The Amoeba in the Room: Lives of the Microbes
Nicholas P Money
Oxford University Press, £16.99
As a plant scientist, I often complain about TV documentaries' continued focus on animals, especially large ones. Plants don't get much of a look in. However, it would appear that plants have had more coverage than microbes, despite the fact that most life on our planet is microbial. In The Amoeba in the Room, Nicholas Money aims to put the record straight by showing us how abundant, diverse, amazing and just plain weird the world of microbes is.
We are taken on a journey of the microbial world, starting off in the author's garden pond, through sea, air, soil and ourselves, with an early detour into microscopes and their pivotal role in the study of microbes. It is a fascinating read, but beware – covering the vast world of microbes in a small book is no mean feat. There is a lot to get to grips with, from the classification of living things (and not simply animals, plants, fungi and protists) to the sheer numbers of different types of microbe, not to mention their weird and wonderful names.
The journey through this mountain of information is made easier by the clear and lucid writing style of the author, for this is a beautifully written book. Nevertheless, I think it would have benefited from a glossary, especially for those readers with little background in microbiology.
I found this book immensely enjoyable and I would encourage anyone wanting to know more about the huge swathe of life on the planet that passes us by unseen to seek out a copy. Indeed, I have recommended it to my students and it will be recommended reading for one of my modules.