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

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  12,350 ratings  ·  1,605 reviews
Every animal, whether human, squid, or wasp, is home to millions of bacteria and other microbes. Many people think of microbes as germs to be eradicated, but those that live with us—the microbiome—build our bodies, protect our health, shape our identities, and grant us incredible abilities. In this astonishing book, Ed Yong takes us on a grand tour through our microbial ...more
Kindle Edition, 373 pages
Published August 9th 2016 by HarperCollins Publishers
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Dane Hi Veronica, depending on the reader, this book is for people who are curious and full of imagination... for the way the world can be seen through the…moreHi Veronica, depending on the reader, this book is for people who are curious and full of imagination... for the way the world can be seen through the lens of microbiology. Whoever reads this will be more informed about animals (including the human animal), plants, history and science. Answer: As early as possible!! :)(less)
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Will Byrnes
You’ve got company.


Carol Anne Freeling was certainly right when she said, “They’re hee-ur,” well maybe not enraged spirits, but there are certainly plenty of entities present to which we have paid insufficient attention. Maybe Regan MacNeil was closer to the mark in proclaiming “We are legion.”

When Orson Welles said “We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone,” he was mistaken. Even when we are alone, we are never alone. We exist in symbiosis—a wonderful term that refers to different
Always Pouting
Jan 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
I feel like this book really exemplifies what I want from a science book written for a mass audience. It made everything really accessible and easy to understand without sacrificing on providing details or explanations. It provides a lot of citations so I can go look up the specific research papers and experiments mentioned that are of most interest to me, which I did. It also just connected research to larger ideas and theories for why things work the way they do. I think the whole point of ...more
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in biology, medicine, life
Recommended to carol. by: Anna
Note: Kindle version on sale in US 2/3/19

For my entire hospital career I have worked in oncology, where I have been part of teams taking care of people with cancer. Frequently patients have “neutropenic fevers,” a condition considered to be potentially harmful and almost always requiring admission to the hospital. Neutrophils are those brave little white blood cells that go out into our bodies and do battle with all the nasty things our bodies are exposed to every day. Neutropenia means the
Science (Fiction) Nerd Mario
Inner values get, in this context, wholly new, trillion of dimensions.

Like so many prejudices, those against microorganisms are stupid and shortsighted. The first associations are not symbiosis and better health but infection and disease because the negative image is over-represented. Hygiene and health are essential, but the benefits of invisible companions are far too rarely highlighted and the beneficial minis outweigh the pests by far. Moreover, understanding the mechanisms is necessary for
Jan 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, I will never think of bacteria and archaea the same. I certainly have a newfound understanding of just how vital it is to every part of life. That microbes and bacteria have helped shape our planet for billions of years, down to every single flora and fauna; even all the oxygen we breath has come from bacteria.
I also never really thought about the microbes that are constantly around us and even on me, or how many you are "seeding" to the world. That"every person aerosolises 37 million
Nov 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating book about the microbes inside all of us, and inside other animals as well. Now, it is often said that there are ten times as many bacteria in our bodies as there are cells. This, it turns out, is probably an over-estimate; the number of bacteria is probably in the same ballpark as the number of cells. But still, that is a lot!

This book goes into detail about the amazing partnerships--the symbioses--between microbes and large organisms, mostly animals and humans. Microbes
¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪SomeBunny Reads (Phoenix)•*¨*•♫♪
I am Legion.

So, apparently human beings (and all beings in general) are just bags of bacteria and other microorganisms, and these fascinating fellas have always dominated the Earth, from the birth of life to present days: there are more bacteria in our guts than starts in our galaxy. Interesting, uh? I would say a wonderful topic for a wonderful book!

I loved this book and found it extremely interesting for many reasons. First, because it was very well-written, and second because it opened my
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Though we might lather our skin with antibacterial soap, clean our hands with alcohol sanitizers, gargle with mouthwash, scrub our kitchen surfaces, disinfect our bathrooms, spray Lysol all over the house, take antibiotics, etc., there are - and always will be - microbes everywhere. This is especially true of our warm moist bodies - which are covered inside and out with microorganisms....and this is a good thing.

Bacteria are on and in our bodies

In fact our bodies are really an indivisible
Clif Hostetler
Aug 19, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Recently I've been hearing reports of miracle cures of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) by use of fecal matter transplants. Also I've heard that some autoimmune diseases may be caused by environments that are too clean.

Upon hearing these things the question that comes to my mind is, why this new found enthusiasm for microorganisms? We've known about bacteria since Louis Pasteur. So why all this new information about microbes as if it was something new? (Actually we learn in this book that Antonie
I liked this book so I am giving it three stars.

It is common knowledge today that everything and all of us are covered with microbes - that some are good and some are bad. Their number can be debated. We have in the past been fixated on getting rid of them. This has been to our detriment. It is clear we have gone too far. Antibiotics are good and necessary, but at the same time they must be used with care. In heedlessly wiping out microbes, we have created an environment where pathogens
Oct 23, 2018 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Everybody likes this book about gutbunnies, which is a term I just now made up for the tiny little things that live in you.
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
Thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated all the information in this book. Might change how you look at yourself, think of yourself and the world around you.
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biology
Yong explores the microbiome, not just in humans but in many creatures. He reveals the amazing variety of ways that microorganisms influence their multicellular counterparts. A properly balanced microbiome is not only critical to health, but can be essential to proper development, reproduction and survival. In essence we are one system with the many trillions of foreign organisms in our bodies. We rely on each other. Not that there is a clear cut line between beneficial and pathogenic, a single ...more
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This is absolutely fabulous scientific nonfiction. I think at times, scienctific nonfiction swings one of two ways--over simplified, or overly pendantic. This book truly hit the sweet spot. It's accessible, gorgeously written, and incredibly informative and well-researched.

