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

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

Philipp Dettmer. Random House, $35 (368p) ISBN 978-0-593-24131-8

Dettmer, founder of science education YouTube channel Kurzgesagt, debuts with an immersive primer on immunology. “The immune system is the most complex biological system known to humanity, other than the human brain,” Dettmer writes, and in four parts, he outlines the biological components responsible for maintaining human health. He describes immunity basics (“the immune system is a tool to distinguish the other from the self”), covers hygiene and immunoprotection, and breaks down pathogens, viruses, and autoimmune diseases. He also traces the course of an infection that arises from a simple cut as “bacteria spread into the warm caverns between helpless cells,” and, as the infection spreads, Dettmer introduces readers to macrophages (the largest immune cells), “suicidal Spartan” neutrophils, and messenger dendritic cells with ease. The author is less than sanguine, meanwhile, on products touted as helping to improve one’s immune response: “Boosting the Immune System is a horrible idea that is used by people trying to make you buy useless stuff!” Dettmer does an admirable job of staying out of the weeds, and colorful illustrations bring the whimsy of his YouTube channel to the page. Full of facts and fun, this survey is sure to entertain. Agent: Seth Fishman, the Gernert Company. (Sept.)