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VINE VOICEon August 7, 2016
This was a fascinating book about bacteria, in the world, in the bodies of humans and animal,s and just in general. What I like about the book is that the author does a lot to explain how the world relies on bacteria. When you read the book you learn about how bacteria can be harmful, but also how it can be helpful and also how we set up some of the problems we experience with bacteria. If you want to learn more about bacteria, the author also includes some additional resources. I found this book very helpful for my own studies and research around how to work with bacteria and would recommend it to anyone who is curious to learn more about the role of bacteria in our lives.
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VINE VOICEon March 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )|Verified Purchase
I was not sure what to expect from this book. The subtitle, "How the World Depends on Bacteria," made me think this might be for the layperson. After all, it's rather basic knowledge, I thought, the popularity of antibacterial soaps aside, that we depend on bacteria. So I had hoped for a book written for laypeople but substantial enough to keep the interest of an intelligent audience.

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.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )|Verified Purchase
Disclaimer: I am reviewing an advance unproofread paper copy that I received for free through the Vine program. Along with the Kindle edition, which I also received for free.

The subject matter of this book (all kinds of stuff, about bacteria, archaea, and their relation to/comparison with other living things) is fascinating, and there is a lot of wonderful, up to date information provided in the book. It could use some editing and structural organization though (I spot-checked the Kindle edition against my advance unproofread paperback, to make sure I wasn't just seeing glitches that were only in the advance copy).

For instance, it really was glaring to me that some passages are repeated almost verbatim, in several different chapters, as if the chapters had been written independently for different purposes or different audiences, and only later collected into a single book, with hardly any weaving together to integrate them into a whole. I understand the style where you first "tell what you're going to tell", then "tell it", then "tell what you've just told"; this was just repeating, almost verbatim copy/paste, in 3 or more places in multiple chapters.

But the information, the content of those passages, is so interesting that I can forgive some repetition and lack of structural editing. The author does seem to have a deep long-term knowledge of the subject matter, and a love for it, and this does add to the charm of the book. It's definitely a very earnest effort to convey some ideas and some wonderful things!

Also, the index in the Kindle edition isn't quite calibrated -- for many items in the index, if I'd click on them, I'd be taken to a location in the text which was NOT about the item in the index. I tried and could always eventually find the item in question, within a few pages forward or back (sometimes like 3 whole Kindle pages away, sometimes forward and sometimes back), meaning they were sort of "in the ballpark", but still......
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on August 24, 2013
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 an excellent companion book that is both well-written and engaging. Additionally, it offers a large amount of legitimate content at a very reasonable price. Viewing it from this perspective, I would highly recommend the book for either (a) microbiology professors to recommend to their students, or (b) someone who is interested in learning more about bacteria, viruses, and archaea.

The book is presented in a "storytelling" format that is a welcome change for anyone who doesn't have the stomach or patience for a more erudite textbook presentation.
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on May 10, 2011
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! They are everywhere, and they are very interesting little creatures. I liked the book because it was just enough of an introduction to this complex subject, but it didn't leave me overwhelmed with to much specialized information.
I would highly recommend this book for someone like me, who knows very little about biology and microbiology, but finds the subject very interesting.
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on February 20, 2011
This book is written for the layperson. It is highly informative and yet easy to read. The arrangement of scientific discussion interspersed with historical or biographical anecdotes gives the brain time to rest between the bouts of heavy science, so that you can read straight through and still retain a good bit of the learning that is offered. It's a very good read.
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on January 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Most of us have grown up in an age where bacteria were simply called 'germs' and germs were all bad. Much of this attitude persists, with store shelves full of antibacterial soaps and alcohol-based hand disinfectants. We demand antibiotics for every sniffle, and our doctors too-often comply. We are vaguely aware that there are a few 'good germs', but our overall unease is hardly calmed. How horrible to know that our bodies are more bacteria (by cell count) than they are 'us'!

Bacteria are our seniors on this planet, by a whopping margin. And we didn't even know they existed just a couple of short centuries ago. It is Anne Maczulak's goal to tell the story of bacteria on earth and how we and they depend on one another. Each chapter centers on a single basic aspect of bacteria. There are of course chapters on bacteria's role as pathogens, as well is the now-closing era of antibiotics. There are chapters on bacteria in the role of bio-remediation (how DO we clean up the Gulf of Mexico) and chapters on how we manipulate the DNA of bacteria. One area I find particularly interesting is the way in which non-related bacteria actually share DNA. The family tree of these organisms is much less linear and clear than it is for larger life-forms. Not only do we not know how many bacterial species there are; we hardly know how to draw species lines. Maczulak shows that the worries of professional alarmists (Jeremy Rifkin is mentioned, but too gently) are marginal compared to what's already been going on for a couple of billion years.