In particular, I liked that Yong doesn't shy away from differing schools of thought. Microbiology as we know it today is still a relatively new science, and as such there are a LOT of
Joshua Buhs
Aug 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating topic poorly served by the conventions of popular science writing.

Ed Yong's book is about microbes--bacteria, mostly, but also viruses and few other extremely small creatures--and how they live with other organisms--humans for the most part, with plenty of other animals, too, though no plants.

It has Darwinian ambitions, announced in its subtitle: "A Grander View of Life" evokes Darwin's famous phrase closing the first edition of "On the Origin of Species": "There is grandeur in
Diane in Australia
I did enjoy this book, but it didn't 'wow' me as much as some of the other reviewers. In fact, I started it awhile ago, and just got distracted by other books, and put it down ... which never happens, if I'm enthralled by a book. When I finally came back to it, I did learn a few things, and read a few things aloud to hubby, so, all-in-all I suppose it was a 'good read'.

4 Stars = Outstanding. It definitely held my interest.
You may think that we are just made from muscles, blood cells, bones and a fair bit of DNA, but in between the gaps are microbes. Billions and billions of them. There are the odd rogue ones, but most of them are useful and make up an essential element of our being. Without them we could not live. They help us in countless ways, sculpting our organs, protecting us from disease and feeding and nourishing us; our gut contains a complete ecosystem that ensure that we extract all the energy we need.

This book is jam-packed with tons of information about the recently uncovered world of microbes. Considering how many books about microbes are popping up, I was skeptical at first, but it quickly became apparent that this book was based on nothing but the best science available on the subject. Just like the Sonnenburgs' book Gut, I contain Multitudes focused on what we know about microbes and was very clear about the lack of evidence when speculating. The researchers cited by Yong are the best ...more
Ed Yong is a London-based science writer for The Atlantic and is part of National Geographic’s blogging network. I had trouble believing that I Contain Multitudes is his first book; it’s so fluent and engaging that it immediately draws you into the microbial world and keeps you marveling at its strange yet fascinating workings. Yong writes like a journalist rather than a scientist, and that’s a good thing: with an eye to the average reader, he uses a variety of examples and metaphors, ...more
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You are what you eat.
You eat what you are.
What you aren't eats you and other things that aren't you, but are in you.
I am legion.
aPriL does feral sometimes
This is a fun read!

Each one of us is a microbiome, with billions of bacteria literally on every bit of our skin and hair. Inside our bodies and in our cells, we have even more interesting little microscopic monsters. Plus, we share these little bugs with everyone we meet, especially the people we live with. If you have a dog, the volume of bacteria in your home increases exponentially.

If, gentle reader, you are now scratching and twitching, may I suggest getting a copy of 'I Contain Multitudes'
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, medical
Utterly fascinating. Review to come, once I pick up the pieces of my brain and assemble some coherent thoughts.
When Orson Welles said "We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone", he was mistaken. Even when we are alone, we are never alone. We exist in symbiosis--a wonderful term that refers to different organisms living together. Some animals are colonized by microbes while they are still unfertilized eggs; others pick up their first partners at the moment of birth. We then proceed through our lives in their presence. When we eat, so do they. When we travel, they come along. When we die, they ...more
Amir Tesla
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: health
Such a mind-blowing book.
Dov Zeller
“Forget Orson Welles, and heed Walt Whitman: “I am large, I contain multitudes.”

“'Each animal is an ecosystem with legs,' says John Rawls."

“As palaeontologist Andrew Knoll once said, 'Animals might be evolution's icing, but bacteria are really the cake.'"

Yep, Ed Yong knows how to salt and pepper his writing with some good quotes.

He also pens some wonderful great-for-quoting prose himself:

"It's estimated that every human contains 100 trillion microbes, most of which live in our guts. By
First of all, kudos for an excellent title, referencing the poetry of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. It is not the only literary reference and I truly appreciate that in a science writer.

Yong gives the feeling of being on a safari, observing exotic wildlife. He makes single-celled organisms as interesting as wildebeest and lions. We have come a long way in understanding this part of the ecosystem, and we have miles to go before we perfect that knowledge.

The microorganisms were here first. All of
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
See my review on booktube:
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read Harder Challenge 2018
#6. A book about nature

... and loads of accessible sciencey stuff, with an “I am legion” vibe, I might add. This is a fun read!
Isil Arican
I love Ed Yong's articles and I wanted to read this book since I heard it was coming out.
Microbiom is a fascinating subject and he does a good job of giving background information, explaining the background work and giving interesting examples. So overall I enjoyed reading it.

The reason for only three stars: the books structure is not great. He talks about an issue and revisits it again and again. It is lacking the flow, and feels like he is visiting the same points over and over again. I assume
This was so much fun to read and provides so much food for thought. As I sit here, I am aerosolizing 37 million bacteria per hour. The population of Canada is (marginally) less than that. I can’t help but picture Pigpen from Charlie Brown walking around with his cloud of dirt. I also think what a great pity it is that the hospital I work in was designed with windows that are sealed shut, locking all of those pathogenic bacteria that we want to avoid inside with our patients. Think about that the ...more
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Ed Yong is a science journalist who reports for The Atlantic, and is based in Washington DC.

His work appears several times a week on The Atlantic's website, and has also featured in National Geographic, the New Yorker, Wired, Nature, New Scientist, Scientific American, and many more. He has won a variety of awards, including the Michael E. DeBakey Journalism Award for biomedical reporting in
“Within 24 hours of moving into a new place we overwrite it with our own microbes, turning it into a reflection of ourselves.” 13 likes
“All zoology is really ecology. We cannot fully understand the lives of animals without understanding our microbes and our symbioses with them.” 11 likes
More quotes…