Top positive review
Great general introduction to microbiology in nature and in the human biome
Reviewed in the United States on December 7, 2017
My education and career are oriented toward the physical sciences and engineering, and as such, I have historically little interest in or knowledge of the biological sciences, and don’t even like gardening. However, this book came to my attention about the same time that I started seeing and hearing about new findings regarding the mysterious term “biome” as it relates to the human body and the environment itself. I decided to give the book a try and was not disappointed.
This is being marketed as a gardening book, which I think is not completely accurate and sells it seriously short. The authors do spend a couple dozen pages talking about their garden, what they did to rejuvenate their backyard soil, etc. For me, the best part then really begins, as the book moves on into a concise history of the development of microbiology, followed by an exquisitely detailed explanation of how microorganisms partner with both plants and humans to the mutual benefit of both.
Although I am decades removed from the only biology class I ever had in high school, and have essentially no background in this area to draw on, I had no trouble at all following the explanations, and in general found them fascinating. I believe that in this respect, the text is totally accessible to the reasonably intelligent non-biologist.
The book takes a wrecking bar to the common perception of the microbiological world as one that is inhabited chiefly by evil pathogens that make us ill or that kill us, and shows how the vast majority of these are actually beneficial. It explains how these work in the human immune system and in nature to fight the bad guys (the pathogens), exchange minerals and nutrients, and in general create environmental systems we are dependent on that actually cooperate with more than compete with one another. There is a very interesting discussion about vaccines, including a story about polio. Near the end of the book, the authors made what I thought was a very creative observation that described the human colon as a root turned inside out; by this point in the book, the reader will actually be able to make sense of the comparison.
For any readers (especially non-biologist types like myself) desiring to learn more about this subject and the emerging science of the biome, this is a great place to start. Even though not interested in gardening should get a lot out of this book.
Although not detracting from the book in general, the authors’ generally socialist politics peeps out amusingly in a few places. If these speculations could be collected separately, they might be titled “The Hidden Half of Human Motivation” since in reality, human society ALWAYS has a variety of motivations for what it collectively does. Certain perverse incentives always have and always will exist in human society.