Summary and book reviews of Immune by Catherine Carver

Immune

How Your Body Defends and Protects You

by Catherine Carver

Immune by Catherine Carver X
Immune by Catherine Carver
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  • Published:
    Nov 2017, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Natalie Vaynberg

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Book Summary

Immune explores the incredible arsenal that lives within us - how it knows what to attack and what to defend, and how it kills everything from the common cold to the plague bacterium.

The human body is like an exceedingly well-fortified castle, defended by billions of soldiers - some live for less than a day, others remember battles for decades, but all are essential in protecting us from disease. This hidden army is our immune system, and without it we could not survive the eternal war between us and our microscopic enemies.

Immune explores the incredible arsenal that lives within us - how it knows what to attack and what to defend, and how it kills everything from the common cold to the plague bacterium. We see what happens when the immune system turns on us, and conversely how impossible life is without its protection. We learn how diseases try to evade the immune system, how they exploit vulnerabilities and even subvert it to their own advantage, and we discover how scientists are designing new drugs to harness the power of the system to advance medicine in the 21st century.

Some of the topics explored include why are so many people allergic to cats, but so few to hamsters? Do transplants ever reject their new bodies? What is pus? How does your body develop new weapons for new enemies? Why is cancer so hard for our immune system to fight? How does our immune system remember? Why did the 1918 flu pandemic kill mainly young, healthy people? Why did the 2009 swine flu outbreak lead to a spike in sleep disorders? Can we smell someone else's immune system, and does that help us subconsciously decide who we fall in love with?

Immune provides an entertaining, intriguing, and accessible account of the body's defenses against disease. Drawing on everything from ancient Egyptian medical texts to cutting-edge medical science, the book takes readers on an adventure packed with weird and wonderful facts about their own defense mechanisms, making this both informative and great fun to read.

PREFACE
Our Hidden Army

Every epic tale needs a hero. Ours is 12 microns tall and lives for a matter of hours; it's called a neutrophil and your life depends on it. Don't be deceived by its tiny stature and minuscule lifespan; this cell can capture bubonic plague in a web of its own DNA, spew out enzymes to digest anthrax and die in a kamikaze blaze of microbe-massacring glory. The neutrophil is a key soldier in an eternal war between our bodies and the legions of bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites that surround us. From having sex to cleaning the kitchen sink, everything we do exposes us to millions of potential invaders. Yet we are safe. Most of the time these invaders' attempts are thwarted. This is because the human body is like an exceedingly well-fortified castle, defended by billions of soldiers. Some live for less than a day, others remember battles for years, but all are essential in protecting us. This is the hidden army that we all have inside of us, and I&...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Even if you are a science "nerd," scientific non-fiction can be difficult to embrace. Not many scientists have the gift of translating their incredibly vast knowledge into something that an average reader, without the benefit of a PhD, can understand. Catherine Carver is in the elite minority who can. Immune is an absolute gem. If you have an interest in science, want to know more about the intricacies of the human body, or simply enjoy having a ready arsenal of fascinating tales to share at a dinner party, Immune is a safe bet. Do not be surprised if you find yourself subscribing to more science magazines or looking for similar reads in the future. Easy to read, quickly absorbing and chock full of humor, Carver's book is a great addition to any bookshelf.   (Reviewed by Natalie Vaynberg).

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Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Not easy going for general readers given the depth, breadth, and detail Carver brings to a complex subject, but credit her for the wits—and wittiness—she uses to enlighten us.

Library Journal
A comprehensive and absorbing work that will entice its audience (scientists and lay readers alike) with an interest in human biology."

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This splendid guide offers historical and scientific context on a subfield of biology that affects everyone and that is increasingly being harnessed to improve and save lives.

Author Blurb Christopher van Tulleken, doctor and TV presenter
A spectacular contribution to popular science writing.

Author Blurb Danny Altmann, Professor of Immunology, Imperial College London
With exuberance and clarity, Catherine Carver makes the complex science easy to understand in this refreshing read.

Author Blurb Kat Arney, science writer, broadcaster, and author of Herding Hemingway's Cats
Immune is a fascinating journey through the body's defences. Carver's writing fizzes with descriptions, metaphors, and stories, taking us right into the inner workings of the immune system with flair and enthusiasm.

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Beyond the Book

Can Organ Transplants Change Who You Are?

Transplant illustrationA staggering number: over 34,000 organ transplants were performed in the U.S. in 2017 alone. Another staggering number: 115,000 people are currently waiting for life-saving organ transplants in the U.S. As the medical techniques and success rates continue to improve, organ transplants are quickly becoming a tremendous lifeline for some of the population. Anyone who has had to consider an organ transplant has been, of course, informed of all the physical risks and dangers involved, but might there be something else to consider?

There is a psychological component to organ transplants as well. In many cases, organ recipients experience feelings of guilt – they have survived through the benefit of someone else's organ, someone ...

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Readalikes

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