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Biography of a Germ

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  81 ratings  ·  16 reviews
The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein might say that if a microbe could talk, we couldn't understand it, but psychoanalyst and science writer Arno Karlen has done his best to listen and translate in Biography of a Germ. This lovely, funny, even endearing portrait of Borrelia burgdorferi (or Bb), the screwy bacterium that causes Lyme disease, would charm even a terminal mysop ...more
Paperback, 178 pages
Published April 21st 2008 (first published 2000)
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Karlen, Arno. BIOGRAPHY OF A GERM. (2000). ****. Karlen is a psychoanalyst, and has written books on history and biomedical science. He is a thoughtful writer who does his research before putting anything down on paper. He is not afraid to express his opinion, where one is called for, or against, any issue. In this book, he takes us through the life and cycle of Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), the “germ” that causes Lyme disease. We learn about its ancestry and evolution, its day-to-day life, its tra ...more
One of the most readable science-related books I have read -- not too much technical gobbledygook and a very clear and straightforward style. I learned things I never knew about ticks and germs and lizards, and they were actually quite interesting. The question of the source of a germ and whether it is new to science or somehow just overlooked despite its effects being well-known was fascinating to me. This discussion of the spirochetes germ that causes Lyme disease was definitely worth the read ...more
An enjoyable book, short and sweet. The medical aspects of Lyme disease were discuss, but the majority of the book was about the bacteria that cause the disease, a refreshing change from the majority of human-centered popular science books. I think the book would be accessible to anybody with a basic high school understanding of biology.
Joshua Vm

     The Biography of a Germ by Arno Karlen is a good book. It is based on the germ Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb for short). Bb is very commonly spread through ticks as mentioned in the book. It also describes how Bb spreads, mutates, and the everyday life of the germ. The book also describes how hard it really is for bacteria to travel from one organism to another without being killed in the process. Last, Bb is the cause of the disease called Lyme disease. It causes rashes or even vomiting.

     I would hi
Kerry O'Connor
Borrelia Burgdorferi. (causes Lyme's disease)
Grand claims early on of a 'full dress' biography of this bacteria cite Plutarch, William Blake and an abbreviated history of biography itself. However, Karlen ultimately comes off as a science writer, albeit a pleasant and whimsical one. Shelve him away as a very broad thinking, popularizing epidemiologist. Condensed, he could be featured on NPR.

I wouldn't mind if he had indulged a more poetic or anthropomorphic approach, say, if Borges or Marquez ch
Paul Thillen
Damn interesting and informative, and even humorous at times. His writing allows a truly non scientist like myself to understand what he's saying, no small feat. Truly, it makes me want to read more science books.
I learned a lot about bacteria in general, and Borrelia burgdorferi in particular. The book is also well written and very enjoyable to read.
A simple and effective idea as Karlen tells a story about bacteria by telling the story of a bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. By picking one species he reveals how all bacteria live survive and cause disease. Along the way are scientific diversions into biology and ecology along with other gentle speculations and reminiscences.
It's a lovely gentle short easy to read book. Don't expect heavy scientific instruction and complex microbiological theory instead it's intent is to shed some small light on
as the title says, this is a biography of a germ. not just any germ, it is the life history of the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, the cause of lyme disease. it provides a detailed look into the evolutionary history and current life cycles of Bb, as well as how and why it causes disease in people. while the book focuses exclusively on Bb, it also provides the big picture of how human impact on ecosystems has in the past and will continue in the future to provide new avenues for old germs.
Anna Banana
You won't find a more alluring book about Lyme disease. Following this tick-borne illness from its origins to modern times, Karlen is able to show how humans' impact on their environments (in this case the destruction of and subsequent restoration of deer habitats) can have far-reaching effects in the world of microbic disease.

It will also have you checking your hairline after a walk in the woods.
Josh Phenicie
very interesting. I particularly liked the authors exhalation of other biographies and why he chose to write one about a germ, near the beginning of the book. very well written and engaging.
The book meanders, especially at the beginning, but all in all, it is a well-written, non-technical account of the life of the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.
I am not a big science person but this book was wonderful! The author is funny and puts science in terms that I understand.
It was more dry than I was expecting, and some of it was over my head, but I still enjoyed it. Microbiologist, I am not.
Some nice, fluid science writing but it was a little bit more elementary than I would have liked. A pleasant read, though.
Doug Page
If a microbe could talk, is this what it would say?
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