Immune: A Journey into the Mysterious System That Keeps You Alive

by Philipp Dettmer

Hardcover, 2021


Random House (2021), 368 pages


"Although everyone who has ever had a cold is familiar with the human immune system and its importance, few understand just how complex and intricate the immune system is. In Immune, Internet creator and storyteller Philipp Dettmer takes readers on a journey through the fortress of the human body and its defenses. There is a constant battle raging just under our skin, full of stories of invasion, strategy, defeat, and noble self-sacrifice. In fact, in the time you've been reading this, your immune system has identified and eradicated multiple cancer cells that started to grow in your body. Enlivened by engaging full-color graphics and immersive descriptions, Immune turns one of the most intricate, interconnected, and pervasive subjects in biology--immunology--into a gripping adventure through an alien landscape. Touching on our body's defenses, the types of adversaries we face (including a chapter on the coronavirus), and the grave consequences of immune malfunction, Immune is a vital crash course in what is arguably, and increasingly, the most important system in the body"--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member aitastaes
You wake up and feel a tickle in your throat. Your head hurts. You’re mildly annoyed as you get the kids ready for school and dress for work yourself. Meanwhile, an epic war is being fought, just below your skin. Millions are fighting and dying for you to be able to complain as you head out the
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But most of us never really stop to ask: What even is our immune system?

Second only to the human brain in its complexity, it is one of the oldest and most critical facets of life on Earth. Without it, you would die within days. In Immune, Philipp Dettmer, the brains behind the most popular science channel on YouTube, takes readers on a journey through the fortress of the human body and its defenses. There is a constant battle of staggering scale raging within us, full of stories of invasion, strategy, defeat, and noble self-sacrifice. In fact, in the time you’ve been reading this, your immune system has probably identified and eradicated a cancer cell that started to grow in your body.

Each chapter delves into an element of the immune system, including defenses like antibodies and inflammation as well as threats like bacteria, allergies, and cancer, as Dettmer reveals why boosting your immune system is actually nonsense, how parasites sneak their way past your body’s defenses, how viruses work, and what goes on in your wounds when you cut yourself.

Enlivened by engaging full-color graphics and immersive descriptions, Immune turns one of the most intricate, interconnected, and confusing subjects—immunology—into a gripping adventure through an astonishing alien landscape. Immune is a vital and remarkably fun crash course in what is arguably, and increasingly, the most important system in the body.
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LibraryThing member sperzdechly
Immune is probably the best science book for people who don't read science books. It's like a rollercoaster ride through a biology theme park! I had a blast listening to the audiobook which perfectly balances conversational tone, jokes, and layman perspective with serious science and complexity of
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the human immune system.

The author is a master explainer and entertainer. He builds engaging stories, leverages humor, and fills the book with metaphors that now live in my head rent-free. I wish more biology teachers present their material this way. I was retelling parts of this book to my kids and they were laughing out loud all the time, but also understood and remembered the crucial concepts I was explaining.

What I like the most about this book is that it infects (pun intended) the reader with an appreciation for our wonderful bodies. Curiosity, sense of wonder, and excitement of the author are contiguous and make the learning experience so much easier. This is not the most detailed and nuanced explanation of our immune system, but surely the most approachable and effective one.

The only thing that broke the flow for me was numerous repetitions. Most of them were the result of the author trying to take care of the reader a bit too much. This was not so annoying and actually helped when I was listening with longer breaks as summarized what's needed to remember before we make the next step. The rest I can find no explanation for (I felt so much relief when in Chapter 40 finally autoimmune diseases were discussed because in each of the previous 39 I was reminded that we will touch on them later in the book).

Overall I enjoyed Immune a lot and learned some new things too! I'll surely buy a paper copy in Polish for my kids as soon as it will be available.
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LibraryThing member nmarun
This book goes in-depth of what an immune system is and how it works; talks about the various cells involved, the role of innate and adaptive systems and the differences between how pathogens attack us.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, though there were a couple of issues. In one section, the author
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says you don't want a strong immune system, but in the next he says exercising boosts your immune system. But I get his intent though.

Yes, even the notes at the end of the chapter are invaluable and I've read through each of them. Reading such book helps understand your blood report where you see Neutrophil count being within range - tells your body doesn't have any infection now.
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LibraryThing member detailmuse
I really enjoyed this enthusiastic introduction to the human immune system -- both innate immunity (for repairing localized tissue damage) and adaptive immunity (for long-term memory against infectious agents). It’s directed to a lay (especially a younger and/or fun-loving lay) audience, and its
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memorable, anthropomorphic metaphors and colorful illustrations provide some accessibility into the insane complexity of immunity.
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LibraryThing member libertatem_in_libro
The information in this book is interesting and accessible. In some aspects I think it was simplified too much as there were times when I wanted more information about how a cellular process worked, but as a general audience introduction it works. What wasn't great was the writing style, incredibly
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repetitive and colloquial language that I'd expect out of an early high school essay. Except here it lasted for a whole book. There was also too much personification of the cells---there was some attempt at the start to draw a line between personification for illustration and the fact that cells don't think, feel, or have desires the way a human does, but that was quickly lost---and some of the analogies were wildly violent beyond the line where the point was made. For example, when talking about disease that can hide from the immune system, there is definitely a better way of driving the point home than using an analogy of flaying civilians and wearing their skins as a disguise.
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LibraryThing member Bodagirl
I was just not in the mood to pay attention to this book; it turned into background noise quickly. Completed about 10%
LibraryThing member ehousewright
I have a Master's degree in Immunology (admission, that was over 50 years ago!) and found this book fascinating. Well done making this extremely complex system make sense-- great review and updates for me, wonderful introduction for others.
LibraryThing member knightlight777
The book itself was well written and presented. I however was not so enchanted reading the material because despite the boiling content down for the common man to digest I found it somewhat a boring and laborious read.

That is about the only negative I could come up with as the message of what is
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going on inside of us left an impression of awe and gratitude for when everything is functioning as it should. There are certainly a lot of things that can go wrong and we are fortunate there are so many back up systems in place to keep up rocking.

Of course in light of the Covid mess the understanding of what actually was taking place in there and how difficult it was to take on such a vicious virus was duly noted here.

To appreciate our bodies and what goes on to keep them running is definitely worth the time to check things out here. Just be prepared for many pages and explanations of serious science despite the distilling of the author.
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