For most of human existence, microbes were hidden, visible only through the illnesses they caused. When they finally surfaced in biological studies, they were cast as rogues. Only recently have they immigrated from the neglected fringes of biology to its center. Even today, many people think of microbes as germs to be eradicated, but those that live with us—the microbiome—are invaluable parts of our lives.
I Contain Multitudes lets us peer into that world for the first time, allowing us to see how ubiquitous and vital microbes are: they sculpt our organs, defend us from disease, break down our food, educate our immune systems, guide our behavior, bombard our genomes with their genes, and grant us incredible abilities. We learn the secret, invisible, and wondrous biology behind the corals that construct mighty reefs, the glowing squid that can help us understand the bacteria in our own guts, the beetles that bring down forests, the disease-fighting mosquitoes engineered in Australia, and the ingredients in breast milk that evolved to nourish a baby’s first microbes. We see how humans are disrupting these partnerships and how scientists are now manipulating them to our advantage. We see, as William Blake wrote, the world in a grain of sand.
I Contain Multitudes is the story of these extraordinary partnerships, between the familiar creatures of our world and those we never knew existed. It will change both our view of nature and our sense of where we belong in it.
I Contain Multitudes was a New York Times bestseller and appeared in the NYT's list of 100 Notable books from 2016. It also featured in books-of-the-year lists from Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, the Guardian, the Times, Smithsonian, ScienceFriday, Mother Jones, the Economist, NPR, Forbes, the Onion's AV Club, Buzzfeed, Times Higher Education, Popular Science, Ars Technica, the Spectator, MIT Tech Review, and the NYT again.
It was shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize 2017 and was a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize 2017. For the book, and other achievements in reporting on microbiology, Ed won the Byron H. Waksman Award for Excellence in the Public Communication of Life Sciences in 2016.
The book also sits on Bill Gates' bookshelf, made an appearance on Mark Zuckerberg's bedside table, and was a clue on Jeopardy!! (The first exclamation mark is part of the show's name, and the second is an indication of surprise.)
I Contain Multitudes is being adapted into a series of online videos by Tangled Bank Studios and Room 608. Watch this space for more information.
"Yong just keeps imparting one surprising, fascinating insight after the next. I Contain Multitudes is science journalism at its best." -- Bill Gates
“Beyond fascinating. An amazing book. It’ll change the way you think about the world. It'll change who you think you are.” --Helen Macdonald, author of H Is for Hawk
“Ed Yong is a talented British science writer...“I Contain Multitudes,” his first book, covers a huge amount of microscopic territory in clear, strong, often epigrammatic prose… He is infectiously enthusiastic about microbes, and he describes them with verve.” – New York Times Book Review
“ The author wonderfully turns to the humanities again and again to enrich the book’s scientific detail... And he’s funny,” - Wall Street Journal
"From his vibrant introduction to the witty endnotes, Yong’s expertise and narration hold no less wonder than a sacred text. Yong’s prose is alive with an almost incredulous pleasure that the field he has loved since childhood is now in vogue.” - Spectator
“Ed Yong’s beautiful, smart, and sometimes shocking new book…”-- Wired
“For a lesser writer, the temptation to oversimplify the science or to sex up unwarranted conclusions might have proved irresistible. Mr Yong expertly avoids these pitfalls. No matter. Mr Yong has no need for such hype. I Contain Multitudes bowls along wonderfully without it. His hero, Sir David [Attenborough], would surely approve.” – The Economist
"It is a page-turner in a very old-fashioned sense. All life is here, and death too, and sex and violence, including deviations of which you had never dreamed.” – Guardian
“A delightful, witty book… he does not just tell the stories of microbiomes, he also introduces readers to dozens of the scientists studying them. Their stories and conversations radiate the excitement of unlocking new secrets, putting a human face on the science.” – Science
“Ed Yong is one of our finest young explainers of science-wicked smart, broadly informed, sly, savvy, so illuminating. And this is an encyclopedia of fascinations.” --David Quammen, author of Spillover and Song of the Dodo
“A marvelous book! Ed Yong s brilliant gift for storytelling and precise writing about science converge in I Contain Multitudes to make the invisible and tiny both visible and mighty.” --Jeff VanderMeer, author of the Southern Reach Trilogy
“Ed Yong has written a riveting account of the microbes that make the world work. I Contain Multitudes will change the way you look at yourself and just about everything else.” --Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction
“I Contain Multitudes changes you the way all great science writing does. You become disoriented, looking at the world around you in a new way. With vivid tales and graceful explanations, Ed Yong reveals how the living things we see around us are wildly complex collectives.” --Carl Zimmer, author of Parasite Rex
“Ed Yong has done something beautiful, and unlikely: he’s rendered the unseen world of bacteria thrilling, captivating and highly entertaining. This is a much-needed guide to the hidden kingdom that dominates life on Earth. It cuts through all the hype of microbiomes with a scientifically steady hand, but told with an infectious sense of awe.” – Adam Rutherford, author of Creation
“Yong has captured the essence of this exciting field, expressing the enthusiasm and wonder that the scientific community feels when working with the microbiome.” -- Jack Gilbert, University of Chicago"
"The most engaging reading read ever." - David, from Canada, who then gave it a four star review.