I wasn't sure what I was going to get when I started this book; obviously microbes, but was it going to be dry and academic, or worse, evangelical 'omg-microbes-are-the-answer-to-everything!'?
Luckily I got neither. Instead Yong's book was, from start to finish, utterly fascinating; never too arcane and never to simplistic, he found the sweet spot of science writing, creating an engaging narrative that never talks down to the reader. Anyone with an average vocabulary and an interest in the symbiotic world can pick up this book without feeling intimidated.
Microbes (bacteria, viruses, etc.) are everywhere. Everywhere. And bad news for the germaphobes: this is a good and necessary thing. Life on Earth simply could not exist without these microscopic machines. Plants and animals depend on bacteria for nutrients they can't get from food on their own, for turning on specific and necessary genes in the DNA, even for protecting them from other bacteria gone rogue.
Yong starts at the beginning of humans' awareness that there is life we cannot see. Typically these beginning chapters are the deadliest for me, as I get bored with the 'background' and impatient to get to the 'good stuff', but Yong made sure even the boring background was the 'good stuff'. I was never bored reading this book.
Left to my own devices, this review would go on forever, because there's just so much worth discussing, so I'm going to short-circuit myself and say this: I Contain Multitudes is a great book for learning how microbes help make all life possible; it's a 50/50 split, more or less, of information on microbe/human and microbes/other flora and fauna symbioses. It's easy to read, it's entertaining, and for at least myself, it was laugh out loud funny in one part. I finished with a much better understanding of the microbial world and my own digestive system (for now, I'm going to resist the temptation of probiotic supplements).
A very worth-while read and one I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone with an interest.