them with verve.
 
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For Mum
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Baba does not flinch.

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The Earth is 4.54 billion years old.

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This book lets us peer into the world of microbes -- not as germs to be eradicated, but as invaluable parts of our lives -- allowing us to see how ubiquitous and vital microbes are: they sculpt our organs, defend us from disease, break down our food, educate our immune systems, guide our behavior, bombard our genomes with their genes, and grant us incredible abilities. While much of the prevailing discussion around the microbiome has focused on its implications for human health, Yong broadens this focus to the entire animal kingdom, prompting us to look at ourselves and our fellow animals in a new light: less as individuals and more as the interconnected, interdependent multitudes we are. I Contain Multitudes is the story of extraordinary partnerships between the familiar creatures of our world and those we never knew existed. It will change both our view of nature and our sense of where we belong in it. --

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