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Publisher's Summary

A riveting exploration of how microbes are transforming the way we see nature and ourselves - and could revolutionize agriculture and medicine.

Prepare to set aside what you think you know about yourself and microbes. Good health - for people and for plants - depends on Earth's smallest creatures. The Hidden Half of Nature tells the story of our tangled relationship with microbes and their potential to revolutionize agriculture and medicine, from garden to gut.

When David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklé decide to restore life into their barren yard by creating a garden, dead dirt threatens their dream. As a cure, they feed their soil a steady diet of organic matter. The results impress them. In short order, the much-maligned microbes transform their bleak yard into a flourishing Eden. Beneath their feet, beneficial microbes and plant roots continuously exchange a vast array of essential compounds. The authors soon learn that this miniaturized commerce is central to botanical life's master strategy for defense and health.

They are abruptly plunged further into investigating microbes when Biklé is diagnosed with cancer. Here, they discover an unsettling truth. An armada of bacteria (our microbiome) sails the seas of our gut, enabling our immune system to sort microbial friends from foes. But when our gut microbiome goes awry, our health can go with it. The authors also discover startling insights into the similarities between plant roots and the human gut.

We are not what we eat. We are all - for better or worse - the products of what our microbes eat. This leads to a radical reconceptualization of our relationship to the natural world: By cultivating beneficial microbes, we can rebuild soil fertility and help turn back the modern plague of chronic diseases. The Hidden Half of Nature reveals how to transform agriculture and medicine - by merging the mind of an ecologist with the care of a gardener and the skill of a doctor.

©2016 David R. Montgomery and Anne Bikle (P)2015 Audible, Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Do not pass this up!

So good. And the narrator LJ Ganser did a fantastic job. Some personal story, a lot of history and a lot of science. it was fantastic!

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Probably the secret to most of our chronic disease

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes- I believe most people will benefit from realizing what big business agriculture has done to us as a result of industrialization on a massive scale in the 20th Century and that there is something that can be done about it in the backyard

What other book might you compare The Hidden Half of Nature to and why?

The One Straw Revolution is a book that discusses no till farming and not putting chemical industry fertilizers in soil written by a Japanese Soil Scientist - Masanobu Fukuoka

Have you listened to any of LJ Ganser’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have not

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes that would have been nice but not practical

Any additional comments?

Important that we begin to educate ourselves to improve our health and step away from industrialized healthcare and agriculture and this would also help our climate because it would restore the natural cycle

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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All things really are connected!

I have been a student of the soil food web concepts for the past five years and ecologist in-training nearly all my life. This was a most interesting and attention-holding book. Very eye-opening!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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It's OK

Here is another book about the value of natural gardening filled with fun facts and insightful ideas regarding nutrition and the evils of factory farming.

The books tone is somewhat marred by the narrators overly incredulous expression. His voice also runs cynical on occasion. In short he is an annoying narrator. The book appears to be written by husband-and-wife however the narrator never makes it clear who is doing which writing.

Regarding the writing, it's OK,not great. The male writer has a condescending manner, something along the lines of, "can you believe my crazy wife was really right about organic compost! "

That's just plain silly. Anybody reading this book is already convinced that organic gardening is a good thing. Nevertheless and in spite of everything I've complained about it's a pretty good story.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

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A perfect introduction to microbiology

Because of my recent transition from life as an academic neurobiologist to developing diagnostic tests for antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections in the biotech industry, I thought it would be a good idea to read up on microbiology. Ploughing through a Medical Microbiology textbook was not an appealing option, and The Hidden Half of Nature popped up in my Audible recommendations. I'm glad I selected this book, which proved a fascinating and accessible introduction to one of the hottest topics in contemporary biology.

The authors, a husband and wife team, use two personal stories–revitalizing the garden at their Seattle home, and recovering from uterine cancer–as the narrative threads from which they weave a historical tapestry that combines industrial chemistry, public health, agriculture, and medical and ecological microbiology. The prose is lively and engaging, and while much of the ground has been covered elsewhere–Pasteur and Koch's bitter rivalry, Flemming's serendipitous discovery of antibiotics–I don't think the particular cast of characters has been brought together for an ensemble piece before. I certainly can't think of another book that coherently links Fritz Haber's synthetic nitrogen fixing methods, Karl Woese's phylogenetic revolution, Lynn Margulis' symbiogenic hypothesis, and Liping Zhao's work on obesity and the gut microbiome.

