cover image The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health

The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health

David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklé. Norton, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-393-24440-3

At the heart of this delightful book lies the simple belief that microbes have “shaped our past and how we treat them will shape our future in ways we are only beginning to understand.” Montgomery (The Rocks Don’t Lie), a MacArthur fellow and University of Washington geologist, and Biklé, an environmental planner, came to this conclusion after purchasing a home in Seattle and trying to plant a garden. The couple’s attempt to rehabilitate desolate soil led them to explore the microenvironment beneath the ground. They discovered just how complex that ecosystem is, and how essential it is for the health and well-being of the larger ecosystems with which people have greater familiarity. The authors’ growing appreciation of the role that soil microorganisms play led them to look into other critical functions that microbes perform. They focus most of their attention on the human gut and the symbiotic relationship humans have with the huge array of organisms living inside them, making the case that plants and humans have much in common. In addition to explaining how to cultivate both soil and intestinal flora, Montgomery and Biklé present an enjoyable summary of the history of microbiology, a thoughtful discussion of immunology, and a survey of agricultural practices. Illus. [em](Nov.) [/em]