Tomas Vik

Book cover

Philipp Dettmer - Immune

Immune is a popular-science book explaining the human immune system. It presents a complex topic in layman’s language.

Philipp Dettmer, the book’s author, is the creator of the educational YouTube channel Kurzgesagt - in a nutshell. I’ve been watching Kruzgesagt for many years, and I always appreciated their clear and objective messaging. A few months ago, the channel mentioned the book, and that was that.

You don’t need to know anything about biology to read it. I haven’t studied biology past the primary-school introduction, and I could still understand the concepts. The fact that I could understand this book is a testimony to the clarity of the author’s explanation.

When I need to explain a complex computer system to a colleague, I use a scenario that touches all the important parts of the system. For example, “Person searches on the page for properties for sale” or “Person wants to comment on a code review”. Using a scenario puts the important system’s components into perspective so my colleague can remember the walk-through better.

Philipp chose the same approach with the immune system. He picked two infection scenarios that give the reader a holistic understanding of how our immune system works. These scenarios are:

The book wasn’t perfect, sometimes it dumbed down the explanation too much, and sometimes there were logical inconsistencies that made it impossible to grasp some details. But overall, I believe that reading this book is your best chance at getting a basic understanding of the immune system. The book is 370 pages, and you can read it as a novel, and you’ll rarely go back and re-read a paragraph or a page.