They make a compelling, evidence-based argument linking human health and soil health, and that both are dependent on maintaining balanced relationships between uniccellular microbes and their multicellular hosts, plant or animal. I did have some minor quibbles with some aspects of the book. For example, neither horizontal gene transfer NOR the symbiogenic origin of chloroplasts and mitochondria postulated by Margulis really "fly in the face of Darwinian evolution," as the authors assert. Both phenomena fit neatly within a standard framework of selective advantage, especially from a "gene-as-the-unit-of-selection" perspective.

The other issue I had was with the narrator, LJ Ganser, who is quite over-the-top in his performance–more than once, I found myself thinking "Easy there, Shatner." As is the case for most audio renditions of science-oriented books, he mispronounces many terms (the regulatory immune cells are "tee regs" not "tregs"; the extremophile bacterium is "radio-durans," not "radi-odurans"; etc.), which can take a listener out narrative.

That said, Montgomery and Biklé have created something extraordinary with this book: An accessible layperson's introduction to modern microbiology spanning from the personal to the planetary, that makes a compelling case for why–and how–we can become better stewards of ourselves and the environment.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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A phenomenal read

I enjoyed this well researched, well documented, and captivating read! I am in awe at how much I learned. The book was written so that anyone with any educational background could understand and take away deep understanding of sciences. I loved how they weaved their own personal expirances with others before them.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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great insights into the microverse

a lot of wisdom and knowledge about how we need to use not abuse our microbes!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Very good book on this subject!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. I have recommended it already to many folks. It is a very understandable book on this subject.. I think I will try composting and stick to the Paleo diet I converted to after reading "Grain Brain". Very convincing.

What other book might you compare The Hidden Half of Nature to and why?

Daniel Permutter's books like "Grain Brain" etc., "Missing Microbes" and many, many more....One of my favorite subjects.

What about LJ Ganser’s performance did you like?

He holds your attention especially while running. He is one of my favorite narrators. Loved his narration of Matt Ridley's "The Rational Optimist".

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

his description of the intestinal tract.

Any additional comments?

I love audio books. They have changed my life...

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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"Seeing is an art" ♡

I loved this book. When I picked it, I had no idea I would feel so in awe and in sync with it's content. Currently I am studying PreMed courses, but I also have a B.S. in Plant Sciences and Agronomy and I have a Masters degree in Landscape Arquitecture and a minor in Art.I want to study medicine, percisely because I see connections between all theese fields, even if very few people ever understad it. I know that all my background knowledge will help be become a one-of-a-kind physician. I wish to help people heal, but in the process I wish to also help them understand and be their own healers.

My days are long. I work many many hours as a landscape architect in training at my husband's engineering firm, I am a drafter among other tasks I perform at the office. As I mentioned above I'm also taking premed courses and I try to cook everything my husband and I eat, I workout regularly and I have two beautiful dogs that I like to spend time with. Sometimes I question myself if I will be capable of achieving all the goals I have set out to do, because somedays get to be too much, and I just wish I was lounging at the beach or curled in my bed watching friends.

This book has given me hope, stregth, guidance, excitement and a push to keep on going. Hearing the words agriculture, landscape architecture and medicene strung together in the same narration, for me, is amazing. It's like, THIS IS IT! THIS IS WHAT I WANT, WHAT I AM LOOKING FOR! WHAT I'VE BEEN SEEING ALL ALONG! We are all connected among us and to our ecosystem inward and outward. Every decision we make has a ripple effect on our health and our evironments health.

I know the authors may never read this, but still, I just which to tell David and Anne: Thank you for this jewl. You have inspired me given me more stamina to keep on going.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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I wish I could get past the narrator's voice.

What did you like best about The Hidden Half of Nature? What did you like least?

Either a whole bunch of these reviews are fake or I'm the only one that thinks the narrator would be better off reading an episode of Dick Tracy or maybe The Phantom. Better yet, I could see him calling a hockey game. But for this he is so ill-suited. He is so distracting, it took me hours just to get to the point I could tune him out and hear the story. <br/>That is until you come back to it a few days later. <br/>

Any additional comments?

Before you buy, I suggest looking up the narrator and listening to his voice.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • David B
  • 03-02-16

An excellent read (listen!)

Any additional comments?

An excellent book that should be compulsary reading for our politicians,<br/>My only slight gripe is that the audiobook was read by a man, and it was confusing who actually was writing the chapter. Perhaps would have been better if the chapters were introduced by 'David' or 'Anne'.