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The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  643 ratings  ·  95 reviews
A biologist shows the influence of wild species on our well-being and the world and how nature still clings to us—and always will.

We evolved in a wilderness of parasites, mutualists, and pathogens, but we no longer see ourselves as being part of nature and the broader community of life. In the name of progress and clean living, we scrub much of nature off our bodies and tr
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Hardcover, 1st edition, 304 pages
Published June 21st 2011 by Harper
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Jenny Brown
The subject matter of this book is extremely interesting. Unfortunately, the author dumbed down his text to the level of a cable channel documentary so that you won't learn very much actual science from reading the book.

He gives many pages to long, detailed accounts of human interest anecdotes that don't contribute anything to our understanding of his topic--for example, the discovery of an early hominid fossil or one patient's trip to Mexico to get a treatment based on a theory he discusses. T
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Mary Ronan Drew
Joel Weinstock was flying somewhere over New York or Pennsylvania when he got his crazy idea. He had been studying intestinal parasites. That day he began reading about Crohn's Disease. Why, he wondered, did people who had intestinal worms not have Crohn's and people who had Crohn's never have intestinal parasites? Could it be that worms prevented Crohn's? Naw. Impossible.

But he couldn't get the idea out of his head. In the 1940s half of American children had worms. In 1980 there were something
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Lauren
I liked this book, but as a microbiologist, I found the science behind the assertions to be either dumbed down or not explained fully. For example, in the case of intestinal worms improving auto-immune diseases, it would have been nice to see any evidence of a mechanism behind this phenomenon, rather than vague hand-waving about the immune system chasing things that aren't there. I did like many of the ideas in the book, but I found the book to have an overall negative tone that was distracting.
Jennie
This book packed such a knowledge punch I am somewhat at a loss for words even days after reading the last page. One of the things I admired most while reading this book was how science was at the forefront – research, evolution and the beginning of mankind in forms that we would hardly recognize now. This book covers a range of topics from the lack of worms in our guts, to how STD’s have changed since we have become pro-less hair. Every page was fascinating and full of ideas that let your mind ...more
Chris
Other reviews mirror many of my thoughts - I really wished the final chapter was fleshed out into two or more chapters. And for some reason I had this idea that the author was going to promote the idea of having our cities be wild to the extent that predators would be let loose there. I kept hoping to read about that somewhere in the last chapter, but I must have missed it.

Don't get me wrong, the other stuff about the evolution of mankind from H&G to Agricultural to our post-agricultural age
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gabrielle
Apr 16, 2012 gabrielle rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone who has any interest in what it means to be alive.
Recommended to gabrielle by: myrmecos, I think
This book is, in essence, about what it means to be human: "...our bodies and lives only make sense in the context of other species."

It completely blew me away. (I am going to buy it next time I'm at Powell's, and I'm a die-hard library user.)

