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Allies and Enemies: How the World Depends on Bacteria (FT Press Science) 1st Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Ms. Maczulak removes the complexity to bring us a good overview of the role of bacteria in our lives and in the larger world around us. She exposes and corrects many myths, while also keeping her narrative in a framework that moves forward and helps the reader get "the big picture." Without crossing it, she walks the fine line between eye-glazing detail and enough detail to be a rich read. My eyes didn't glaze over once, during my reading of this book.
When I started reading this book, I thought it would be a good academic refresher. Before I finished reading it, that thought changed entirely. I think for most people, it is essential reading. A small example explains why.
Before I finished reading this book, I heard a radio commercial (I listen to the radio for a total of maybe 3 hours per month) for a product that should not be on the market. The commercial encourages parents to buy a chlorinated product for the kids to take to school and wipe everything with. Deliberately poisoning people is illegal, but for some reason if you poison kids with this product you won't go to jail for it. The hype is that this protects children from nasty bacteria. Parents who don't understand what is profoundly wrong with this product and why it's also unnecessary need to start educating themselves about the real world. This book provides a good start in that direction.Read more ›
I think a lot of people in general need to read books like this for a little perspective. When you're at the gym, at the mall, or at work, you'll see people putting on hand sanitizer after they touch anything and freaking out about germs. Watch some TV for a short time and you're bound to see some product that will protect your kids because it's antibiotic implying you're obviously a bad parent if you don't run out and buy it right now! Woo...the germs are gonna get ya! Well, no they're probably not. You have this thing called an immune system that tends to handle most of that kind of thing and it pre-dates these products by quite a while. That's not to say the stuff is useless, just that soap and water and avoiding touching your face are still your best bet. People would probably be a lot less afraid of "germs", if they better understood bacteria.
The book touches on a number of ideas, like children possibly having more allergies now because the environments we grow up in are more sterile than a generation ago, thus less exposure early to bacteria. It also discusses the "bio-film" on every human's body. The layer of bacteria already on your skin helps to prevent your getting sick, because new bacteria you pick up from doorknobs, pencils, whatever have to contend with those already present. A wide variety of ways in which bacteria support us and other life are also mentioned.Read more ›
What I found was a surfeit of technical terms that made the reading rather slow and dull. If I were a biology student, I would expect to have to know the terms. As a well-educated general reader, I would prefer a book that proceeds more smoothly, that neither condescends nor preaches, and that conveys a sense of enthusiasm. In typing this list, I think of books like Richard Rhodes Deadly Feasts, which I read as a complete layperson and from which I learned a great deal, or Richard Coniff's Spineless Wonders, which so patently conveys the author's enthusiasm that it's nearly impossible not to share it.
This book, however, is dry, just this side of a textbook. There are, from time to time, portions that are fascinating, but for the most part, I felt as if I were in a biology class. That's not a bad thing, of course, if one wants to take biology. I was hoping for more about bacteria in action (as, for example, in the production of cheeses, pasteurization of them, and the diseases that arise from them) in relevant, real-world settings and less about the fundamentals and terminology. Others, of course, may want to read this for just the opposite reason, and to them, I commend the book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I used this as the sole required textbook for a microbiology course. Alone, this book does not contain ample material to cover an introductory microbiology course, however, it is... Read morePublished on August 24, 2013 by Zachary Anderson
I took this book with me on a flight over Thanksgiving--what a good choice! It's a fascinating look at the overloooked kingdom of bacteria--what they are, how they're often very... Read morePublished on January 3, 2013 by Lupa
This book was written to an educated but not expert scientific audience. In other words if you have a decent grasp of basic biological science concepts you should have no trouble... Read morePublished on July 18, 2012 by Eliezer Kolatch
As one reviewer indicated, 'Probably accurate, but this book seems not to know its audience'. It is assumed that the reader is either a college graduate or a professional... Read morePublished on September 29, 2011 by James East
This book is a collection of historical stories about bacteria causing major upheaval and horrifying disease, as well as how they create tremendous benefits for our biologic... Read morePublished on July 28, 2011 by D. Coral
I consider humans to be walking bacterial superstructures given that only 10% of our DNA is human, We could not exist without the wallpaper of bacteria lining our skin, our... Read morePublished on May 26, 2011 by Herblady22
"The Martians had no resistance to the bacteria in our atmosphere to which we have long since become immune. Read morePublished on May 24, 2011 by Steven K. Szmutko
A real good introduction to microbiology. Before reading I had little idea of what microbiology was, and what exactly they study. Now I know, bacteria! Read morePublished on May 10, 2011 by Michael G. Williams
This is a fascinating look into the microscopic world of bacteria, presented in a readable format by microbiologist Anne Maczulak. Read morePublished on May 5, 2011 by B. McEwan