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85 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Consequences that "carry the weight of life's billions of years"
In full disclosure, as a blogger, I received an advanced copy of this book. I don't think, however, that that influences what I'm about to say:

The bottom line is that this is a rare book that I feel comfortable labeling a must-read. And I don't just mean in the Ecology, Health, or Evolution category. Across all categories, this is one of the most insightful...
Published on June 22, 2011 by A fellow with a keyboard

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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Explore how other species affect our own through this interesting, but flawed thought experiment
Started out as notable, scientific, informative, disgustingly fun. What is the appendix for? Can intestinal parasites cure us of bowel diseases? And more. But as it goes, the writing is inconsistent at best. Instead of presenting interesting scientific findings about our bodies, Dunn puts more and more effort into first the secret life of scientists (how an...
Published on July 1, 2012 by Claire O'Neal


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85 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Consequences that "carry the weight of life's billions of years", June 22, 2011
In full disclosure, as a blogger, I received an advanced copy of this book. I don't think, however, that that influences what I'm about to say:

The bottom line is that this is a rare book that I feel comfortable labeling a must-read. And I don't just mean in the Ecology, Health, or Evolution category. Across all categories, this is one of the most insightful and compelling books I have read. (I'm not just saying that; I actually keep a list of these things: [...]

It's a must-read because, in an eminently entertaining and understandable way, Rob Dunn provides a powerful framework for understanding who we are: (1) Our bodies' interactions with other species, and correspondingly (2) the inseparability of the human part of us from the non-human part of us; (3) the many ways that evolution shaped us and (4) the consequences of living modern lives; and (5) the previously unacknowledged genetic diversity that has big implications for medical practice and for which diets we respond to, and can even help explain social behavior.

For each of these points, I've included a quote to illustrate:

(1) "On our bodies are a kind of living wonderland. There are more bacterial cells on you right now than there ever were bison on the Great Plains, more microbial cells, in fact, than human cells. Each of those cells are tiny but perhaps consequential."

(2) "Major systems of our bodies, including our immune system, evolved to work best when other species lived on us. We are not simply hosts to other species; we live lives intimately linked to them, and even the boundaries between the simplest categories of "us" and "them" and "good" and "bad" are blurry to the tools we have so far."

(3) "The wild workings of our bodies influence who we are. They influence our behavior, our weight, our metabolism and nearly everything else. We are what we eat, but we are also, it appears, what eats us."

(4) "Right now, you are at almost no risk of predation. No tigers lurk in your kitchen or yard. You are at low risk of encountering a parasite. But you are also likely to struggle to see, around you in your life, anything resembling wilderness devoid of the impact of humans. These realities have consequences, more than we have realized. You might call them side effects, except that they seem to be right in front of us, knocking on our door. They are the ghosts of our ecological history. They knock softly but carry the weight of life's billions of years."

(5) "The genetic diversity among African groups is as great as that found in all of the rest of the world combined, a finding that reconciles with what is known about the diversity of cultures. Almost a third of the languages are found in Africa, and, with them, a third of all ways of living. In other words, in the most common telling, we had the tree of life precisely backward. The tree of life itself is rooted in Africa, where most of the branches remain. The rest of humans, from Native Americans to aboriginal Australians to Swedes, descend from just a few branches corresponding to one or two migrations out of Africa."
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ecology and evolution in humans, July 6, 2011
I am ecologist working in Argentina. I tend to study ecological interactions of wild species here, for example the dispersal of seeds by a small arboreal marsupial, the monito del monte and how these interactions affect population dynamics and persistence. I read Dunn's book from this perspective, as an ecologist who thinks of the interactions among species. Dunn's book, as the other reviews point out, considers our changing relationships, as humans, with other species. But what I think the other reviews don't touch upon as much is that in part what this book really does is to take what ecologists and evolutionary biologists know about species like monitos del monte, ants, beetles or whatever else, and their interactions, and uses that knowledge to consider humans in a new light. We are, Dunn convinced me, like other species, just more poorly studied and more rapidly changing the ways that we interact with other species. I have thought about human history as one in which humans were wild ecological creatures, influenced by and influencing other species, but I haven't really thought about my own life as much in that light. Dunn makes a convincing argument for the benefits of taking the tools of ecology and evolution and looking at ourselves in more detail. I enjoyed this book greatly and feel tempted now as a professional ecologist, to think about some of things I study in a new light.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dunn Did It Again, July 1, 2011
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I've been reading Rob Dunn's articles, essays, poems and now books, since he held up a sign in an airport saying "Will Count Bugs for Food" at the onset of an early internship so that the doctorate candidate would find him. He's "done" it again with The Wild Life of Our Bodies. Done what? Communicated information he's obviously very passionate and learned about that both educates and entertains. Rob Dunn peppers his prose with humor and "slices of life" uncommon to typical scientific studies. I always get the feeling when reading writings by Rob that he so wants to share the boundless joy his field of study has brought him with the rest of us, infect us with the same enthusiasm. He delights his readers and still makes his points. Most of us can write and talk "peer to peer". It takes a true artist to convey his material in such a way that a "non-scientifically inclined" person such as myself still anxiously turns each page. Rob will no doubt be rewarded with readership beyond his immediate sphere because of his rare talent.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Things in my body, July 6, 2011
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This review is from: The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today (Kindle Edition)
I have been reading Dr. Dunn's articles and I read his first book. They are all very good, but this is new book is better. It isn't like a normal science book. It is easy to read and exciting. I found myself wanting to skip ahead to see how things turn out. I learned all sorts of things about my life. I learned about my appendix, about the bacteria in my body, about why I get stressed, but I didn't realize I was learning, I just wanted to keep reading. I felt like there were complicated things in the book, but nothing was hard to understand. I don't have a science background but I saw how this book related to my life and it also made me think about the things I do on a daily basis and how often I am affected by other animals and bacteria without knowing it, or I guess whether I know it or not. The book also made me think about the ways that nature seems out of balance and how that balance might be affecting me. It seems silly to say that a book about the people in general made me thing about me, but that is what it did. In general this book was interesting, but it was also exciting and it has me thinking about myself differently.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome interesting book., November 30, 2011
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This review is from: The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today (Kindle Edition)
Let me just start off saying that I was skeptical coming into this because of lack of anything but 5 star ratings. I am a paranoid type of person and thought something had to be up with 100% of the ratings being 5 stars, and that, maybe, people associated with the book or writer padded the reviews. I couldn't be more happy about giving it a try anyway.