Unlike Dunn's other book (_Every Living Thing_), which I also loved, you do not have to be a biologist or even a scientist to maximize your enjoyment here. _The Wild Life_ is much more accessible to the layperson. I'm recommending it to pretty much everyone
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Kili
Humans like to think of themselves as different from other living things. Germs and parasites are bad: we should eliminate them. After all, it's what our immune system does. In this book, Dunn argues quite convincingly that this is a destructive view. Species don't evolve in isolation of other species - predators and their prey engage in an evolutionary arms race (which explains, for example, why mollusks have thicker shells in the Pacific as compared to the Atlantic), symbiosis is found all ove ...more
Claire
Started out as notable, scientific, informative, disgustingly fun. What is the appendix for? Can intestinal parasites cure us of bowel diseases? And more. But as it goes, the writing is inconsistent at best. Instead of presenting interesting scientific findings about our bodies, Dunn puts more and more effort into first the secret life of scientists (how an anthropologist's new idea unraveled as she made eggs for breakfast!), and then into thought experiments that are not at all fleshed out, eit ...more
Fellini
Очень интересный научпоп об исторической экологии человека, т.е. о совместной эволюции рода человеческого и окружающих его живых существ. Узнала множество фактов, о которых даже не догадывалась. Оказывается, и бактерии, и паразиты, и хищники могут быть полезны для человека (при определённых условиях, конечно). Оказывается, борьба за стерильность не только бессмысленна, но и вредна. Оказывается, змеи повлияли на развитие мозга человека больше, чем палки-копалки. Ещё несколько цитат привела ниже. ...more
Harry Lane
Dunn's premise is that we have shaped evolution as much as evolution has shaped us, and not always to our advantage. His argument is fairly strong, and his conclusions well worth consideration. But it is something implicit in his presentation that I think is equally important: the degree of specialization in science is a barrier to some types of insights that only come from connecting notions from disparate fields.
Steven
The author delivers on the promise of the book description overall, but I couldn't give a full five stars on account of including areas where the research is still rather far from conclusive. If it had presented slightly differently, perhaps in the context of, "this interesting research is being done suggestion such and such" would have been better. Instead, those areas are dwelled upon somewhat extensively, in spite of their speculative nature. Considering the strength of the author's thesis, i ...more
Nosocialize
Very informative and interesting. Sadly it ends not very strong, but at that point I was in full agreement so maybe i was disappointed i wasn't won over.
Mary
I give the book high marks for chapters that deal with the bacteria in our guts that is well researched but many of the other chapters are entirely speculative. They are perhaps intriguing but not particularly scientific. There is also a tendency to repetition and redundancy within chapters rather than well supported research. Dunn introduces us to the possibility that we have not done a very good job as a species in understanding our relationship to the small creatures that live on and in us an ...more
Bernie Gourley
Dunn’s book addresses a host of intriguing questions such as:

-Why are there diseases that disproportionately attack those in the richest parts of the world while being almost non-existent in poor countries?
-Why is obesity at epidemic proportions among modern humans?
-Why—while people have diverse tastes overall—do there seem to be universal preferences for sweet, salty, and fatty foods?
-Why are so many people’s lives wrecked by constant stress and worry?
-Is the Appendix really a vestigial organ
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Tanja Berg
This was a quite interesting and fun read. The title is slightly misleading if it makes you think of only what is on or in our bodies. This book covers more. Interesting chapter titles include "when cows and grass domesticated humans", "we were hunted, which is why all of are afraid some of the time and some of us are afraid all of the time" and "how lice and ticks mad us naked and gave us skin cancer", to name a few.

What I learned that I didn't know before: some creatures and living things are
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Greg
Similar to the New Germ theory of disease in many aspects, the book argues not only that there are many diseases caused by either pathogens, or the lack of them, but that many other aspects of humanity, such as colour vision and xenophobia were fixed in us because of predators or pathogens. Often, he makes a good case, but there is a tendency to jump on any crank suggestion and shout "ooh, this could be true, we should sow it is wrong before dismissing it", which might be technically true, but i ...more
Tony
THE WILD LIFE OF OUR BODIES. (2011). Rob Dunn. ****.
The author of this fascinating book is a Professor of Biology at North Carolina State University, and a well-known popular science writer. He has done his research and reviews for us the benefits of the presence of various parasites in our body. In our mad scramble to rid our bodies of foreign forms of life through the use of antibiotics and to attempt to prevent their presence through our modern methods of food preparation and sanitation, we
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Carl
The main theme of this book is the comparison between “what we were and what we are.” By what “we were”, the author takes a long evolutionary view: not just a few decades ago, not just when we were hunter-gatherers, not just when we were little primates, but back to when we were lizards. Over the millions of years we have collected a distressing amount of evolutionary baggage that influences “what we are” and sometimes conflicts with our modern world.

The author gives quite a number of examples,
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Josh Hamacher
This book really wasn't what I was expecting. I had expected it to primarily be about our internal flora and fauna, the creatures living in and on us. Probably this was my own misunderstanding, and in reality this book is far more interesting than that.

It's actually about how no species develops in a vacuum. This seems obvious - the environment in which a species lives impacts its development, of course, and vice versa. But there are many different aspects to this interaction, the vast majority
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Anne
I didn't actually finish the book, so take my review with the appropriate grains of salt. This is a book about one of the most fascinating topics imaginable, and it's written in such a cutesy, condescending, dumbed-down, frivolous way that it's almost unbearable to read.

