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I Contain Multitudes
Cover of I Contain Multitudes
I Contain Multitudes
The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
by Ed Yong
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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.

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.

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About 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.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from May 30, 2016
    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.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from June 15, 2016
    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.

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    March 15, 2016
    As Yong's smartly titled work clarifies, we contain hordes of bacteria and other microbes, and they are not all bad. They build our bodies, protect us from disease, help us digest food, and more, and it would be wise to think of ourselves as a mass community of microbiomes rather than individuals. A new tilt to our worldview from an author whose blog, Not Exactly Rocket Science, hosted by "National Geographic", receives around 400,000 page views every month.

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • New York Times Book Review "[An] excellent and vivid introduction to our microbiota. . . . infectiously enthusiastic."
  • New York Times Book Review, Editor's Choice "A science journalist's first book is an excellent, vivid introduction to the all-enveloping realm of our secret sharers."
  • Wall Street Journal "Offer[s] engrossing-and gross-details about how an invisible world shapes our species...Mr. Yong's book lives up to its title, containing multitudes of facts presented in graceful, accessible prose....The author wonderfully turns to the humanities again and again to enrich the book's scientific detail...And he's funny."
  • Boston Globe "Not since de Kruif's classic, "Microbe Hunters,'' has this invisible world been brought so vividly to life... Yong's curiosity and humor made me smile and even laugh out loud, much to my husband's surprise. By the end of the book his sense of wonder for microbes was, well, infectious."
  • The Economist "For a lesser writer, the temptation to oversimplify the science or to sex up unwarranted conclusions might have proved irresistible. Mr Yong expertly avoids these pitfalls.... I Contain Multitudes bowls along wonderfully without it. His hero, Sir David [Attenborough], would surely approve."
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune "Beautifully written. . . . Yong - who like Carl Zimmer belongs to the highest tier of science journalists at work today - weaves revelatory anecdotes and cutting-edge reporting into an elegant, illuminating page-turner."
  • The Guardian "Masterful . . . a tale that shifts our personal cosmology and compels us to look anew at the world
  • Philly Voice "The strong narrative, rigorous reporting and fluid writing make I Contain Multitudes one of the most essential science books of the year. Yong's wit, and endearing inability to pass up an opportunity for wordplay, are just a couple of the many bonuses that make it enjoyable, too."
  • Brainpickings "Fascinating and elegantly written. . . . Yong peels the veneer of the visible to reveal the astonishing complexity of life thriving beneath and within the crude confines of our perception. . . . masterful [and] intensely interesting."
  • Kirkus, Starred Review "An exceptionally informative, beautifully written book that will profoundly shift one's sense of self to that of symbiotic multitudes."
  • Booklist, Starred Review "Bottom line: don't hate or fear the microbial world within you. Appreciate its wonders. After all, they are more than half of you."
  • Publishers Weekly, Starred Review "Yong makes a superb case for his position by interviewing numerous scientists and presenting their fascinating work in an accessible and persuasive fashion."
  • Library Journal "Readable and entertaining. . . . Highly recommended for general science readers interested in the complicated relationships between microbes and their hosts."
  • William Gibson "Ed Yong's I Contain Multitudes is wonderful. Deeply strange, true, funny, beautifully written."
  • David Quammen, author of Spillover "Ed Yong is one of our finest young explainers of science-wicked smart, broadly informed, sly, savvy, so illuminating. And this is an encyclopedia of fascinations-a teeming intellectual ecosystem, a keen book on the intricacies of the microbiome and more."
  • Carl Zimmer, author of Parasite Rex "I Contain Multitudes changes you the...
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Ed Yong
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