The best books about surviving and thriving in a microbial world

Who am I?

I'm enchanted by ecology – how life on Earth is both a web and a seamless continuum. In my first book, Corpse, I explored the organisms that colonize the human body after death. In Good Germs, Bad Germs, I immersed myself in our symbiotic relationship with the ever-present bacteria that live in us and on us. I’m passionate about understanding how we evolved to survive in a bacterial world and how we must take the long-term view of surviving – and thriving – in their ever-present embrace. My joy has been in exploring the world of science and translating this joy into lay-accessible stories that entertain as well as educate. 


I wrote...

Good Germs, Bad Germs: Health and Survival in a Bacterial World

By Jessica Snyder Sachs,

Book cover of Good Germs, Bad Germs: Health and Survival in a Bacterial World

What is my book about?

Public sanitation and antibiotics have delivered historic increases in the human life span. Unintendedly, they have also produced new health crises by disrupting the intimate, age-old balance between humans and the microorganisms that inhabit our bodies and our environment. As a result, antibiotic resistance now ranks among our deadliest medical problems. Good Germs, Bad Germs tells the story of what went terribly wrong in our war on germs. It also offers a hopeful look into a future when antibiotics will be designed and used more wisely, and beyond that, to a day when we may replace antibacterial drugs and cleansers with bacterial ones. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Life On Man

Jessica Snyder Sachs Why did I love this book?

In Life on Man, the brilliant bacteriologist and renowned professor Theodor Rosebury became the first to introduce the public to the world of bacteria within and around them. He did so with irreverence and humor that shocked and delighted without sacrificing scientific accuracy and prudence. Though our understanding of the bacterial world has progressed light years since Life on Man was first published in 1969, it remains a classic. A must-read for everyone seriously interested in our personal microbiomes.  

By Theodor Rosebury,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Life On Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of A Planet of Viruses

Jessica Snyder Sachs Why did I love this book?

While I disagree with Carl’s take on viruses being “alive” (an age-old and still unresolved scientific debate), I agree that they are pivotal to shaping life, evolution, and health on our planet. I find A Planet of Viruses a great pairing with my own book, which delves primarily into the bacterial world. Carl is wonderful at evoking how we live embedded in an ocean of viruses – and how they have always played a crucial role in our evolution. 

By Carl Zimmer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Planet of Viruses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 2020, an invisible germ-a virus-wholly upended our lives. We're most familiar with the viruses that give us colds or Covid-19. But viruses also cause a vast range of other diseases, including one disorder that makes people sprout branch-like growths as if they were trees. Viruses have been a part of our lives for so long that we are actually part virus: the human genome contains more DNA from viruses than our own genes. Meanwhile, scientists are discovering viruses everywhere they look: in the soil, in the ocean, even in deep caves miles underground.

Fully revised and updated, with new…


Book cover of Microterrors: The Complete Guide to Bacterial, Viral and Fungal Infections that Threaten Our Health

Jessica Snyder Sachs Why did I love this book?

If you can get past the sensational (fear-mongering?) title, Tony Harts' slender volume is a delight of colorful micrographs of the bacterial, viral and fungal microbes that cause human infections. His phenomenal microscopy brings the world of “germs” alive – often against the eerie landscape of our own cells and tissues. Not just a picture book, Hart provides succinct, accurate, and lay-accessible information on the spectrum of important, disease-causing microbes and the hazards they pose when they show up in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

By Tony Hart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Microterrors as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The hidden dangers surrounding us.

Despite the confident strides of modern science, the threat of deadly unseen organisms such as viruses, bacteria and fungi still grip the imagination with their ferocious intensity.

For instance, resistant strains of bacteria can now survive the strongest antibiotics and deadly new biological weapons are being cooked up in laboratories worldwide.

Microterrors explores these threats as well as humanity's greatest living rivals that have been on the planet far longer than we have.

The introduction covers terms, definitions and a brief natural history, including the role of viruses in human evolution, as well as bioengineering…


Book cover of Microbial Inhabitants of Humans: Their Ecology and Role in Health and Disease

Jessica Snyder Sachs Why did I love this book?

Ready for a truly deep dive? Here’s the authoritative textbook on the human microbiome, by the head of the Department of Microbiology at the University College London’s Eastman Dental Institute. Medical microbiologist Michael Wilson goes beyond the microbiome of the mouth and gut, to describe the indigenous microbiota of the skin, eyes, as well as our respiratory, urinary, and reproductive systems. The serious student of microbiology will appreciate each chapter’s extensive study citations and further reading.   

By Michael Wilson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Microbial Inhabitants of Humans as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This advanced textbook provides a unique overview of the microbial communities (normal indigenous microbiota) inhabiting those regions of the human body that are exposed to the external environment, including the skin, eyes, oral cavity and the respiratory, urinary, reproductive and gastrointestinal tracts. In order to understand why particular organisms are able to colonise an anatomical region and why the resulting microbial community has a particular composition, an ecological approach is essential. Consequently, the key anatomical and physiological characteristics of each body site are described throughout the book. The crucial roles of the indigenous microbiota in protecting against exogenous pathogens, regulating…


Book cover of Microcosm: E. Coli and the New Science of Life

Jessica Snyder Sachs Why did I love this book?

I know I’m double dipping here with another of Carl’s books. I love how he takes one, ubiquitous micro-inhabitant of the human body and uses it to explore what it means to be alive and interconnected with the life in and around us. I love how Carl flips away our human perspective to “view” the word through the chemical-sensing molecules of a single-celled organism – E. coli. Superb, fun science writing.  

By Carl Zimmer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Microcosm as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Best Book of the YearSeed Magazine • Granta Magazine • The Plain-DealerIn this fascinating and utterly engaging book, Carl Zimmer traces E. coli's pivotal role in the history of biology, from the discovery of DNA to the latest advances in biotechnology. He reveals the many surprising and alarming parallels between E. coli's life and our own. And he describes how E. coli changes in real time, revealing billions of years of history encoded within its genome. E. coli is also the most engineered species on Earth, and as scientists retool this microbe to produce life-saving drugs and clean fuel,…


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An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

By Clifford A. Wright,

Book cover of An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

Clifford A. Wright Author Of An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Philosopher Historian Researcher Gastronomer Bibliophile and reviewer

Clifford's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

An Italian Feast celebrates the cuisines of the Italian provinces from Como to Palermo. A culinary guide and book of ready reference meant to be the most comprehensive book on Italian cuisine, and it includes over 800 recipes from the 109 provinces of Italy's 20 regions.

An Italian Feast is a gastronomy about Italian culinary history and consciousness, about how Italians cook, eat, and how their food is an intimate part of their culture. It is the first book in any language to comprehensively explore the gastronomy and cuisine not just of Italy, and not just the regions of Italy, but all 109 provinces of Italy, linking each with each other in terms of history, agriculture, economics, and the material culture of creative food illustrated with recipes.

An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

By Clifford A. Wright,


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Interested in microorganisms, viruses, and bacteria?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about microorganisms, viruses, and bacteria.

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