I Wanna Be Literated #160

I Wanna Be Literated #160

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Tuesday, 25 July 2017
COLUMN

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

Back in college, like any student, there were a plethora of classes I was forced to take that I didn’t really want to. One of those classes was microbiology. I was a bio major, but I thought microbiology meant looking at microscopes at more multicellular things. I was wrong. I also wasn’t a very good student, if that’s still not clear. It was a challenging class, but we had a very good professor. He was passionate about the subject and was able to get us excited (or maybe just engaged) in the subject. The man had a respect for microorganisms, and we learned a lot in that class. There’s no doubt that there’s a whole new world out there. Both microscopic and larger than any of us can imagine.

It’s this world that Ed Yong is exposing in I Contain Multitudes.

This book is fortunate in having a writer like Yong, who knows how to tell his stories, uses engaging language, and generally feels like both an authority on the subject and someone who’s discovering things just as we are. Through this journey we learn about some of the most important scientists in the field and just how much life on earth is impacted by microorganisms. They might even be the key to preventing sickness and the spread of disease.

The only real issue with this book is how generally unfocused it is. There’s no real puzzle or mystery that Yong sets up to be solved at the beginning of a chapter so they just go by as Yong floats from experiment to experiment and from bacteria to bacteria, telling their individual stories, which are vaguely connected, like tiny individual chapters which do not make up a whole story. So in that sense, I Contain Multitudes is pretty fragmented.

There’s no doubt that microorganisms have a tremendous impact in our daily lives and I Contain Multitudes does an excellent job of helping us understand that. I’m going to sound like a public service announcement here, but this book is both fun and informative.

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