Why I Read It: To feed my brain, and because the cover is very cool.
Where I Got It: The Library.
Who I Recommend This To: Anyone interested in human parasites and their relationship to the immune system would enjoy this book.
Publisher: Harper Collins (2011)
Length: 290 pages
This book was incredibly fun nonfiction to read. The subtitle to the book pretty much sums it up: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today. In some ways, this book explores a healthnut’s worst taboos, like inoculating yourself on purpose with parasitic intestinal worms. How about trying to grow living mammals in a metal box to be completely free of other organisms? The mystery of the human appendix has been all but solved; it’s there to bolster your flora and fauna in the eventuality that most of the small organisms in your digestive track get wiped out, like by dysentery or heavy antibiotic use.
While of great interest to anyone with a bioscience bend, you don’t have to be scientifically minded to enjoy this book. Indeed, the concepts contained in this work are laid out for everyone to enjoy and access. In fact, Rob Dunn often waxes nearly poetic in his passion to imbue this book, and his readers, with knowledge. There are also many footnotes containing esoteric, yet highly amusing, information. For centuries, humans have tried to live apart from the world, cleaning, dousing, shaving, medicating away any other living organism on or near our pristine bodies. But perhaps that has not been the wisest course; after all, the human body, and it’s immune system, evolved over millennium to coexist with these little, microscopic organisms. In this book, this taboo subject is covered.
Here are some tidbits I learned from this book: Depending on your gut fauna, you may be able to extract up to 30% more calories from the exact same portioned food than your neighbor, who has a different set of gut fauna. You have taste buds not only in your mouth, but also in your gut, potentially adding to your cravings for sweet and salty. Most large predators who hunt and eat humans are diseased, old, or damaged in a way that they cannot hunt their regular, harder-to-catch prey. Scorpionflies are so named because the male genitals are rather large for a fly and resemble a scorpion’s sting.
OK, you get the gist of how fun a read this book was. If you need to pick out a nonfiction as some reading assignment, you won’t lack for entertainment if you pick this one up.
What I Liked: So much info told in such a fun way; yes, I read the footnotes, and I loved them; the cover is very cool; there are pronghorns in this book; the concept that living in harmony with nature also means being at peace with our internal fauna; the final chapter covers the possibility of greening up large cities with whole buildings that grow plants for food, air pollution control, and beauty.
What I Disliked: Occasionally, the author was a little over dramatic in telling an educational tale.
I’m including this in this week’s Read & Review Hop hosted by Anya over at On Starships and Dragonwings. Make sure to stop by her place to catch other book reviews.