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Immune: a Journey into the Mysterious System that Keeps You Alive

4.61  ·  Rating details ·  4,956 ratings  ·  817 reviews
A gorgeously illustrated deep dive into the immune system that will forever change how you think about your body, from the creator of the popular science YouTube channel Kurzgesagt—In a Nutshell

You wake up and feel a tickle in your throat. Your head hurts. You're mildly annoyed as you get the kids ready for school and dress for work yourself. Meanwhile, an epic war is bein
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published November 2nd 2021 by Random House (first published September 28th 2021)
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Ditesh Gathani I don't think that's how the immune system works.

Perhaps you meant to ask how you could be better protected against pathogens and foreign bodies (eg v…more
I don't think that's how the immune system works.

Perhaps you meant to ask how you could be better protected against pathogens and foreign bodies (eg venom) which can cause harm?

The standard answers that have been known through history work well enough: cook your food, boil water, maintain clean hygiene, try not to get wounded but if you do, tend to the wound so it heals well, rest and get enough fluids when sick, if you're allergic - avoid the allergens, get vaccinated, wear a mask et al.(less)
Nurlan Imangaliyev so far so good. Reading it on my Kindle, the experience is great. The illustrations would look way better on an iPad or computer screenm, of course, b…moreso far so good. Reading it on my Kindle, the experience is great. The illustrations would look way better on an iPad or computer screenm, of course, but it's not the illustrations, it's the storytelling that definitely makes it worth reading. (less)

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Petra Shana Tova - to a happy & sweet new year
Review Measles vaccination is far, far more important than preventing the disease. Our immune system has a library of all the illnesses we have faced and has an arsenal of weapons against them when an intruder from one of these diseases comes calling. It stops it in its tracks most of the time. But measles entirely destroys that library, all that built up immunity from colds, flu and all the other bugs that assailed us up until that moment are gone. You are now vulnerable to them all over again. ...more
Scott Carney
Nov 21, 2021 rated it did not like it
FIRST THE GOOD: This is the simplest explanation of the immune system that I've ever come across that doesn't gloss over the startling complexity of the innate and adaptive immune responses. Dettmer uses simple metaphors to visually explain impenetrable terminology so that even a lay person can understand what is happening. MHC Class II receptors are hotdog buns, antigens are hotdogs, MHC Class I molecules are portholes into the cellular machinery. These simple visualizations really help, as do ...more
Allyson Dyar
Jul 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
When it comes to books on medical subjects, I tend to be a snob. Consequently, it is rare that I will give a medical book a five star rating (last one was Emperor of All Maladies) but this book deserves it.

To say that I loved this book is an understatement. Immunity is a very complicated subject because this is the human body we are talking about and our immunity system has to protect us against all invaders. To do so, our body has evolved a very complex system of ways to defend our bodies and t
Woman Reading (on hiatus)
4 ☆
For a microorganism you are an ecosystem waiting to be conquered.

Non-scientist but "science communicator" Philipp Dettmer fought a battle with cancer and thus became curious about humans' immune system. His ethusiastic admiration resulted in Immune: a Journey into the Mysterious System that Keeps You Alive.

Our immune system is exceedingly complex, and Dettmer declared at the beginning that he would massively simplify everything. His barebones descriptions of the cellular components of the i
David Rubenstein
Jun 16, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: medicine, health
The human immune system is very complex. So complex, that the author starts out by writing, "The immune system is too complicated for you to understand so I'm going to talk down to you." What a statement! And it's true--the writing is definitely easy to understand, because all of the interactions and components are spelled out in metaphors. This puts the concepts in human terms, ones that we all can understand. Just as a couple of examples:
"... the killer T cell is a dude with a hammer that bash
Left Coast Justin
Jan 09, 2022 rated it really liked it
High literature this ain't, but it is a really well-written introduction to the mind-numbing complexity of the immune system (or systems, really).

Back before COVID, I was spending several weeks a year in China, and spent some time looking for a tutor to help me learn the basics of the language. The first couple of tutors I worked with would talk about how hard it is to learn Mandarin, how Westerners would really struggle with it, and then they'd throw a sentence at me with lots of qi's, xi's and
Aug 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The immune system is unfathomably complex, but Philipp Dettmer made it a delight to learn about. Just like the Kurzgesagt videos, this book uses colorful art, clear explanations, enchanting metaphors, and a dash of wit to express the elaborate, beautiful symphony of the immune system.

