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Biography of a Germ

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  130 ratings  ·  23 reviews
Arno Karlen, author of Man and Microbes, focuses on a single bacterium in Biography of a Germ, giving us an intimate view of a life that has been shaped by and is in turn transforming our own.

Borrelia burgdorferi is the germ that causes Lyme disease. In existence for some hundred million years, it was discovered only recently. Exploring its evolution, its daily existence,
Paperback, 192 pages
Published May 15th 2001 by Anchor (first published 2000)
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Sep 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: medicine
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
Christine Williams
Aug 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
An enjoyable book, short and sweet. The medical aspects of Lyme disease were discussed, 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.
Nov 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Good read, definitely some fascinating info and food for thought. My only issue was the degree of meander present. I feel like this book could have been simply a collection of essays loosely held together by the presence of Bb.
Dennis Littrell
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Microbiology as literature

The germ is the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, and it causes among other things Lyme disease. Karlen is a psychoanalyst by trade and a historian of microbiology by inclination. He fell in love with the world of the very small when as a boy he was given a microscope. Karlen is also a fine prose stylist with a sharp sense of the ecological. In fact this book is really a kind of treatise on ecology, with a concentration on the environment of a bacterium. Borrelia burgdorf
Timothy Riley
Dec 02, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science
This biography is on the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease. It is important because we lose sight of how many other living things share this planet with us, so I liked the concept. They go through adaptations, lows and highs just like any other living creature. The bacteria gets passed back and forth between ticks and other animals usually in mice at a younger age of the tick and then later the deer. Both are great reservoirs for the bacteria. The tick them sometimes latches onto a human, drinks ...more
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
very interesting book about the microbe most famous for causing Lyme disease in humans.

early on in the book, Karlen talks about being a "respectful biographer" of Borrelia burgdorferi . by taking this sort of germ's-eye view of the bacteria he manages to weave an interesting story while avoiding anthropocentrism. a nice easy read and quite informative, i just wish the author hadn't been so quick to dismiss slightly more complicated topics as beyond the scope of the book.
Jan 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fascinating look at the germ nicknames Bb that causes lyme disease. Everything you never realized you wanted to know until you picked up this book. Written for the most part in layman's terms, this is a fairly fast read with some interesting premises. ...more
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-nature
Enjoyed it. Wasn’t sure how he would get an entire book out of the biography of a germ, but he managed. Spends a greT deal of time explaining life on earth, evolution and germs in general before finally narrowing the focus to the Lyme disease germ. Interesting
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in science and nature
A fascinating book: easy to read; informative; it takes the reader on a journey through the life of a bacterium (well, bacteria - the tiny lifeforms are very gregarious).
Paris Heard
Nov 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Arno Karlen has created an amazing and delighful story of life told from a germs perspective. Biography of a Germ follows the story of Borrelia Burgdorferi, a germ carried by ticks. Through this story, the reader is able to view germs as something amazingly beautiful and intricate, rather than something to continuously avoid.

Borrelia Burgdorferi is a bacteria orginally contracted by animals. These animals are then fed on by ticks which then contract the bacteria as well. Over the life span of B
Joshua Vm
Nov 21, 2014 rated it really liked it

 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
Sep 10, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 26, 2009 rated it liked it
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.
Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: health, science, disease
The information about the Lyme disease bacteria, life cycle of ticks, and the manifestations of Lyme disease are excellent. The author rambles a bit, especially in the beginning, but the book is short. The good stuff starts in chapter 8. If you just want to learn about the disease and not read about all the sad stories and politics, this would be a good place to start.
Paul Thillen
Dec 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Oct 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I learned a lot about bacteria in general, and Borrelia burgdorferi in particular. The book is also well written and very enjoyable to read.
Jan 21, 2010 rated it liked it
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.
Josh Phenicie
Jan 21, 2010 marked it as to-read
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.
Oct 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Some nice, fluid science writing but it was a little bit more elementary than I would have liked. A pleasant read, though.
Feb 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Loves this book, great way to convey science, epidemiology and many other dos iPods in a wonderful story.
May 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
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.
Jan 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am not a big science person but this book was wonderful! The author is funny and puts science in terms that I understand.
Doug Page
If a microbe could talk, is this what it would say?
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