©2008 Betsey Dexter Dyer; (P)2008 Recorded Books
I picked this up on one of Audible's super sales (I think I got it for $5) and I absolutely loved it. Yes, I'm a science geek, and your average person is not going to appreciate this course but, if you're at all curious about microbes and the history of science, I can assure you this is an excellent course. The professor obviously loves her subject and communicates well (this is a series of lectures, not really an "audiobook" per se). It is aimed at the curious, not the wanna-be microbiologist, so it's not TOO technical and I assure you that you will be impressed with all that bacteria do to make life possible for us.
The author is passionate about her subject and the information is compelling. The presentation style is like a lecture so you should not expect zippy over enthusiastic selling of ideas. There are several noteworthy facts about bacteria: for example, haemoglobin was developed in bacteria to sequester oxygen because it interefered with early life processes. Only later in the evolutionary descent was that protein used to carry oxygen where it is needed. This is a useful note if you are arguing against "intelligent" design and "intrinsic complexity"
This is a systematic and methodological overview of the most numerous and important life forms. Most people will have their worldview of biology turned upside down. Naturalists and scientists will be reminded the the bacteria are running the show. It's a new look at nature and a framework about the hidden world that is everywhere. I ordered the author's field guide and plan to use it future nature walks.
Yes, I have several more Modern Scholar titles in my wish list, and have a few already in my library.
Now I know why Swiss cheese smells like sweaty feet.
Now I want to set up a column full of swamp mud and grow my own bacteria. The sections on bacterial metabolism were particularly interesting.
A well-thought-out series of lectures focusing on some detailed aspects of a diverse topic. It is 50 % entertainment and 50% education, not a bad balance for the general public.
I love science books and really enjoy biology books. But I am having a very hard time writing this review. Maybe I am just not the intended audience for this book. I enjoy learning about how things work. Why they work a certain way. This book is not about those things as much as it can help it. Its about taxonomy and enumeration. All of what I would consider true science content is at high school level. Actually the whole book felt like a high school course. A ton or redundancy, a ton of pre-qualification, a ton of specifically excluding content (as if I should be happy that it won't be on my final). Really cool concepts like horizontal transfer, streamlined genomes and jumping genes are mentioned but barely explored.
Before buying this book - I would really read the description. Dyer has written the 'Field Guide' to bacteria, and these lectures are the course to go with it. Imagine bird watching with a book describing what birds are called, where they live and what their basic behaviors are. Some content on the best places and methods to spot birds. This is the equivalent for bacteria.
If you are not into taxonomy and ' - watching' I would not get this volume.
Professor Dyer's lectures on bacteria are incredibly gripping, well put together, and full of fascinating information. It is obvious to me, a fellow academic (though in History, not in any hard science), that she is presenting the very basic, watered-down version here, but it's quite enough for a non-specialist. There were only a few places where I hungered for more information and really wished that she hadn't cut out some of the more challenging details. Overall, this is a wonderful series of lectures that will make you think about and look at bacteria--and even yourself--in a whole new way. I also really like her voice. I purchased the other Modern Scholar lecture series she did, "The Basics of Genetics," and am looking forward to listening to it.
Give me science, or give me death!
This lecture is very remedial. Anyone who has taken a high school biology class will learn very little from it. The author is redundant, and the pace of the lecture is teasingly slow. However, if you want to learn how to identify bacteria by their field marks, it may be worth a listen. Some of the digressions in the lecture are comically out of place, such as the art history of Johannes Vermeer.
"Not one of the best Modern Scholar productions"
Sadly, this is a little repetitive, slow and a little low on content. And the delivery is far from punchy (Sorry Betsey, you sound like a lovely lady, but that's the way I found it).
"Engaging and accessible"
Its not easy to write engaging science books so I take my hat off to Betsy Dexter Dyer. Never having taken microbiology as an undergraduate, I inadvertantly stumbled into biogeochemistry during my post-graduate research and really panicked when I failed to understand paper after paper and found the textbooks on the subject dry, labourious and curiously unhelpful. This book does not require any previous knowledge of the subject nor does it require infinite amounts of patience, concentration and academic grit to learn from it, and yet neither is it written in a patronizing style. All that is required to enjoy this book is a curiosity about life on earth. Listening to this audiobook (and reading parts of her fieldguide to bacteria, which makes a great companion book) gave me a knowledge foundation and, more importantly, the interest and motivation to read drier and less 'user-friendly' papers and textbooks.
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