New Nonfiction: I Contain Multitudes – Ed Yong

You only have to walk past display tables in the science and health sections of bookstores these days to know that “the microbiome” is one of the very hottest research—and science reading–areas right now. Microbiome discoveries have led to breakthroughs in treating intestinal disorders and asthma; it’s thought that managing the microbiome may be the answer to superbugs that have thwarted traditional antibiotics, and adjusting the microbiome may even give us breakthroughs in treating cancer.

While there been much written on the topic you won’t find a more accessible and engaging discussion than Ed Yong’s I Contain Multitudes. Yong is an award-winning science writer and you only have to watch a few minutes of his TED talk below on parasites to see why he’s being compared to first-rate science explainers like Richard Dawkins, Natalie Angier, David Quammen and Lisa Randall. I Contain Multitudes arrives with three starred advance reviews.

‘[Yong] 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…[He] 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.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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….An exceptionally informative, beautifully written book that will profoundly shift one’s sense of self to that of symbiotic multitudes.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“You’re probably aware that there’s this thing called the microbiome. But what you probably do not know is that this microbiome is, as Ed Yong puts it in his beautiful and terrifying book, ‘more management than labor’….We used to think germs were hostile invaders, to be nuked from space with antibiotics and slathered out of existence with hand sanitizer. But if we treat them well and cultivate them properly, they won’t be the end of us. They’re actually kind of the boss of us.”
Wired, “This Summer’s 14 Must-Read Books”

I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life (9780062368591) by Ed Yong. $27.99 hardcover. 8/9/16 on sale.

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