I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong
Through this book I learned that the answer to just about every question you might have about microbes and how they interact with the world is “it’s complicated.” Yong talks about many ways in which bacteria and other microbes help, hinder or destroy organisms. A microbe can be essential to a creature’s existence, and the same microbe can also destroy it.
The best thing about this book is that the author has an infectious passion for microbiology. Stories about something that may save frogs and why coral reefs live or die and about our own ancient history with bacteria gave me that lovely sense of wonder at the complexity of the natural world. I liked that it ended on a positive story about people using bacteria to try to prevent dengue fever.
The worst thing about this book is that it wasn’t organized in such away that there was a solid takeaway. If there were any themes or points to make in the different chapters, I didn’t pick up on it. The stories were all over the place and microbiology wasn’t my major so I had a hard time following along. By the last two hours (I had this as an audiobook) I wasn’t really enjoying it anymore and just wanted to be done with it.
I recommend this book as a gift for that annoying person you know who talks about how eating kombucha and yogurt are why they are healthier than you and that’s why it’s your own fault you got a cold. It might take your annoying know-it-all acquaintance down a peg or two. Even people who study this for a living don’t know everything, and the answer to any question you might have about microbiology and the relation to macro organisms is, “It’s complicated.”