‘I Contain Multitudes’ (And So Do You)

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I first met Ed Yong when looking for an easy and understandable way to keep up with scientific discoveries, and I was really glad when I found him.

Yong, of Not Exactly Rocket Science fame, writes for National Geographic and is an expert journalist. Not only does he inform you of new and amazing discoveries almost on a daily basis, but he also makes you laugh, ponder out loud, and see the universe in a new light. That is what most scientific writers out there aspire to, and he achieves this in a seemingly easy way, with clear prose and fantastic anecdotes. Ed Yong takes you places.

When I heard that he was publishing his first book, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander Way of Life, I was really excited, and I was honored to be able to review it. As you plunge into the book there will be a few surprises in it for you, since microbes inhabit every aspect of life on earth. It has as many micro-systems, growing populations, and small wars as the macro-world does. It’s like discovering a huge world inside our own–like the end of my favorite movie, Men in Black, when Agent K kicks open a locker door and shows Agent J how ridiculously small we are compared to other things.

We are literally covered by microbes: some inhabit our skin, some live inside our gut, and all of them are important. They are our allies, they protect us from other types of microbes than can be harmful, and they break down our food, prepare our immune systems, and even give us extraordinary abilities.

Everywhere else on the planet, they also have a role to play. From the beginning of our history as a species until the end of time and life on the planet as we know it, they will be here. Looking out to the animal kingdom, for example, and peering to familiar creatures through a microscope, we gain new insights and discover something new about them–all the time.

Yong writes like Sagan did, with humor and a deep understanding of science. The incredible partnerships these microbes have with all of us, the weird facts that enlighten our knowledge, our own view of nature: they all will change once we understand these partnerships better.

I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander Way of Life is out this week, and you can learn more about his live talks and where to find the book at Ed Yong’s site. Since you’re already there, read some of his articles. You’ll be as glad as I was the first time, and will thank me later.

Disclaimer: I received a copy for review purposes.

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