2009 Winner: Young Adult Science Book

The Invisible Kingdom: From the Tips of Our Fingers to the Tops of Our Trash, Inside the Curious World of Microbes, by Idan Ben-Barak. Basic Books, 2009.

Biofilms, antibiotic resistance, horizontal gene transfer, and the value of hand washing are among the vast range of topics Ben-Barak discusses in this introduction to microbes. His old and loose definition of the term encompasses bacteria, archaea, fungi, and protists. He also considers forms from the untidy border of life itself: viruses, transposons, prions, and Tasmanian devil tumor cancer. The fact-packed chapters reveal how microbes develop, behave, and evolve and how life on Earth would cease without them. “Bonus tracks” offer additional fascinating stories, such as that of the “corrupted blood” epidemic in the virtual World of Warcraft. The author often mentions how scientists have developed our understanding of microbes, and he frequently raises unanswered questions and conflicting interpretations. Readers will find his chatty and humorous text offers a fun way to acquire a vast store of intriguing details about the small wonders that inhabit our world and our bodies.


About the Author

Idan Ben-Barak holds degrees in medical science and microbiology from the Hadassah School of Medicine at the University of Jerusalem. His writing has been featured in New Scientist. He lives in Melbourne, Australia. This is his first book.