The stories and compelling metaphors from this book stayed in my mind long after I put the book down. I especially love the image of the dendritic cells carrying a bunch of hot dogs (in buns!) to a singles bar to tr
aPriL does feral sometimes
I loved “Immune” by Philipp Dettmer! Not only did he simplify an extremely complex subject of human biology into a 101 introduction, he does so often with military-movie battleground imagery. These snarky word images brought me to immediate understanding of a chemical or biological activity of a cell. It also fixed knowledge in my mind the way a memory palace works. I know some readers do not like snarky humor, but for me, seeing a T-cell as a Navy Seal with either binoculars or a knife or a Neu ...more
Kshitij Dewan
Dec 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
a beautifully illustrated glimpse of another layer of reality

I LOVED this book. Easily my favourite this year. It filled so many "didn't know I didn't know" gaps.

below are review notes from while I read:

I really like how encouraging the writing is. I feel happy to read more. The frequent summaries and metaphors really help make sense of the concepts

I also really like how the footnotes are presented, that they're formatted so I don't lose my place. Really nice touch.

I was mildly annoyed at the la
Camelia Rose
Feb 19, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, life-science
At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, my son introduced me to Kurzgesagt–In a Nutshell Youtube channel. He said I’d love it and he was right.

Philipp Dettmer is an excellent science communicator. Through creative analogies, humor and wonderful illustrations, he manages to make medical science sound so fun. He has a gradual way to introduce complex subjects such as the different components in our immune system and their roles and interactions, the difference between antibacterial immune resp
[1 Jun 2022]
This book starts off saying "The immune system is too complicated for you to understand so I'm going to talk down to you." And it does. I sometimes felt that the author was pitching this book to a twelve-year-old. It's full of metaphors and similes, comparing the immune cells to soldiers and bacteria and viruses are the enemy. You get the picture.

At first this put me off. I know it's complicated and I'm not an immunologist or doctor or any kind of scientist. But I hate being treated
Jan 07, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-medical
Way too much of this still went over my head anyway - in that way where you’re reading the words and understanding them but not grasping the concept. Still! That’s not actually his fault, as he’s one of the best science communicators I think I’ve ever read. I was happy to take from it whatever I could (and pleased at the amount of cell stuff that actually came back to me from high school biology).

I also didn’t expect to be laughing out loud several times while reading this book, but there you go
Richard Thompson
On my personal Goldilocks scale of popular science books, this one rated as a Mama Bear. It was too soft. Mr. Dettmer, who is not a scientist, calls himself a science communicator. He's here to dumb it down for us so that anyone can understand the material without having to strain their poor little brains. It's not really that bad though. It's a pretty book and there were a few things that I learned that I didn't know, but the relentlessly popularizing tone made me a little crazy. If I want this ...more
Mar 10, 2022 rated it it was amazing
As a huge fan of the Youtube channel Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell (which I cannot recommend enough), I had no qualms about purchasing this book as soon as it was released. Philip Dettmer, the author of this work and the founder and head writer of Kurzgesagt is on a mission to make difficult scientific concepts easy to follow and understand. Although this is my first book on the immune system, I believe Dettmer did a fantastic job and it served as a great primer into the subject.

We are given a tour
Feb 16, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audible, library
A book that explains how amazing our immune system has developed. Great explanations of how vaccines work, how antibiotics work, how viruses and bacteria work and cancer cells grow.
Why do we have chills? Fever? How does our body fight off pathogens.
When supplement companies claim they are strengthening your immune system as long as you buy their products, they are simply lying!
It’s all here with amazing explanations and visuals.
I've tried to keep my collection of "real books" under control, only buying those that I really want to re-read or are special enough to have a copy at hand. Immune is one of those special books. I was thrilled to be the first person to check out the library copy, and delighted to find that it was a "Goldilocks" sort of book for me. Philipp Dettmer has written this with just the right amount of information - not too much to overwhelm and not too little to dumb down the complex immune system. I h ...more
The Inquisitive Biologist
Beautifully illustrated, Immune is an everyman's immunology textbook that gives a basic introduction to all the moving parts and the overall workings of our immune system. Read my full review at https://inquisitivebiologist.com/2022... ...more
Susan Kinyon
Dec 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
Excellent book for the layperson and/or those with autoimmune diseases who have more questions than the medical profession has time to answer.

This is a book worth purchasing for the home library if your specialists do not answer questions well. Phillipp Dettmer has written a user-friendly textbook with charts for the reader. All helpful and easy to understand.

Highly recommend this helpful book.

PS: Fortunately, my specialists have taken the time for explain everything concerning my several auto
Aidan Garcia
Nov 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I am on my knees in awe of the power, intricacy, and glorious dance that is the immune system.

I am now informed and very aware of the life and death war that my body wages at every moment. I got a paper-cut a day ago and instantly though of my macrophages and neutrophils getting in there and making short work of those invaders.

Thank you for this incredible journey. I want to learn more. I am hungry for knowledge!

My personal favourite? The dendritic cell. If you don’t have a favourite, don’t talk
B | crumbledpages
Feb 23, 2022 rated it it was amazing
In this book he explores the entirety of the immune system and tries to explain how the immune system works to the laymen in a relatively simple language without using much of scientific jargon as much as he can.

Like me, he is super fascinated with the immune system. Unlike me, he actually does research and writes a book about it.

