“About microbes & quoting Whitman, ‘I Contain _______.’” was the $2000 clue in the “Complete the Title” category on the January 2, 2017, episode of television game show Jeopardy. Contestant Katie Carter's correct answer was “Multitudes.” Having just started to review this book, I realized that its reference on the show indicated that it had already become a part of our literary culture.

Throughout most of its history, Earth's only life was microbial. Today we tend to think of nature as a vast and diverse interactive collection of plants and animals all over the planet. Actually, we share Earth with uncounted numbers of microbes, from the deepest ocean trenches to the clouds in...

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