In the spirit of Natalie Angier’s The Canon, and writing with the verve and wit of Bill Bryson, Small Wonders takes the reader on a fantastic voyage to the microscopic, but massively influential, world of microbiology. It’s a strange and dangerous world where oxygen is a lethal poison, sulphur is a delicious treat, deception is a basic survival skill, and perfectly good alcohol is simply thrown away.
Idan Ben-Barak wears his learning lightly as he introduces us to the amazing lives and workings of genes and proteins, bacteria, and viruses, and the myriad ways in which they interact to shape life on Earth. On the journey, we learn about the teamwork required to rot human teeth; the microbe superheroes who feed on radioactive waste; suicide genes; the origins of diseases and antibiotic resistance; and the numerous respects in which microbes benefit human life — from manufacturing food and medicine, to mining gold, finding oil, cleaning up the mess we make, and generally rendering the Earth habitable.
Small Wonders is popular science at its best. Ben-Barak’s love of bugs is infectious and makes for a scintillating, fast-moving adventure that will appeal to even the least scientifically savvy of readers.
‘Reading this book brought back my old biology teacher's refrain: "Girls, don't you just love biology!" … Idan Ben-Barak's passion is slightly more specialised: he loves microbes. But he writes about them with similar verve and delight … Small Wonders opens our eyes to that invisible cosmos without which there would be no life.’
Fiona Capp, The Age
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‘Idan Ben-Barak demonstrates that this world is a truly enthralling place, worthy of our consideration for its intellectual interest as well as its importance. He shows just how much teamwork is required to rot human teeth, how some microbes thrive on radioactive waste and how we are putting microbes to use in unexpected ways.’
’a fascinating collection...’
‘Readers will find his chatty and humorous text offers a fun way to acquire a vast store of intriguing details about the small wonders that inhabit our world and our bodies.’
‘This is an absolutely delightful book about our smallest and most necessary friends … Read this lovely book, and marvel at these tiny critters that make our lives possible.’
Dr Karl Kruszelnicki
‘[Small Wonders is] graphic, gripping, and goofy — welcome features in a guide to stuff so small you can't see it. Idan Ben-Barak's affection for his subjects is both endearing and affecting: I guess I really do appreciate E. coli, and admire the polio virus! Micro-marvelous.’
Hannah Holmes, author of The Well-Dressed Ape