I Contain Multitudes  by Ed Yong
(The Bodley Head/ UK and Ecco/US, 2016)

I Contain Multitudes

by Ed Yong

Your body is teeming with tens of trillions of microbes. It’s an entire world, a colony full of life. In other words, you contain multitudes.

These microscopic companions sculpt our organs, protect us from diseases, guide our behaviour, and bombard us with their genes. They also hold the key to understanding all life on earth.

In I Contain Multitudes, Ed Yong opens our eyes and invites us to marvel at ourselves and other animals in a new light, less as individuals and more as thriving ecosystems.

We learn the invisible and wondrous science behind the corals that construct mighty reefs and the squid that create their own light shows. We see how bacteria can alter our response to cancer-fighting drugs, tune our immune system, influence our evolution, and even modify our genetic make-up. And we meet the scientists who are manipulating these microscopic partners to our advantage.

In a million tiny ways, I Contain Multitudes will radically change the way you think about the natural world, and the way you see yourself.


Beyond fascinating. An amazing book. It'll change the way you think about the world. It'll change who you think you are.”
- Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk
This densely fascinating and elegant book ... is vividly enjoyable.”
- Steven Poole, The Telegraph
Ed Yong has done something beautiful, and unlikely: he’s rendered the unseen world of bacteria thrilling, captivating and highly entertaining. This is a much-needed guide to the hidden kingdom that dominates life on Earth. It cuts through all the buzzwordy hooey and flakey hype of microbiomes with a scientifically steady hand, but told with an infectious sense of awe.”
- Adam Rutherford, author of Creation
I Contain Multitudes changes you the way all great science writing does. You become disoriented, looking at the world around you in a new way. With vivid tales and graceful explanations, Ed Yong reveals how the living things we see around us are wildly complex collectives.”
- Carl Zimmer, author of Parasite Rex
With a simply wonderful book, Ed Yong opens the doorway to a hidden world around and inside us. He's smart, he's witty, and he's at the cutting edge. You could not get a better guide.”
- Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist Strikes Back, and Messy
Ed Yong has written a riveting account of the microbes that make the world work. I Contain Multitudes will change the way you look and yourself - and just about everything else.”
- Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction
A marvellous book! Ed Yong’s brilliant gift for storytelling and precise writing about science converge in I Contain Multitudes to make the invisible and tiny both visible and mighty. A unique, entertaining, and smart read.”
- Jeff Vandermeer, author of the Southern Reach Trilogy
I Contain Multitudes has a terrific story to tell … Ed Yong is a talented British science writer … his first book covers a huge amount of microscopic territory in clear, strong, often epigrammatic prose … He is infectiously enthusiastic about microbes and he describes them with verve … Even the book’s endnotes are rich with interesting asides, swarming with interesting sidelights, a teeming microbial world. This is the world you live in. This is the skin you live in. Make yourself at home.”
- Jonathan Weiner, New York Times
A delightful, witty book. Yong vividly describes the intricate alliances forged by microbes with every other organism on the planet … The most delightful part of Yong’s book is that he does not just tell the stories of microbiomes, he also introduces readers to dozens of the scientists studying them … Their stories and conversations radiate the excitement of unlocking new secrets.”
- Susan Perkins, Science
An exceptionally informative, beautifully written book that will profoundly shift one’s sense of self to that of symbiotic multitudes.”
- Kirkus, Starred Review