cover image Immune: How Your Body Defends and Protects You

Immune: How Your Body Defends and Protects You

Catherine Carver. Sigma, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4729-1511-5

Carver, a science writer and researcher in public-health policy at Harvard, transforms a data-heavy research area into an entertainingly informative survey of the immune system: the “hidden army” that battles diseases ranging from the common cold to the plague. She starts by identifying immunity’s defense system in human skin, lungs, tears, ears, and the stomach. Carver then moves on to the “killer cells” that destroy infectious invaders. Her survey explores immunology’s role in the “complex challenge” of organ transplantation, as well as how it keeps people safe from the “bacterial-laden nature” of sex. She dives into humans’ age-old battle with allergies, whether it’s hypersensitivity to pollen, peanuts, or pets; unusual reactions, including one person’s to stale pancake mix; and potentially deadly autoimmune diseases that can attack “every part of the body from knees to nerves, glands to gonads.” Though yet-unvanquished cancers continue to evade our immune system’s defenses, Carver remains hopeful about “immune-altering drug discoveries” being made that could potentially change “the face of medicine” and “cure the incurable.” This splendid guide offers historical and scientific context on a subfield of biology that affects everyone and that is increasingly being harnessed to improve and save lives. (Nov.)