52 Books a Year: #47 - Infection: The Uninvited Universe

Posted by Brian Wed, 23 Dec 2009 18:38:40 GMT

Infection: The Uninvited Universe
By Gerald N. Callahan


Absolutely fantastic. This is one the few non-fiction books that I have read this year that I would recommend to anybody. In Infection, Gerald Callahan describes how infection is what makes us human. From the helpful bacterial flora in our intestines to disease changing the course of history, infection shapes us and the world we live in.

The book is divided into three parts. The first covers good germs and is the most fascinating portion of the book. Starting from before birth, where bacteria in the birth canal (Lactobacilli) help prevent premature delivery. Proteins from breast milk serve as fertilizer for bacteria to populate the child’s intestines, an essential part of health. From here we learn about parasitic worms being used to treat diseases and the possible role of bacteria in mental health. The big point is that bacteria are not always the enemy and that extreme cleanliness can actually be to the detriment of your health. The last two sections of the book cover the role of bacteria in shaping the world as we know it and some diseases that could alter the course of history. These sections are also interesting, but not as much as the first.

Callahan’s writing is excellent. He mixes in stories from his own family and how bacteria shaped them. He strikes a nice balance between medical and popular that will appeal to a wide audience while still being informative. I highly recommend picking this up. It will help you rethink how you view the bacteria surrounding us.


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