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The Amoeba in the Room: Lives of the Microbes [Kindle Edition]

Nicholas P. Money
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A cup of seawater contains 100 million cells, which are preyed upon by billions of viruses. Fifty million tons of fungal spores are released into the atmosphere every year. And the human gut is home to somewhere between 500 and 1,000 species of bacteria. The more we learn about microbial biodiversity, the clearer it becomes that the vast majority of life has long gone unseen, and unobserved. The flowering of microbial science is revolutionizing biology and medicine in ways unimagined only a few years ago, and is inspiring a new view of what it means to be alive.
In The Amoeba in the Room, Nicholas Money explores the extraordinary breadth of the microbial world and the vast swathes of biological diversity that can be detected only using molecular methods. Although biologists have achieved a remarkable level of understanding about the way multicellular organisms operate, Money shows that most people continue to ignore the fact that most of life isn't classified as either plant or animal. Significant discoveries about the composition of the biosphere are making it clear that the sciences have failed to comprehend the full spectrum of life on earth, which is far more diverse than previously imagined. Money's engaging work considers this diversity in all its forms, exploring environments from the backyard pond to the ocean floor to the "mobile ecosystem" of our own bodies.
A revitalized vision of life emerges from Money's lively narrative of the lowly, one in which we are challenged to reconsider our existence in proper relationship to the single-celled protists, bacteria, and viruses that constitute most of life on earth. Proposing a radical reformulation of biology education and research in the life sciences, The Amoeba in the Room is a compelling romp through the least visible and yet most prodigiously magnificent aspects of life on earth.

Editorial Reviews


"Money enthusiastically presents evidence of diversity everywhere, no matter the magnification. ... This is a lucid and informative book. There is an impressive afterword of references and notes, and fine line drawings. So much that is lyrical and little-known waits to be discovered here - novelties that will appeal to new undergraduates as well as to incorrigible microbial enthusiasts like myself." --Nature

"Nicholas P. Money, mycologist and professor of biology at Miami University, has made an excellent contribution to science in popular culture with his new book, The Amoeba in the Room."--Kansas City Star

"Money succeeds, intellectually in convincing you that multicellular creatures count for little in the grand scheme of biology" --Wall Street Journal

"Writing passionately about a subject he clearly loves, Money, professor of botany at Miami Univ. (Ohio), explains the critically important, but largely overlooked, roles microbial organisms play in the world." --Publishers Weekly

"Amoeba in the Room grew on me. I found myself reading a few pages every nightEL always curious to read a little more. By the time I reached the end, the author had succeeded in making a rather profound and permanent change in my world view. If you are involved in biology education at any level, including elementary school, I recommend you read this book. Like the microbes themselves, Amoeba in the Room is easily overlooked but carries an important message." --Scientific Thrillers

"Money's book offers a glimpse into the lives of these often overlooked bacteria, fungi, amoebas and other microbes. Money's light-hearted writing helps prevent the lingo from becoming overwhelming, though, and readers who can weather the tricky language will find a fascinating and strange new world." --Science News

"...beautifully written, Money has a great style, and a very important message. To see what is really going on in the biosphere, the only zone of life that we know of at this point, you need a microscope. Bacteria are the gods of humans." --The Stranger

"Written with great skill and seasoned with wit, the book displays the expertise of the writer." --San Francisco Book Review

"Money's light-hearted writing helps prevent the lingo from becoming overwhelming, though, and readers who can weather the tricky language will find a fascinating and strange new world." --Science News

"Nicholas Money is an expert guide. This world will not seem the same to anyone who reads his book." --The Times Literary Supplement

"This is a fascinating, amazing, and thoroughly enthusiastic sketch of [the] subject ... The book helps orient us to new biological horizons - and new philosophic ones." --The Ecologist

"Money succeeds in driving hom his main point: biology isn't really about the animals." --New Scientist

About the Author

Nicholas P. Money is Professor of Botany at Miami University and author of The Triumph of the Fungi, Carpet Monsters and Killer Spores, Mr. Bloomfield's Orchard, and Mushroom.

Product Details

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
By Amy R.
ScienceThrillers review: In order to evaluate The Amoeba in the Room: Lives of the Microbes, it’s critical to first define the book’s audience.

Here’s a useful indicator: tell me, what is a eukaryote? A prokaryote?

If you have no idea, this book is NOT for you. Move along.

Like many of the microorganisms it describes, Amoeba in the Room occupies a small, specialized niche. It is neither popular science with broad appeal, nor is it a textbook of microbiology. The book begins with a sort of pastoral musing by a microbiologist contemplating the exotic, invisible life in his Ohio backyard pond. Over the pages the author takes us on a global tour of the microbes, highlighting the incomparably strange and amazing features that are commonplace and ordinary among very small forms of life. He structures this journey by environment, from pond, to ocean, soil, fresh water, air, the insides of humans, and extreme environments, selecting a few striking microbes to highlight in each place while emphasizing the incomprehensible diversity and complexity of each ecosystem.

But Amoeba in the Room is both much less and much more than an inventory of remarkable microbes. (Author Money makes clear how foolhardy such an endeavor would be.) This book has a consistent message that culminates in the end with a call to arms. Money’s goal is to change the reader’s way of seeing the world, and especially to change the way we teach (and study) biology. One microbe at a time in the text, he gradually succeeds.

