Friday, February 24, 2017

Book Review: I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong

Rarely have a read a science book more accessible, more enthusiastic, and more interesting (although Mary Roach's books are the exception, as being even more in all categories.) This book about microbe and our microbiomes was so cool. It was interesting and filled with new facts and exceptionally well-written. I especially loved that it had a photo insert. As you can glean from the cover, some microbes are really pretty. Others are found on bizarre creatures. I don't know if I've ever read a science book with a photo insert but after this one, I'm left wondering why all of them don't include one. I went back to this one over and over.

Parts of this book are a little icky, like when talking about fecal transplants, but Mr. Yong keeps the ickiness to a minimum and treats those parts very factually. But basically, you have to get used to a new paradigm when reading this book as we ourselves are more than half microbes. We have more microbes in/on us than we have cells. We think of "germs" as intrinsically bad, but they are not (neither are all viruses or all bacteria.) Some are quite good, and some we can't live without, literally. I especially like the posited idea that one day we'll be able to treat conditions and illnesses by running a check of our microbes, see which essential ones are missing, and take a pill for that, instead of taking chemicals.

If you are at all science-minded or just science-interested, this book is a top-notch read. It was helpful that I read The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee first, but not essential. (If you are going to read them both, reading the Mukherjee first gives an excellent basis for understanding DNA and how genetic mutation work.) If you only read one science book this year, this one should be at the top of your list.

I checked this book out of the library.

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