An Elegant Defense: Book summary and reviews of An Elegant Defense by Matt Richtel

An Elegant Defense

The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System: A Tale in Four Lives

by Matt Richtel

An Elegant Defense by Matt Richtel X
An Elegant Defense by Matt Richtel
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Book Summary

Magnificently reported and soulfully crafted, An Elegant Defense is an epic, first-of-its-kind exploration of the human immune system and the secrets of health, by Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times journalist Matt Richtel

A terminal cancer patient rises from the grave. A medical marvel defies HIV. Two women with autoimmunity discover their own bodies have turned against them. An Elegant Defense uniquely entwines these intimate stories with science's centuries-long quest to unlock the mysteries of sickness and health, and illuminates the immune system as never before.

The immune system is our body's essential defense network, a guardian vigilantly fighting illness, healing wounds, maintaining order and balance, and keeping us alive. Its legion of microscopic foot soldiers - from T cells to "natural killers" - patrols our body, linked by a nearly instantaneous communications grid. It has been honed by evolution over millennia to face an almost infinite array of threats.

For all its astonishing complexity, however, the immune system can be easily compromised by fatigue, stress, toxins, advanced age, and poor nutrition - hallmarks of modern life - and even by excessive hygiene. Paradoxically, it is a fragile wonder weapon that can turn on our own bodies with startling results, leading today to epidemic levels of autoimmune disorders.

Richtel effortlessly guides readers on a scientific detective tale winding from the Black Plague to twentieth-century breakthroughs in vaccination and antibiotics, to the cutting-edge laboratories that are revolutionizing immunology - perhaps the most extraordinary and consequential medical story of our time. The foundation that Richtel builds makes accessible revelations about cancer immunotherapy, the microbiome, and autoimmune treatments that are changing millions of lives. An Elegant Defense also captures in vivid detail how these powerful therapies, along with our behavior and environment, interact with the immune system, often for the good but always on a razor's edge that can throw this remarkable system out of balance.

Drawing on his groundbreaking reporting for the New York Times and based on extensive new interviews with dozens of world-renowned scientists, Matt Richtel has produced a landmark book, equally an investigation into the deepest riddles of survival and a profoundly human tale that is movingly brought to life through the eyes of his four main characters, each of whom illuminates an essential facet of our "elegant defense."

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Richtel approaches this essential subject with awe, his writing meticulous and empathic." - Booklist

"Richtel illuminates a complex subject so well that even physicians will learn." - Kirkus

"A hard-to-put-down account of the body's first line of defense." - Publishers Weekly

"One of those rare nonfiction books that transcends the genre. ... Fascinating and engrossing. ... What an inspiring and wonderful read. I highly recommend this extraordinary book." - Douglas Preston

"Matt Richtel's An Elegant Defense is a comprehensive and engaging primer on the body's 'ever-vigilant, omnipresent peacekeeping force.' The immune system plays an essential role in fighting infections and cancer and in regulating our normal health. Read this superb book to better understand one of the enduring mysteries of human biology." - Sandeep Jauhar, New York Times bestselling author of Heart: A History

The information about An Elegant Defense shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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Author Information

Matt Richtel

Matt Richtel is a Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times reporter and bestselling nonfiction and mystery author. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, Meredith, a neurologist, and their two children. In his spare time, he plays tennis and piano and writes (not very good) songs. Visit him online at www.mattrichtel.wordpress.com.

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