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Summary

Discover what it means to be alive....

Life is all around us, abundant and diverse; it is extraordinary. But what does it actually mean to be alive?

Paul Nurse has spent his career revealing how living cells work. In this book, he takes up the challenge of defining life in a way that everyone can understand. It is a shared journey of discovery; step by step he illuminates five great ideas that underpin biology. He traces the roots of his own curiosity and knowledge to reveal how science works, both now and in the past. 

Using his personal experiences, in and out of the lab, he shares with us the challenges, the lucky breaks and the thrilling eureka moments of discovery. To survive the challenges that face the human race today – from climate change, to pandemics, loss of biodiversity and food security – it is vital that we all understand what life is.

©2020 Paul Nurse (P)2020 Faber & Faber Ltd

Critic reviews

"A beautifully written exploration of perhaps the most important question in science." (Brian Cox)

"A nearly perfect guide to the wonder and complexity of existence." (Bill Bryson)

"Paul Nurse is about as distinguished a scientist as there could be. He is also a great communicator. This book explains, in a way that is both clear and elegant, how the processes of life unfold." (Philip Pullman)

What listeners say about What Is Life?

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Good but I expected more from this great mind.

Paul Nurse is an outstanding scientists and a passionate science communicator.

I enjoyed this audiobook but found it overly simplistic. It is a good place to start if you are new the topic.

Life is so difficult to describe, understand and to comprehend but we have come a long way in the past 40 years and this book fails to adequately describe the progress we have made nor does it address the provocative questions that need to be asked about what life is, ecology and the biosphere not to mention life’s origins.

I left this book wanting more. It is still with a read particularly if you are new to this topic.

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A compelling account

This book, a great introduction to biology in general. I would recommend it for enthusiasts.