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Immune: The new book from Kurzgesagt - a gorgeously illustrated deep dive into the immune system Hardcover – 9 November 2021
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'Immune reads as if it's a riveting sci-fi novel, as Philipp Dettmer takes you on a journey into the body for an up-close look at the armies of expert warriors, rogue gladiators, and stealthy detectives that protect you in the daily war against trillions of ruthless microbe enemies. By the end of the book, I understood my entire body far better than I ever had before. Immune is a delightful treat for the curious' -- Tim Urban
- Publisher : Hodder & Stoughton; 1st edition (9 November 2021)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1529360684
- ISBN-13 : 978-1529360684
- Dimensions : 18.4 x 3 x 23 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 81 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from Australia
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However, the writing does get better later in the book with less repetition. Overall, most things are still intuitively and clearly explained. There were fewer illustrations than I expected, but they are beautiful and informative. I would still highly recommend this book, but with a bit more polishing it could have easily been five stars.
But it has no night mode, font size options, or dyslexia font choice. It is very very very! hard to read. If you have anything short of perfect vision.
“The Neutrophil is a bit of a simpler fellow. It exists to fight and to die for the collective. It is the crazy suicidal Spartan warrior of the immune system. Or if you want to stay in the animal kingdom, a chimp on coke with a bad temper and a machine gun.”
Top reviews from other countries
Reviewed in India on 2 November 2021
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 2 November 2021
THE LESS THAN GOOD: Once Dettmer was done explaining the immune pathways--about three quarters of the way through--some of his takeaways start to lose focus. This is because his intensely reductionist lens that focuses primarily on pathways, has trouble taking in the big picture. It's not exactly Dettmer's fault--this is the way that every immunology textbook and class I've come across also treats the topic. But it leads to a really strange cyclical logic.
For instance: throughout the book he writes that the immune system is absolutely not conscious--and that immune cells are basically mindless robots whose amazing adaptive properties emerge out of mechanical complexity. And yet he (and every immunologist I've met) can't resist anthropomorphizing cellular action--by calling macrophages angry, having one cell tell another to do something, communication across the system, recognizing self and other, and a hundred other examples. Somehow cells "make decisions" and also are "mindless robots". In this framing, the adaptive and innate immune system is just an assemblage of parts, which I think misses the point that it's all connected to an unarguably conscious human. Just because we (sort of) understand how those parts fit together doesn't mean that absolute reductionism is the only way to understand it--indeed, as he demonstrates, we don't even have the language to discuss how an unconscious immune system functions.
This becomes problematic when he begins to scale up to takeaways. For instance, the book takes casual aim at the wellness industry by suggesting the very idea of "boosting" the immune system is on its face nonsensical and even dangerous. Then, on the very next page (p281 para 3) he writes "working out also directly boosts your immune system", contradicting the thesis of the chapter. Then he says diet doesn't really matter as long as you eat sensibly. But what sensible eating means is lost in a casual wave of the hand. His point does stand that there are a lot of people who take advantage of scientific sounding language to sell products, but that really requires a medical anthropological lens more than the tight focus on receptor chains.
In the section on "Stress and the Immune System" he makes another major error. He correctly notes that stress suppresses the immune system, and how we got here evolutionarily, but then makes a totally crazy statement that the best way to counteract that effect is to further reduce external stress. So instead of building resilience by exposing yourself to physical stress so that your immune system doesn't react to it so strongly, the suggestion is to further retreat from the world so that when some external force does act on the body you're not ready for it.
IN A NUTSHELL: Overall this book is excellent. I'd recommend it to absolutely anyone who wants to try to understand all the moving parts of the universe inside your body that keeps you alive. The takeaways should be taken with a pinch of salt.
WHY ONE STAR?: Simply because you, dear review reader, probably sort by one star reviews to see the worst criticism and that's a little unfair. Five star reviews are often too enthusiastic, and one star reviews are usually too angry to be useful. I wanted this review to be useful and he already had enough 5-star reviews to have a good rating. In truth, this is a very good book.