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The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health Hardcover – Nov 17 2015

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: WW Norton (Nov. 17 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393244407
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393244403
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 2.8 x 24.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 717 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #61,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


A must-read for avid gardeners, those interested in bolstering our precarious food supply, or anyone remotely concerned about their health and the soil under their feet. — Kirkus Reviews

The Hidden Half of Nature offers a wonderfully fresh and exquisitely informed approach that could change how we relate to ourselves, our diets, our gardens and our world. — Tim McNulty (Seattle Times)

Montgomery and Biklé argue that when we farm and when we eat, we’re feeding a diverse community of microorganisms. This book is sure to become a game-changing guide to the future of good food and healthy landscapes. — Dan Barber, chef and author of The Third Plate

[A] transformative read. — Tom Philpott (Mother Jones)

The Hidden Half of Nature draws a straight line from the microbes that live in healthy soil to those that live in healthy guts, skillfully blending the personal and the scientific. This is a must-read for anyone concerned with their own health. — Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist

Amazingly detailed and well-researched. … [The Hidden Half of Nature] lays out the beautiful connection between the microbial garden in our bodies and the microbial garden in the Earth. — Sally Peterson (Oregon Live)

The Hidden Half of Nature reads like a fast-paced novel but tells the true story of the workings of soils, and even our own bodies. — Neil Shubin, author of The Universe Within

One of the year’s best books on gardens and health. — Jim McCausland (Sunset Magazine)

About the Author

Anne Biklé is a biologist and environmental planner. Her career spans the fields of environmental stewardship, habitat restoration, and public health. The Hidden Half of Nature is her first book.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I learned a ton both about the amazingly complex microbiotic interactions in a healthy soil and similarly in our guts. Yes, different but similar processes occur in these two different microbiomes. I will re-read this book again soon. Written in a very conversational fashion with well described scientific processes presented in such a way that makes sense to the average reader. Very good book!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa2623120) out of 5 stars 40 reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa235ce40) out of 5 stars On the crucial importance of healthy microbiota in soil and human bodies. It really is important to know something about. Dec 19 2015
By lyndonbrecht - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a more complex book than meets the eye. I thought it would be about the quite r4ecent scientific and medical investigations of the human microbiome, which increasingly looks central to human health. It is that, but this is a highly personal book that mixes health of the earth--soil--and health of a person, sort of an inside soil and outside soil, literally grounded in the authors' garden in Seattle. The book presents equal parts personal experience and hard science, which is described clearly and should be accessible to readers--both soil and human microbiomes are far, far more complex than most people appreciate.

The book starts with a description of the authors' (the authors are married, and both have extensive backgrounds in science) rebuilding poor soil in their Seattle house, to make a garden. To be brief (the book describes this very well and gardeners will like it) it quickly became fertile and growth exploded, as did unanticipated populations of birds, insects and visiting mammals, all stemming from an enriched microbiota (which includes bacteria, fungi and other folks). A healthy soil has a healthy microbiota, every bit as complex as the above ground ecosystem parts; the point is that healthy soil produces healthy food--the book is explicitly advocating changes in farming.

This connects with Bikle's cancer and experience. At first this doesn't seem relevant, but it gradually introduces the human microbiome in all its complexity, and its impact on health, and how manipulating it can have good consequences. See the connection between healthy soil and healthy body? Human ignorance of the microbial world has been hugely costly.

Recent patterns have agriculture dousing land with pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer, building up resistance in harmful bacteria and impoverishing the soil by cropping practices. And so with dousing patients with chemicals--works wonders but may alter or kill off the microbiota and in the long term do more harm than good. This book makes a very solid case, and also notes that big pharma and agribusiness will fight it, as they always have, because they have so much to lose. Think of this book as an attempt to raise consciousness. If you read it through, your views will change, and if not a convert to the lifestyle advocated, you'll at least have to credit it as having some compelling evidence behind it.

So: a healthier future will require much more awareness of microbes and taking them into account as assets in body and soil.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa235cd8c) out of 5 stars A Most Memorable Read March 25 2016
By Bismark - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Hidden Half of Nature is about microbes; and life, or more accurately about perhaps everything tangible and nothing we can see. For quite some time I didn't view the subject matter as being of great import and cosigned this title to the bottom of my "read one day" list. What a mistake. This book was, without a doubt, one of the most beautifully written, well documented, and enthralling stories I have recently read. I am not prone to hyperbole, but the brilliant blend of scientific fact with compelling personal insight is flawlessly accomplished. Rarely do I feel my scientific knowledge base has significantly expanded in harmony with what I can only describe as a flush of spirituality. My only minor caution to prospective readers is the risk of being compellingly drawn to gardening and the attendant aches that plague the novice tiller of the earth. Otherwise, this is a must read book for lovers of science, discovery and awe at the hidden universe that surrounds us and is the core of life itself.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1ed8468) out of 5 stars Our Ancient Hidden Allies March 15 2016
By Michael T. Yanega - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This remarkable and fascinating book really opened my eyes about the significance of a term I had heard before, but didn't fully appreciate-- microbiome. Starting from the story of why composting makes soil healthy, the authors take us to the roots of plants to learn that plants have a way of communicating with the bacteria and fungi in the soil. In this way plants attract the microbes they need to grow and stay healthy. We also learn that modern chemical fertilizers are destroying the soil microbiome so that crops are less nutritious and the soil's ability to produce crops declines.
Then we learn about the human microbiome and find that the microbes in our bodies outnumber our own cells by many times, and that our gut is an amazing system analogous to the root system in plants. Our own health is strongly affected by our microbiome, and that antibiotics must be used carefully in order not to decimate our inner allies. Indeed, our outdated view of 'germs' is leading to the rapid evolution of superbugs that can resist most antiseptics and drugs. Many chronic diseases are a consequence of poorly developed, unhealthy microbiomes.
The message of this book is that much more needs to be learned about the hidden world of nature, because even though we can't see it, our lives depend on it.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa235cda4) out of 5 stars I really enjoyed this book Dec 11 2015
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book! Like Anne, I'm a gardener and am curious about how the places I spend my time shape my health. This book is a delight to read - wonderful mix of history, science, and memoir. It was fun to re-learn familiar stories about public health and scientific discoveries and to hear others for the first time.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1ad9d68) out of 5 stars this is the best lay introduction to microbiology anyone could ask for Jan. 25 2016
By Walter W. Matera - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Speaking as one who was married to a microbiologist for 46 years, this is the best lay introduction to microbiology anyone could ask for. If you haven't read it, you are woefully behind the power curve. Do something about that!