A Planet of Viruses

By Carl Zimmer,

Book cover of A Planet of Viruses

Book description

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…

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2 authors picked A Planet of Viruses as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Parasitism of other species is probably the most common way of life on earth. It is not uncommon for a species to have tens to hundreds of parasites that exploit it. Viruses have fine-tuned the parasitic lifestyle to the extreme, attacking just about all other forms of life and fueling the evolution of counter-defenses in their hosts. Viruses co-opt the genetic machinery of their hosts for just about everything they need to replicate themselves. Carl Zimmer’s book is not only the best introduction I know to the remarkable diversity of viruses, it also is written with the crystal clear, elegant…

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. 

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