This book is written in a funny way, which is great since it helps to retain the attention of the reader. Unlike textbooks, this book is not boring. Even though this bo
Kristen Curtis
Aug 22, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Listened to this on audio during my walks and it was fantastic!
Jan 24, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This book does a great job of illustrating the function of the immune system in a way that is understandable for a person who slept through a lot of her science classes. There is also a good amount of humor interlaced throughout, and not the cheesy Star Trek friend humor, just...it has its own brand of hilarity that the audio narration really brings out.

I particularly enjoyed Parts 3 and 4, when the book gets into various things the immune system fights against—viruses, allergens, parasites, ca
Apr 01, 2022 rated it it was ok
Apparently I'm in the minority here. But I found the book way too cutesy and condescending. I'd rather learn about how receptors work than hear that cells "smell" each other. There's way too much anthropomorphizing cells and systems, and I am not convinced that military analogies are the most accurate, though they make explaining easy.

An example of, to me ridiculous, mixed metaphors and anthropomorphizing: "The chaos puts the Macrophages [sic on the capitalization] into a rage they have never ex
Dallin Diehl
Dec 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I’m glad I read this book! I’m sure the little details will fade with time, but having a basic understanding of the human immune system feels empowering. Understanding what’s happening when I cut my finger, feel feverish from a cold, get a zit, etc. is not only really cool, it makes me appreciate so much more how amazing my body is.

Philipp is a fantastic communicator and made incredibly complex things easy and enjoyable to read.

This is a book I would freely recommend to anyone.
Feb 22, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, science, 2022, health
Imagine if you asked a science enthusiast to explain the immune system to you as if you were in kindergarten. They’d probably come up with something like this book. Easy to understand language, not a lot of terminology, pretty pictures, and enough repetition to give things a chance to sink in. Maybe some silly zoomorphism – for example, this asks to you think of the beneficial bacteria your body hosts as cute bunnies which keeps its yuck factor at practically zero. In addition, the info it prese ...more
Our current circumstances have dramatically increased the salience of knowledge about the immune system. This, of course, was the case before our interminable once-in-a-century (hopefully) black swan event that is the SARS-CoV2 pandemic, but immunology tends to understandably be an esoteric and intimidating subject to many. Philipp Dettmer performs the yeomen's work of decoding the complexity of the immune systems, providing an eminently clear and accessible primer. Immune roughly provides under ...more
Ross Kent
Dec 22, 2021 rated it did not like it
I was looking forward to reading this book. However, on page 13, there were two obvious errors that I couldn’t get past. The first stated that 10,000 miles is three times the circumference of the earth. (The circumference of Earth is 24,901 miles.) It then went on to claim on the same page that 7.8B x 120 = 40T. (7.8B x 120 = 936B)

Given there’d inevitably be data later on that couldn’t immediately be disproven and therefore I’d simply have to trust, I wasn’t able to go any further.
jrendocrine ?u get guns-we get forced pregnancy??
great! just great! I'd suggest everyone, anyone!, who has the slightest interest read it -- even immunologists so that they can better explain themselves! Dettmer has a gift!

i think I finally get MHC II antibody presentation. I think I'll read it again.
Bon Tom
Feb 24, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm giving this guy a fiver because I know he must have been pissing blood just to make ultra complicated and dry subject with lots of stupid, misplaced names not only approachable, but even hilariously funny at times for us plebs.

If I have objection it's because he's too straight edge for my taste. Meaning, he just vacuumed what's known from mainframe and "official" science about immunity, ignoring all the contradictory research and controversies. Wrapped it up in great writing and sense of hum
May 04, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Longer review later, but despite a few gripes as I was listening, this was pretty witty, entertaining, and surprisingly accessible. It's still really complex stuff but this book was very well designed for non-biologists. Also, I wanna check out thenon audio version since there's apparently cool graphics, too. ...more
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Science and Inquiry: June 2022 - Immune 44 80 Aug 18, 2022 11:13AM  
Cannonball Readers: Where do you get your science information? 1 8 Feb 10, 2022 10:17AM  
Play Book Tag: Immune, by Philipp Dettmer, 2.5 stars 3 18 Jan 14, 2022 10:15PM  
Goodreads Librari...: "Immune": combine / merge 4 19 Dec 01, 2021 01:24AM  

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Philipp Dettmer is the founder and head writer of Kurzgesagt, one of the largest science channels on YouTube with over fourteen million subscribers and one billion views.

News & Interviews

It’s no secret that the digital 21st century has been rough on the average attention span. Even for dedicated readers, it can sometimes be...
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“It would be very hard for you to live a happy life if you were covered in wiggling, buzzing tiny crabs that you could never get rid of.” 2 likes
“your immune system is also not a singular thing. It is a complex and interconnected collection of hundreds of bases and recruitment centers all over your body.” 2 likes
More quotes…