Synopses & Reviews
A biologist shows the influence of wild species on our well-being and the world and how nature still clings to us—and always will.
We evolved in a wilderness of parasites, mutualists, and pathogens, but we no longer see ourselves as being part of nature and the broader community of life. In the name of progress and clean living, we scrub much of nature off our bodies and try to remove whole kinds of life—parasites, bacteria, mutualists, and predators—to allow ourselves to live free of wild danger. Nature, in this new world, is the landscape outside, a kind of living painting that is pleasant to contemplate but nice to have escaped.
The truth, though, according to biologist Rob Dunn, is that while "clean living" has benefited us in some ways, it has also made us sicker in others. We are trapped in bodies that evolved to deal with the dependable presence of hundreds of other species. As Dunn reveals, our modern disconnect from the web of life has resulted in unprecedented effects that immunologists, evolutionary biologists, psychologists, and other scientists are only beginning to understand. Diabetes, autism, allergies, many anxiety disorders, autoimmune diseases, and even tooth, jaw, and vision problems are increasingly plaguing bodies that have been removed from the ecological context in which they existed for millennia.
In this eye-opening, thoroughly researched, and well-reasoned book, Dunn considers the crossroads at which we find ourselves. Through the stories of visionaries, Dunn argues that we can create a richer nature, one in which we choose to surround ourselves with species that benefit us, not just those that, despite us, survive.
"In this snappy, popular science look at the human condition, North Carolina State biologist Dunn (Every Living Thing) argues that our lives and our bodily functions (including the immune system) are intimately linked to species that live on and around us. Dunn offers lots of eye-popping biological tidbits such as how worms may set you free if you suffer from a variety of stomach disorders; or the supposedly useless appendix actually helps the microbes in our guts; and scary movies satisfy our brain parts that still tell us we're being chased by predators. Ticks and lice may have triggered our relatively hairless evolution. Yet there's far more than fun facts; Dunn begs us to look toward a future in which we interact more with the species we have moved away from. Dunn challenges us to view a 'web of life in which we evolved, that once shaped us and whose rediscovery could benefit our bodies and our health.' (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“A pleasure to read. He is not a biologist moonlighting as a writer; he is both. Dunn also does a wonderful job interspersing history, research, and speculation with real-life human beings. He has a natural flair for drama and tension . . . a highly readable, informative mashing of ideas and disciplines.” Boston Globe
“Adding touches of humor along the way, Dunn deftly explains complex biological systems for the general reader. […] Highly recommended for nature aficionados, this book should inspire many lively discussions.” Library Journal
“[Dunn is] a master at applying the principle of administering a spoonful of sugar (i.e., humor) to make the “medicine” of complicated scientific information not merely interesting but gripping. Nothing less than an every-persons handbook for understanding life, great and small, on planet Earth.” Booklist (starred review)
“Grabbing the reader from the start . . . Dunn moves through the answer to these and other questions with a sure use of language, scientific research, and humor-all of which combined keep the reader highly engaged. . . . Mr. Dunn is a thorough and talented writer.” New York Journal of Books
“An extraordinary book about a previously little explored subject. With clarity and charm the author takes the reader into the overlap of medicine, ecology, and evolutionary biology to reveal an important domain of the human condition.” Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University
“Anextraordinary book…. With clarity and charm [Dunn] takes the reader into theoverlap of medicine, ecology, and evolutionary biology to reveal an importantdomain of the human condition.” —EdwardO. Wilson, author of Anthill
and The Future of Life
BiologistRob Dunn reveals the crucial influence that other species have upon our health,our well-being, and our world in The WildLife of Our Bodies—a fascinating tour through the hidden truths of natureand codependence. Dunn illuminates the nuanced, often imperceptible relationshipsthat exist between homo sapiens and other species, relationships that underpinhumanitys ability to thrive and prosper in every circumstance. Readers ofMichael Pollans TheOmnivores Dilemma will be enthralled by Dunns powerful, lucid explorationof the role that humankind plays within the greater web of life on Earth.
Based on her hugely popular Atlantic article, science writer Kathleen McAuliffe reveals the myriad ways parasites control how humans act, feel, and think.
As we are now discovering, parasites—microbes that cannot thrive and reproduce without another organism as a host—are shockingly sophisticated and extraordinarily powerful. In fact, a host of parasites affect our behavior in ways we have barely begun to understand
In this mind-bending book, McAuliffe reveals the eons-old war between parasites and other creatures that is playing out in our very own bodies. And more surprising still, she uncovers the decisive role that parasites may have played in the rise and demise of entire civilizations. Our obsession with cleanliness and our experience of disgust are both evolutionary tools for avoiding infection, but they evolved differently for different populations. Political, social, and religious differences among societies may be caused, in part, by the different parasites that prey on us. In the tradition of Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel and Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish, This Is Your Brain on Parasites is both a journey into cutting-edge science and a revelatory examination of what it means to be human.
About the Author
KATHLEEN MCAULIFFE is a contributing editor to Discover. Her work has appeared in over a dozen national magazines, including Discover, the New York Times Magazine, Atlantic, and Smithsonian. From 1999 to 2006, she was also a health columnist for More. Her work has been published in Best American Science Writing, and has received several grants and awards, including a science writing fellowship from the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole. She has appeared numerous times on TV and radio, and was interviewed by To the Point, the nationally syndicated Osgood FIle, and other programs after her 2012 Atlantic feature "How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy" became the second most widely read article in the magazine's history. McAuliffe lives in Miami with her husband—a research physicist—and her two children.