This is a good book, kept from being a fine book by a little too complete. Every few pages the flow is interrupted by another table or a list. The intended readership is the audience of general readers and sometimes a little more storytelling and fewer facts can be less dry and more effective. There have been some fascinating people in this field, whether Snow or Fleming, but the profiles feel a little perfunctory. I'm quite sure Anne Maczulak has real passion for her work, and I wish a little more had come through.

But none of these criticisms should dissuade the reader. It's a nice summary of how far we've come in our understanding of these little critters.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon October 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book provides a good intruction to the field of microbiology by using a series of historical episodes of discovery pertaining to the microbial world. Some of these discoveries happened some time ago, as during the time of Pasteur or before, and as recent as the use of biomechanical and biochemical characteristics to develop the relatively new field of biotechnology and bioengineering.

In this book you will short depictions of notable historical events, such as about Typhoid Mary, a woman who was immune to the effects of the bacteria that cause typhoid, yet through whom many people were infected, some dying. You will also learn more about anthrax and other bacterial pathogens. In addition, you will learn about how scientists use other bacteria, like E. coli, to make discoveries that benefit mankind. The squeemish reader may not want to learn about the communities of bacteria that live on and in our bodies, but, well, they are there, and we would be in sad shape without most of them. There is also a nice introduction to how some kinds of bacteria can be used to carry out bioremediation (that is, clean up environmentally hazardous waste, including oil spills).

All in all an interesting read, yet I found myself wanting more as I read each episode. There is, however, a nice explanation of what DNA is, and how scientsts are now able to manipulate it to produce GMOs - genetically modified organisms, a process often involving bacteria.

A solid 4-star read, though, again, I wish there was more detail inlcuded about some of the stories. There is not quite enough info here to keep a professional biologist happy, but it will serve quite well for the non-scientist who wants to learn something about bacteria and their roles in the world.
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VINE VOICEon October 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
One of my concerns about science books for the general public has been that they tend to over simplify their subject. Science in these books seems to be little more than a set of facts presented in a shallow way. But this is not one of those books. This is a book for someone who knows some biology. This is not a simplified version of microbiology, but a very good and comprehensive overview of the field; perfect for someone with a good high school or college freshman bio course under their belt. It expects the reader to understand something of genetics, chemistry and cell biology, and is comfortable with the vocabulary.

In places there seems to be a bit too much effort to state a series of facts, and the writing feels strained. I had the impression that the author had a specific page count limit to meet, and was trying to get as much material in as possible. Overall, I found the the coverage of microbiology exceptionally broad; the more of the book I read, the better it got. In addition, the author provides a substantial list of references for each chapter that the reader can use to develop a deeper understanding of the various areas covered. Frankly.

If you search Amazon for the author's other books, you will quickly realize that she speaks with great authority on this subject. This book is perfect for younger persons contemplating a college degree in some aspect of the biological sciences, or someone who wants to be brought up-to-date after having some biology in college, perhaps years ago. If you are in the target audience for this book, you are sure to love it.
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on November 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Executive Summary - fun and fascinating book for nerds (except microbiologists - they already drank the flavor-aid).

When I started reading this book I knew a little bit about cells and microbes, mostly from high school level classes and watching the science channel. The book wasn't particularly taxing for someone at my level, but it taught me A LOT.

The book begins with a nice discussion of what bacteria are and are not. It then proceeds through the deep history (Cambrian) and human history of bacteria. That part was pretty fun. OK - plague, cholera, and tuberculosis are not "fun" subjects, but they can be very interesting.

The final areas addressed are the very recent developments going from cloning to PCR (and how it works!!!) and eventually to how all of this stuff is being applied to solve current and foreseen problems.

Another chunk that I liked was the interrelationship of bacteria and "inorganics". Like rocks deep in the earth and such. That those little microbes are actually effecting geology is amazing. Yeah, the cyanobacteria oxygenated the air but the little suckers miles down messing with rocks are amazing too. It's easy to think that a molten planetary core and plate tectonics do all the work, but that's not quite true.

This is one of those keep-after-reading books. Lots of reasons to return to those pages.
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