National Bestseller * Essential reading during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
“A deeply reported and entertainingly written exploration of the human immune system and how it works.” —USA Today
The Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times journalist "explicates for the lay reader the intricate biology of our immune system" (Jerome Groopman, MD, New York Review of Books)
From New York Times science journalist Matt Richtel, An Elegant Defense is an acclaimed and definitive exploration of the immune system and the secrets of health. Interweaving cutting-edge science with the intimate stories of four individual patients, this epic, first-of-its-kind book “give[s] lay readers a means of understanding what’s known so far about the intricate biology of our immune systems” (The Week).
The immune system is our body’s essential defense network, a guardian vigilantly fighting illness, healing wounds, maintaining order and balance, and keeping us alive. It has been honed by evolution over millennia to face an almost infinite array of threats. For all its astonishing complexity, however, the immune system can be easily compromised by fatigue, stress, toxins, advanced age, and poor nutrition—hallmarks of modern life—and even by excessive hygiene. Paradoxically, it is a fragile wonder weapon that can turn on our own bodies with startling results, leading today to epidemic levels of autoimmune disorders.
An Elegant Defense effortlessly guides readers on a scientific detective tale winding from the Black Plague to twentieth-century breakthroughs in vaccination and antibiotics, to today’s laboratories that are revolutionizing immunology—perhaps the most extraordinary and consequential medical story of our time. Drawing on extensive new interviews with dozens of world-renowned scientists, Richtel has produced a landmark book, equally an investigation into the deepest riddles of survival and a profoundly human tale that is movingly brought to life through the eyes of his four main characters, each of whom illuminates an essential facet of our “elegant defense.”