I Contain Multitudes, My First Book, Is Out In One Month

It’s nearly here! In just over a month, my first book—I Contain Multitudes—will be published in the US, with the UK edition following shortly after. It’s about the astonishing partnerships between animals and microbes. It’s a natural history book about the hidden side to humans, wasps, squid, hyenas, beetles, koalas, worms, and more. It’s like a David Attenborough series shot through a really good microscope. You can pre-order it here.

Coincidentally, the publication date of August 9th is a fairly momentous one for me. It (more or less) marks the ten year anniversary of my career as a science writer, which began when I created this blog in August 2006. Two of my very first pieces were about microbe transplants that can make mice fat, and sexually transmitted bacteria that give superpowers to aphids; both stories feature in the book. So, in many ways, I Contain Multitudes is the culmination of not just all my reporting on this topic, but of everything I’ve learned as a writer.

If you’ve enjoyed my work over the years, I hope you’ll check the book out. Any support you can give would be greatly appreciated, whether it’s leaving reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, tweeting about it, posting on Facebook, buying copies for friends and family, or anything else that takes your fancy. But above all, I hope you like reading it; I certainly loved writing it.

Early buzz has been pretty positive. Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly both gave it starred reviews, with the former calling it “some of the finest science writing out there” and “an exceptionally informative, beautifully written book that will profoundly shift one’s sense of self”. Wired, io9, The Week, and On the Point all listed it as one of their summer picks.

Below, I’ve added a description, some early blurbs, and a list of upcoming speaking events. I’ll update the latter on my personal site as they get finalised, so check back there for more information.

As ever, thank you for reading!


Description from the book jacket

For most of human existence, microbes were hidden, visible only through the illnesses they caused. Even today, many people think of microbes as germs to be eradicated, but those that live with us—the microbiome—are invaluable parts of our lives.

I Contain Multitudes lets us peer into that world, allowing us to see how ubiquitous and vital microbes are: they sculpt our organs, defend us from disease, break down our food, educate our immune systems, guide our behavior, bombard our genomes with their genes, and grant us incredible abilities.

With humor and erudition, Ed Yong prompts us to look at ourselves and our fellow animals in a new light: less as individuals and more as the interconnected, interdependent multitudes we assuredly are. When we look at the animal kingdom through a microbial lens, even the most familiar parts of our lives take on a striking new air. We learn the secret, invisible, and wondrous biology behind the corals that construct mighty reefs, the glowing squid that can help us understand the bacteria in our own guts, the beetles that bring down forests, the disease-fighting mosquitoes engineered in Australia, and the ingredients in breast milk that evolved to nourish a baby’s first microbes. We see how humans are disrupting these partnerships and how scientists are now manipulating them to our advantage. We see, as William Blake wrote, the world in a grain of sand.

I Contain Multitudes is the story of these extraordinary partnerships, between the familiar creatures of our world and those we never knew existed. It will change both our view of nature and our sense of where we belong in it.

Early praise

“Beyond fascinating. An amazing book. It’ll change the way you think about the world. It’ll change who you think you are.” —Helen Macdonald, author of H Is for Hawk

“Ed Yong is one of our finest young explainers of science-wicked smart, broadly informed, sly, savvy, so illuminating. And this is an encyclopedia of fascinations-a teeming intellectual ecosystem, a keen book on the intricacies of the microbiome and more.” —David Quammen, author of Spillover and Song of the Dodo

“A marvelous book! Ed Yong s brilliant gift for storytelling and precise writing about science converge in I Contain Multitudes to make the invisible and tiny both visible and mighty. A unique, entertaining, and smart read.” —Jeff VanderMeer, author of the Southern Reach Trilogy

“Ed Yong has written a riveting account of the microbes that make the world work. I Contain Multitudes will change the way you look at yourself and just about everything else.” —Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction

“I Contain Multitudes changes you the way all great science writing does. You become disoriented, looking at the world around you in a new way. With vivid tales and graceful explanations, Ed Yong reveals how the living things we see around us are wildly complex collectives.” —Carl Zimmer, author of Parasite Rex

“Ed Yong has done something beautiful, and unlikely: he’s rendered the unseen world of bacteria thrilling, captivating and highly entertaining. This is a much-needed guide to the hidden kingdom that dominates life on Earth. It cuts through all the hype of microbiomes with a scientifically steady hand, but told with an infectious sense of awe.” – Adam Rutherford, author of Creation

“With a simply wonderful book, Ed Yong opens the doorway to a hidden world around and inside us. He’s smart, he’s witty, and he’s at the cutting edge. You could not get a better guide.” – Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist Strikes Back and Messy

“This compelling and beautifully written book will change the way people look at the world around, and within, them. Certainly among the best books in an increasingly crowded field and written with a true passion for and understanding of the microbiome.” — Rob Knight, author of Follow Your Gut and professor at University of California, San Diego

“Yong has captured the essence of this exciting field, expressing the enthusiasm and wonder that the scientific community feels when working with the microbiome.” — Jack Gilbert, professor at the University of Chicago

Speaking events (details to be confirmed) 

  • August 10th – New York, Strand Bookstore with Robert Krulwich
  • August 13th – New York, Festival of the Unknown with Maria Konnikova
  • August 16th – Washington DC, Politics and Prose bookstore
  • August 31st – London, Science Museum Lates
  • September 1st – Liverpool, Genome Science 2016 conference
  • September 1st – London, Royal Institution
  • September 7th – Oxford, Skeptics in the Pub
  • September 13th – Phoenix, Arizona State University, Tempe
  • September 18th – New York,Brooklyn Book Festival
  • September 20th – Boston, hosted by Undark
  • September 27th – New York, NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute
  • October 12th – London, London Literature Festival
  • October 16th – Bradford, Ilkley Literature Festival
  • October 24th – Sheffield, Off the Shelf Festival
  • November 5th – London, Intelligence Squared at the Royal Geographical Society
  • And more to be announced.