In fact I'd call it irresponsibly frivolous in some parts, such as the "upbeat" story of the guy who just *had* to try infecting himself with parasitic worms in an attempt to treat his IBS, and the brave and plucky individuals w
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Stacy Natal
I'm going to paraphrase part of someone else's review because I don't know quite know how to explain this book.

"It was a very interesting book about humans in the context of other species - the fact that we need other species in order for us to make sense and learn about ourselves. It is a series of ideas and theories strung together with stories. Here are some examples: intestinal parasites helping to cure IBS, asthma, and Crohnes; the use of our appendix; why our vision developed the way it di
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Brian
Dunn writes that many human ills and behaviors reflect the evolutionary past where we put ourselves above nature and all other species. Our super sterile environment is hurting us all by unbalancing our immune systems, leading to attacks on our own tissues rather than invading organisms. His solution is to repopulate the gut with worms that the immune system tolerates or that may suppress the system’s hyperactivity. Dunn writes that Crohn’s and other such disorders are rare wherever gut parasite ...more
Stephen
You can take the man out of the jungle, but not the jungle out of the man. Such is the lesson of Rob Dunn's brilliantly-written The Wild Life of Our Bodies, which demonstrates to readers the ways in which interactions with other species have shaped human evolution, and the folly of our attempt to sever our ties with the natural world.

I initially thought this book was on the body as an ecosystem, host to millions of other lifeforms; some preying on us, others living in a mutualistic relationship
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Maura
Fascinating! Rob Dunn does a wonderful job of explaining scientific principles, experiments and theories in a way that the everyday reader can easily follow. Basically, the book delves into why there seems to be an epidemic of certain diseases such as lupus, Crohn's, multiple sclerosis, and the like. The basic premise is that out bodies have spent many thousands of years adapting to and thriving in a more wild environment. Our more refined lifestyles of today leave our immune systems with little ...more
Kurt
There is much to be fascinated by in Rob Dunn's THE WILD LIFE OF OUR BODIES. Learning how our bodies have evolved over time to not only accept other life forms living within us but to depend on their existence to maintain our health--and also that the ridding of them from our bodies is likely leading to the growth of such 20th/21st century centric illnesses as Crohn's disease which is virtually unknown in "underdeveloped" countries where modern health runs less rampant. It's not that the worms a ...more
lia
Humans have gone way ahead of other species, we are so successful in conquering nature, we want to live cut out from it.

We begin by building settlements that keep everything nature outside. We also start killing other living creatures for no other reasons because we can.

Inside our bodies, there is a belief that erasing everything is good. But it turns out, life and nature was never that simple.

We have evolved for millions of years. Our body was shaped by everything in, out of and around it. W
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Josephine
This book wasn't quite what I was expecting. It turned out to be all about evolution and how what we used to be (like millions of years ago, even when we were fish...) shapes what we are today.
The first section is about worms and how we evolved to need them as much as they need us. I was disappointed in this section because I didn't think the author gave enough information and evidence. He sited a couple cases of people who were cured of their chrohns disease by infecting themselves with tapewor
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Christine
Interesting reading. I have a question for the author - If we lose most of our body hair (due to fleas, lice, etc) then why didn't apes and monkeys do the same?

What really had griped my attention is that parasites in our intestines can help or harm us. We got rid of intestine parasites when we live cleanly (wearing shoes is one thing). This man had a really bad asthma and was totally dependent on Prednisone. He was left uninsured when he took a new job because of pre-existing condition. He visi
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Eric Rasmussen
This book had a few "wow" moments, where I had to get up and tell my wife and family about the amazing insights delivered in this book. Those moments are what keep me coming back to nonfiction, what I live for in reading. Unfortunately, the few wow moments (parasites and autoimmune disease) were more than overbalanced by the shakier theories (loss of predators and modern anxiety issues?) and the rehashing of popular health ideas (good gut bacteria and its necessity). While all of that may be exc ...more
Daniel R.
A delightful exploration of research around the evolution of the human body contrasted with how technological evolution maybe causing humans more harm than good. The book looks at the role of parasites in our gut, a new line of thinking about the purpose of the appendix, the impact of the introduction of agriculture, how our flight or fight response maybe harming us, and why humans lack hair. For each theme the author weaves a narrative of current research, his own observations, and anecdotal st ...more
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