If this kind of thing interests you (and if you are reading this, I would imagine it does) then you will find this to be one of the most interesting books you could read. It teaches, it opens your mind, it presents you with a way of thinking that you might not otherwise experience.

The major theme of the book seems to be the effect modernization has had on our evolutionary benefits. It's a story of our evolutionary baggage and what we can or should do to turn that baggage back into usefulness. It ranges from large predators to microbial effects on our modern lives and explains how being indiscriminate of our extermination of perceived threats, we may have been doing more harm than good.

If you are worried about this being over your head, don't be. As I'm sure you will be able to gather from reading this review, I am not the smartest person on the planet and yet it was still as enjoyable to read as I could hope for. It really is worthy of 5 stars, and I am not very generous with my 5 star ratings.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a delightful foray into the biology and evolution of our species, July 18, 2011
Having read Dunn's first book, "Every Living Thing", I was eager to dive into his second. I was not let down!! This is a fantastic read. Dunn has done a remarkable job weaving the story of who we are as a species, whence we came, and the remarkable relationships we have with other species - big (predators) and small (parasites). As a professor of ecology, evolution, and biological anthropology I am a critical reader of literary forays into the biology and evolution of our species. There are many attempts, but only a few emerge as ones that are as well thought out and delightfully unfolded as what Dunn has accomplished. This is not a dry recitation of fact after fact. In addition to being a trained biologist (and professor of ecology), Dunn is truly a gifted writer - witty, relevant, irreverent, insightful, and...informed! If you have the time or proclivity to read only one book this year - this is the one!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Updated theories about human evolution, March 11, 2012
A delightful exploration of research around the evolution of the human body contrasted with how technological evolution maybe causing humans more harm than good. The book looks at the role of parasites in our gut, a new line of thinking about the purpose of the appendix, the impact of the introduction of agriculture, how our flight or fight response maybe harming us, and why humans lack hair. For each theme the author weaves a narrative of current research, his own observations, and anecdotal stories written with cliff hanger transitions. I found the first half of the book covering parasites, the appendix, and agriculture to be much better written and cohesive than the latter half which seemed to focus more on stories than science and didn't fit the wild life premise as well. Overall the writing is enjoyable, approachable, and presents many new theories and thoughts about our growing understanding of the evolution of the human body.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever Science, November 29, 2011
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After hearing an interview with Rob Dunn on NPR I decided I had to read this book. I was not disappointed. As an Evolutionary Biologist this was definitely right up my alley but I do think this book would be enjoyed by anyone who has an interest in the interconnectedness of species. Dunn's writing is superb. It is witty and informative without bogging down in long technical descriptions. He does however provide enough detail to spark a researcher's curiosity to delve into the topic further at a later time. My husband, also a Biologist, was a little disappointed that there were no pictures of Whipworms since he considered invertebrates to be the coolest organisms on the planet! I've always argued that we did not evolve in a bubble and I find it refreshing to read a well thought review of how important co-evolution was in shaping who we are today. I highly reccommend this book and look forward to more from Dr. Dunn.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great science writing by an excellent scientist, July 18, 2011
I have eagerly awaited this newest offering from Rob Dunn since reading his excellent first book, Every Living Thing: Man's Obsessive Quest to Catalog Life, from Nanobacteria to New Monkeys, which examined the dogged pursuit of scientists to classify the diversity of life. This insightful new book tackles the complex ecological interactions that shape human biology. His central thesis is that our shared evolutionary history with other species (big and small) shapes all aspects of the human experience - health and fitness, anatomy and physiology, neurobiology and psychology, genetics and the human genome, etc. These inescapable facts are not news to most biologists, but Rob has a special talent for distilling intricate scientific concepts using insightful, clear, and humorous prose that should be both accessible and engaging to a diverse audience. This highly entertaining work informs us why appreciating our humble past can enrich our day-to-day lives and help shape our uncertain future.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you are a human..., July 12, 2011
... you owe it to yourself to read this book. Aside from the humor and wit that Dunn writes with, he has a knack for weaving stories together, for turning pretty high powered science into a page turner. Most important, Dunn implores us to realize that biology matters, that evolution matters, that ecology matters. We are who we are because of ecology and evolution, just like everything else on the planet.

Buy this book for yourself and for your friends. Buy it for your pets, because they factor into the story too.
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