Good Germs, Bad Germs

Twin horror stories lead off this slender but vastly informative examination of bacteria and their intimate, complex role in our lives. One is an account of a high school football star stricken by a drug-resistant infection; the second describes a child whose food allergies threaten his life. Jessica Snyder Sachs tells their tales movingly but swiftly leaves them behind for her real subject: how our modern "war on germs" may have given rise to both their conditions. What follows is a Fantastic Voyage through the human body and the world of its millions of microbial denizens. It's a journey that sheds light on why, for all the scientific advances in hygiene and antibiotics, developed countries continue to face new and more daunting challenges in the form of "superbugs" and out-of-control allergies. Sachs isn't afraid of a little lab-speak, and Good Germs, Bad Germs will often make you wish you'd paid more attention in Bio 101. But the author has a knack for giving dramatic form to the many organisms that take the stage here. As she demonstrates how microbes swap genes, send out radar-like detection molecules, and brilliantly adapt to the strategies we use against them, we watch their astonishing feats as if in a brilliantly animated film. The result is an important -- and eye-opening -- inquiry into human-microbe coevolution. -

April 16: ""Blue pottery vases and bowls for flowers are most attractive, and certain blue books...will repeat and emphasize color."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

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Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

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The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.