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An Elegant Defense

The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System: A Tale in Four Lives
Narrated by: Fred Sanders
Length: 12 hrs and 33 mins
Categories: Non-fiction, Medicine
4 out of 5 stars (5 ratings)

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Summary

A magnificently reported and soulfully crafted exploration of the human immune system - the key to health and wellness, life and death. An epic, first-of-its-kind audiobook, entwining leading-edge scientific discovery with the intimate stories of four individual lives, by the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist.

An Elegant Defense by Matt Richtel is one of those rare nonfiction books that transcends the genre. On one level it is a fascinating and engrossing account of the latest, and quite astonishing, discoveries involving the human immune system and how it works. But it is also a story about people facing mortality, about the passion of scientists searching for truth, and a meditation on death and how all of us struggle with the ultimate mystery. Heartfelt and moving, full of compassion, love, and the human drama, this is the work of a writer of high ethical character who is grappling with big issues and deep humanistic problems. What an inspiring and wonderful read. I highly recommend this extraordinary book.” (Douglas Preston, number-one best-selling author of The Lost City of the Monkey God)

©2019 Matt Richtel (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers

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Not what I expected

This is a clear and well-written book exploring the immune system through the stories of several people, including a dear friend of the author. Unfortunately I am not a big fan of the human interest backstory to this extent, and worse, didn’t warm to the friend at all. I was expecting something a little more in-depth so it’s not the book for me and I will return it. However, I think it is a good book of its kind.

The reader is very good.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A great story

The autor takes on a challenge to explain a complicated immune system to an average person, telling stories of 4 different people. It is a great book, that will leave you with some clues, ideas and sometimes more questions. It is a great wake up call for anyone who has forgotten that our body seeks balance, inside & out!

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  • Kipper Quinn
  • 17-03-19

Immune science in a nutshell

This overall compassionate book hits a few road bumps detailing sexual proclivities but remains a compassionate and thorough examination of the developing medical understanding of the immune system exposed thru a prism of 4 lives. Beware the extended eulogizing end and come away with a better understanding of life’s dire cellular mortality.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • 24-03-19

Weak foundation, good conclusion

The central message that immune balance as opposed to strength is a cornerstone of health is worth hearing. However the very important point that balance is achieved through factors which are still not understood by currently accepted dogma is presented on the slap shod foundation of current immunology.

Since most of the book is personal interest vignettes it should be quite accessible to listeners. However, the science of immunology is poorly presented. Admittedly, this is in part because the extremely large accumulations of scientific insights into immune mechanisms that have occurred in the last two decades have yet to be distilled into a cohesive narrative.

Perhaps books like this will stimulate some emerging genius to rethink "immunology" without the baggage of current paradigms. Somewhere out there is the Newton of immunology who while searching for their own philosopher's stone will give us a coherent view of physiologic maintenance, protection against infection, and health just as Newton gave us physics and the calculus.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Austin
  • 29-06-19

Awesome story!

Great listen for those that love investigating health science combined with emotional and captivating storytelling!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Dayle
  • 23-06-19

Thoroughly researched

I knew most of the data, but this was the best presentation of it I’ve ever heard! Well and warmly written. Richtel makes the information intimate and approachable.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • RealWoman8
  • 14-06-19

Eat the food off your floor!

I learned so much from An Elegant Defense and have a new and profound respect for our immune systems. The basic message of the book is that your immune system is constantly in balance - so be wary of "immune boosting" supplements or drugs, because the very littlest thing could throw it off and it will kill you. However, the author also explains how living in our sterile environments weaken the immune system, and that we should not be so uptight about cleaning everything in sight. In fact, we're robbing our immune systems of vital lessons it would use to fight off future infections by using too many cleaners. It also follows one man's journey in cancer immunotherapy. One slight disappointment was that it talked less about the immune system's role in Alzheimer's than I thought it would. However, all in all, a really great listen that will leave you with a fresh respect for our complex bodies.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Ed
  • 13-04-19

Good performance and writing, some questionable science. Mostly spot on

The book was very enjoyable. The four cases were an interesting approach to motivating our understanding of the immune system. Three of the four were particularly instructive. A fourth case, was not clearly representative of autoimmune disease, and much more likely was fibromyalgia. The use of this case muddies some of the discussion regarding treatment and the relevant science. Fibromyalgia is often misrepresented and misdiagnosed as an autoimmune condition, what is with more likely neurologic in origin. Assuming that this case is truly autoimmune, leads to some unwarranted conclusions.
The only other criticism I have is the analogy that’s made between the immune system and society, which I think is somewhat labored and not really necessary to move the story forward. Still I think this is the best popular book out there on the immune system, it was a pleasure to listen to.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • David White
  • 02-04-19

"Emperor of All Maladies" for the Immune System

The combination of funny yet, emotional storytelling provides the perfect setting for scientific insight into the immune system that Richtel provides. Great book, similar in nature to the Emperor of Maladies, but due to Richtel's journalistic background it creates a more enjoying read/listen.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • mo noyt
  • 13-03-19

Snore

I was so excited to get this book as I hear the author on A1 yesterday but the narrator is a snore fest. This is the IMMUNE SYSTEM - it's pretty crazy and exciting but the narrator sounds like he has a headache and is trying to keep as much emotion out of his voice as possible. I'm returning the book and will buy a copy to read instead.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Erin Brewer
  • 28-08-19

worth reading

interesting but could have done without the politicalization of the immune response. good reading and interesting information.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Utilisateur anonyme
  • 24-05-19

I don’t care about Jason

It’s so annoying, I just want to learn about immune system, I don’t care how charismatic Jason was and how he liked to drive around and how spontaneous he was, so frustrating, it’s like I’m reading fiction

2 of 3 people found this review helpful