The tone is folksy and conversational but the content is intended for people who are fairly knowledgeable about biology in general and microbiology in particular.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
I received an electronic advanced reading copy of this from the publishers via NetGalley.

The purpose behind Money's "The Amoeba in the Room" resonates strongly with me as a microbiologist. It should resonate with anyone who is a biologist or is interested by the varied types of life on Earth. The TV documentaries "LIfe" and "Planet Earth" infuriated me with their focus on animals and plants alone. The vast majority of life on Earth is 'other' and microbial. "The Amoeba in the Room" sets out to make this clear and detail what exactly that microbial world looks like.

I personally was interested in reading this because I was expecting a focus on the protists, eukaryotic microbes that I'm not nearly adequately familiar with. The first chapter nicely gives a tour of this eukaryotic microbe world, including the amoeba, but much of the remainder of the book covers the prokaryotes: bacteria and archaea. This isn't a problem by any means, but for me personally, everything in the remainder of the book was well-known to me and probably will be to any microbiologist.

And that final point does get at the major concern I have with Money's work, namely who is the audience supposed to be. Parts of the book are written with a fair amount of scientific detail (or at least jargon that goes undefined) that it would be hard reading for someone who is not trained in modern molecular biology at least. Yet the scope covers such a broad range of topics that the information given should be familiar to most scientists. I can see this working best for perhaps a well-trained biologist who happens to be in macrobiology fields.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars not an easy read May 31, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I am a physician and therefore have familiarity with the subject on a limited scale. The main point of the book is that the world would be a better place if humans were not here. Well, not really the main point but it certainly is true. The author describes how dependent we all are on microbes in our bodies (10 trillion), in a cc of ocean water ( 100,000 cyanobacterium and 10 million bacteriophage). There are lots of hard to pronounce words, so at times you just want to give up but re really does lay out the fact that these organisms in the land and oceans and air and in our bodies are much more important than we are for sustaining life on earth. We are dependent on them for our digestion and our immunity and the air we breathe and we need them. They do not necessarily need us.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Invisibly Omnipresent May 7, 2014
A new and wonderful world was revealed with the advent of the microscope in the 17th century. Since that beginning, littler and littler animalcules were discovered as viewing instruments increased in both magnification and resolution. Though familiar with the streaming globs of amoebae in introductory science, biology education touches lightly on the myriad varieties of microscopic life commonly known as the bacteria, viruses, fungi, algae, and protozoans. These microbes are actually the essence of life on Earth, and the author, a Botany Professor at Miami University stresses that the four kingdoms of the eukaryotic fungi and protists, along with the prokaryotic bacteria and archaea are unfortunately neglected in science schooling. Without this microbial foundation, life on earth could and would not exist. Beginning with the multitudinous microbial life in his backyard pond, the story expands to describe the range of diversity of microorganisms in the air, sea, and ground. What especially astounds is the hordes of bacteria in the human gut itself. Written with great skill and seasoned with wit, the book displays the expertise of the writer and will appeal to the microbial expert, but unfortunately the scientific details will overly challenge the novice. Translating the content of this impressive book for the layperson would aid in conveying the message that biology education should emphasize microscopic life rather than the familiar macroscopic forms.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good product and service.
Published 25 days ago by Danny Gene Sprong
5.0 out of 5 stars makes good sense. Lots of information
Fascinating book. I knew microbes are everywhere but didn't realize just how ubiquitous they are. The author's point that a realistic study of life's diversity would emphasize... Read more
Published 1 month ago by java
2.0 out of 5 stars Rambles
I didn't enjoy reading the book. I didn't like how it was organized. While the information presented may have been accurate it wasn't presented in a way that was interesting to... Read more
Published 1 month ago by B. Einhorn
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating! So much life we never see.
Fascinating! So much life we never see.
Published 6 months ago by P. Bomar
5.0 out of 5 stars I was born at night, but not last night
Amoebas with shells, protists with eyes and lenses, viruses with legs? I think not. It seems that so-called "advances" in microscopcy and the debunked theories of DNA have opened... Read more
Published 6 months ago by J. A. Haverstick
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book about mirobiology and the author's enthusiasm for...
While I always wanted to be a Biologist, to study life and somewhat understand how things get along, I never got there. Read more
Published 7 months ago by readsalot
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A chilling look at the threats to the pedestal of life on our pale blue dot.
Published 8 months ago by Peter B. Parnell
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!
This is a fantastic book. Plain and simple.I learned so much about a fascinating topic. I have read it twice and will do so again. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Michael A. Cox
2.0 out of 5 stars not that useful
Based on previous reviews, I was hoping this book had more detail and scientific information about microbes. It doesn't. It's more of a story book about the guys backyard pond. Read more
Published 9 months ago by J. Mathis
1.0 out of 5 stars Poorly written. Lots of I did this.. ...
Poorly written. Lots of I did this..., and I saw this..., He jumps from backyard elementary science to high level biology with no segue or explanation.
Published 9 months ago by Jeffrey Robert Norman
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More About the Author

Welcome to my book page. I'm a 52-year-old, breathtakingly attractive, Anglo-American author of a sextet of books on fungi and other microorganisms, and several works-in-progress. A handful of unpublished writings are available on My work is defined by my love of science and belief in its power to make sense of life, the universe, and everything else.

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