on the



Michael Gross:
Life on the Edge. Amazing Creatures Thriving in Extreme Environments
Hardback: Plenum, May 1998;
reprinted by Perseus Books August 1999, ISBN 0-306-45786-5, $ 25.95, 200 + xiii pp.
Paperback (with a new afterword): Perseus Books January 2001, ISBN 0-738-20445-5, $ 15.00, 210 + xiii pp.



Reviews of Life on the Edge

appeared in :

  • American Scientist (brief mention in "Unshelved" section)

  • Florida Times, Jacksonville, July 12, 1998 (reviewer: J.Masiulewicz)

    "... readable, accessible, informative ... "

  • Nature, vol 393, p. 227-228 (reviewer: Andrew R. Cossins, University of Liverpool)

    "Michael Gross has written a highly readable account of these organisms and the excitement surrounding their discovery. His overview is masterfully broad, linking their discovery with a number of recent developments in molecular biology, biotechnology, pollution control, biogeochemistry, and the origin of life."

  • New Scientist, 15.8.1998, p. 44-45 (reviewer: John Parkes, University of Bristol)

    "His passion is for the biological adaptations that allow life to thrive in unexpected places, from salt-loving bacteria in the Dead Sea to quick-freezing frogs ...
    Readers with a science background will find this book a fascinating introduction to the subject, and they can follow up particular aspects using the reading lists and Internet links provided. Others may find the book challenging in parts, despite the glossary, but it is well worth the effort. How else could you experience life on the edge?"

  • Science News vol.154, 29.8.1998, p.130 (brief presentation in "Books" section)

  • Trends in Biotechnology, May 1999, p. 216 (reviewer: William D. Grant, University of Leicester)

    "This is an engrossing book, written in an easy, discursive style that reflects the author's other persona as a prolific, populist scientific journalist. ... one can't fault the ambition and insight of the author in attempting such an all-embracing work - all in all, an excellent read!"

  • Trends in Microbiology, Oct.1998, p. 416 (reviewer: Edward F. DeLong, Monterey Bay Aquarium)

    "Life on the Edge: Amazing Creatures Thriving in Extreme Environments should prove a fun read for undergraduate students versed in basic biochemistry and biology and pique their curiosity about unorthodox and unusual microorganisms living in bizarre habitats. The book's congenial tone and timely, topical coverage compensate somewhat for its general lack of synthesis. For those not familiar with 'extremophile' research, the book provides a fair overview of current knowledge in the area."

I am listing reviews here as soon as I get them, so if you know of any that aren't mentioned, please let me know. Thanks!

Reviews of the German edition

appeared in :

  • DIE ZEIT, 4.7.1997 (reviewer: Peter Buechler)

    "The biochemist Michael Groß has performed a small miracle ("Kunststück"). He deals with the topic of organisms adapted to extreme conditions with a clear overview and at the same time he provides the context important for the understanding. That Gross is an experienced researcher becomes obvious from the clarity with which he presents, for example, heat and cold shock proteins and new tricks from the repair workshop of the cell. He demonstrates how so-called chaperones help protein molecules to acquire the "right" shape and not to interfere with neighboring molecules. Upon exposure to heat or other stress, chaperones are called into action and stabilize the protein molecules highly prone to denaturation. Set apart from the main text, there are portraits of scientists and boxes dealing with current research in molecular biology scattered in. The scope of the text is wide: from the limits of life on Earth, passing life in scorching heat (113C is the record), life at subzero temperatures, in the deep sea, in the Dead Sea and in acids, to the molecular helpers for survival in extreme situations. The travel to the extremists is worth the while."

  • Spektrum der Wissenschaft 12/1997 (reviewer: Helmut Koenig)

  • "... The book is written in a loose form, but quite absorbing, and suitable for a wide audience. Historical and personal materials loosen up the text. ... Anyway, the book is suitable for opening new worlds for [its] readers. For archaea researchers, too, the book may be a gripping read. Between the lines, some of the pioneering spirit is conveyed, which the occupation with these extreme worlds calls for, perhaps very remotely comparable with the effect that the book "Microbe Hunters" by Paul de Kruif had in the 1920s. ... The subject remains fascinating, and we may hope for a sequel in 10 years. ..."

  • Zentralblatt für Bakteriologie 3/1998 (reviewer: Horst Malke)

    "On the whole, this is a lovely book which covers the subject in a lively, up-to-date and reliable fashion."

  • Album, 29.8.1997

  • Bioworld, 3/1998

  • Flachgauer Nachrichten, 31.7.1997

  • Hanauer Anzeiger, 12.7.1997

  • Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung, 15.8.1997

  • Stuttgarter Zeitung, 15.8.1997

  • Taeglicher Anzeiger / Walsroder Zeitung / Aller-Zeitung, 10.9.1997

Comments on the English version:

"In this engaging account of extremes, Michael Gross succeeds in drawing connections between the seemingly disconnected. From the inner workings of living cells to extreme environments on Earth and other planets, he provides a highly readable account of how systems deal with extreme conditions."
Thomas R Cech
Nobel Laureate (Chemistry, 1989)

"Where are the limits of life? There are a number of books that address this question, notably The Outer Reaches of Life by John Postgate and the recently published Life on the Edge by Michael Gross. Both books do an excellent job of covering the broad topic of life's adaptation to diverse environments. Though geared toward readers with a less technical background than the target audience of Extremophiles, both books adeptly explain in a clear language the salient features of survival strategies used by prokaryotes adapted to very specific stress conditions."
Karl Rusterholtz and Mechthild Pohlschröder in:
Cell xx, p. 469, 1999


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