Microcosm: E. Coli and the New Science of Life, by Carl Zimmer
At first I thought this will rehash the same information I've got from books I've read recently: how microorganisms are everywhere and how they live in symbiosis and cooperation with themselves, plants and animals, how the imbalance in the ecosystem is what we normally get to call disease, maybe some epidemics stories and so on. Instead I've got an ode to E. Coli and how studying it for decades has revealed to us in details the way life works. It's Carl Zimmer's multifaceted portrait of a single species of bacteria (although that's a lot of bacteria, if you get to read the book).
Well written even if more technical than the average popular science book, Microcosm explains how heredity works, DNA, RNA, proteins, amino acids, bacteria, biofilms, archaea, eukaryotes, viruses, plasmids, mutations, evolution, resistance and so on until it gets to creationists, genetic engineering and exobiology, all while following our scientific history built on the study of this one bacteria, the workhorse of microbiology. In fact, it is so focused on E. Coli, that it snubs most other bacteria, it talks little of epidemics or the microbe ecosystem and instead focuses on how things work. It's like an engineer's view on how life works, or a user's manual for Escherichia coli.
I liked the book and I will probably read more from the same author. I mean, if he writes a book per microbe species I could read his books until one of us dies :) I highly recommend it not only for its subject, but also for how it makes clear the inner workings of life and evolution. I would have loved to read this book when I was 12.
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