5.) The Wild Life of Our Bodies by Rob Dunn: This book takes a broad look at the role that hangers-on have on human life.
4.) The Psychobiotic Revolution by Scott C. Anderson et. al.: This book focuses on the role that our gut microbiota have on our mental well-being–which increasingly appears to be substantial.
3.) Missing Microbes by Martin J. Blaser: The focus of this book is on how our love of antibiotics in every form– from pills to antimicrobial soaps–is killing us by denying us microbiotic diversity and robustness.
2.) 10% Human by Alanna Collen: Collen’s book addresses many of the same issues as the other books mentioned, but–as the title suggests–it emphasizes the fact that a human has 10 times as many hangers-on of other species as it does cells that are contiguous to the body. (If you’re wondering how this could be, it’s because the human body has some pretty big cells [some macroscopic, in fact] and the bacteria and other single-celled species tend to be relatively tiny.)
1.) I Contain Multitudes by Ed Young: This is probably the most highly-regarded of the books on this subject. It was considered one of the best science books of 2016.
This is the second collection of free verse (with some prose) poetry and line drawn art by Rupi Kaur, an ethnically Indian Canadian poet. Like the first collection, “Milk and Honey,” this collection has been well received critically. The strengths of the collection include some beautiful, evocative, and unique use of language; the author’s willingness to lay it all on the line in a bold and brave fashion; and the often clever–if simple, verging on crude—artwork. Its greatest weakness is frequent restatement of clichéd notions and truisms that don’t stand up well juxtaposed to the more personal and illuminating lines.
The collection is divided into five parts, each of them reflecting a theme—while being tied together by the titular floral theme. “Wilting” is about breakups. This flows smoothly in tone into the second part, “Falling,” which is about sexual violence, depression, and the linkage between them. “Rooting” is about family and origins, and—in particular—the poet’s relationship with her mother. As an immigrant child who moved to Canada from Punjab while young, Kaur was more attuned to her new home than her parents—who were less at ease with their adopted homeland and more rooted to their ancestral home. The penultimate part, “Rising” is about love and relationships, and it takes the collection into brighter territory. “Blooming” is about feeling comfortable within one’s own skin, and—in particular—the female experience of it.
As hinted, the overall organization of the collection seems purposeful and intriguing. The two melancholy parts at the beginning are blended into the last two (more optimistic) parts by way of a chapter on roots and family. This bridging seems to be done on purpose to make a statement.
I enjoyed this collection, and would highly recommend it for poetry readers—particularly for those who enjoy free verse.
That mammal stands a mile tall.
Far too proud to take a fall.
It lumbers on til days end,
nudging family round the bend.
Water hole. Day’s close. Circled up.
In the center stands a pup.
On infirm legs, the youth shakes
as adults stomp and earth quakes.
Predators stalk, but today’s odds
favor the prey and defy the gods.
5.) 3 Clues to Understanding your Brain by VS Ramachandran: Ramachandran discusses three afflictions that offer insight into the working of the brain. Capgras Syndrome occurs when individuals think loved ones have been replaced by impostors. Phantom limbs occur when there is an amputated limb which the brain continues to feel the presence of. Synesthesia is a muddling of sensory inputs /experiences.
4.) Charming Bowels by Giulia Enders: How we poop. How our gut nervous system influences our central nervous system. Why there is such a thing as “too clean for your own good.”
3.) Can We Create New Senses for Humans by David Eagleman: Our senses are narrowly attuned to taking in that information that offered evolutionary advantage to our ancestors. How might technology help us transcend those bounds?
2.) 10 Things You Don’t Know about Orgasm by Mary Roach: Eyebrow orgasm, thought-induced orgasm, orgasm among the deceased, and how orgasm may cure your hiccups.
1.) The Biology of Our Best and Worst Selves by Robert Sapolsky: Sapolsky explains that one can’t look at one biological system to understand violence or cooperation. Instead, genetics, environment, our nervous system, our endocrine system, and even the digestive system come into play. He also considers how we change.